What you need to know:
- Coming to four decades later, that vision was clearly an illusion.
Every grain in President Museveni’s instincts resists the suggestion that his vision could disastrously mislead him, or that he can lose grip.
Thirty-six years in power have cemented his conviction that he is always on the correct course, and that he is invincible.
People who counsel the President shoot down their own purpose by implying that the President’s judgment is wanting or his regime weak. His approach to the new security threats will not show more humility.
The catalogue of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the NRA/UPDF and police is not a new roster.
It is just getting longer, a normal growth process. But government officials whose work is to justify or gloss over these summary executions may benefit from examining more closely why President Museveni is under such fierce attack from critics of the regime.
And they should start where Mr Museveni himself always starts when explaining his actions, the history of his rebellion.
Mr Museveni was first introduced to most Ugandans as a relatively minor guerrilla leader in 1979, when the Idi Amin regime was crumbling. He came into his own during the Bush War of 1981-86.
Until 1986, the regimes Museveni fought were soiled by fake elections or no elections at all, by corruption, by detentions without trial, and by extrajudicial killings.
At the different times these regimes collapsed, it is a reasonable estimate that they were hated by at least two-thirds of the population.
That hatred begot Museveni’s luck. For, like all armed rebel outfits, Museveni’s NRA also dealt in extrajudicial killings. Officials and policemen of the then ruling UPC were targets, not to mention the government soldiers killed on the battlefield.
In addition, former rebels have narrated in their post-war stories how they deliberately gave false information to the UPC government to implicate innocent prominent citizens as rebel collaborators.
Thereafter, these too sometimes got killed by the UPC regime. The NRA was, therefore, an accessory in these killings, which the rebels planned to further damage the image of the UPC regime.
So, the NRA was variously involved in extrajudicial killings, but its image did not suffer because it was resisting unpopular rulers.
Those regimes were killing without trial because they were evil; the NRA was killing without trial because it was necessary. That was the popular argument.
To the issues of stolen elections and corruption, the NRA had dangled the solution of ‘clean leadership’. To the issues of lawlessness and arbitrary killings, the NRA was fighting the ‘negative forces’, eliminating the bad people and promising to establish a lawful society.
Coming to four decades later, that vision was clearly an illusion. The repeated pre-election barbarism and fake Electoral Commission mathematics that give NRM election victories could hardly be more farcical.
The corruption is also more horrendous than that of the NRM’s predecessors. The arrogance and impunity of the regime have a smell of their own.
In short, the moral profile currently presented by the NRM regime is completely different from that of the NRA rebel outfit. When it kills without trial now, with some of its victims already handcuffed, it is perceived as killing because it is evil, not as an enforcer of law and order.
It is still lucky that the assassins and brainwashed suicide bombers challenging its rule do not enjoy a higher moral profile like the NRA enjoyed in the 1980s.
But that luck can run out if the peaceful voices opposed to NRM barbarism were to marshal outright rebellion or revolutionary militarism.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.