Museveni was my age when he put (Apollo Milton) Obote on notice’ – regarding the consequences of rigging the election in 1980. He knows what will happen next if the election is rigged.”
That was the Kyadondo East MP and presidential aspirant for the National Unity Platform (NUP), Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, in an interview on a local television station.
In the run up to the 1980 election, a young Yoweri Museveni of the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) vowed to take up arms and fight the government if the election was not free and fair. Kept his word he did and went to the tall grasses of Luweero. The rest is history.
Whether Bobi Wine intends to follow Museveni’s Luweero history is not obviously stated. It, therefore, would be redundant and unfair to discuss the matter of him leading an armed struggle. What would be of interest is a lesson drawn from recent history, which makes Bobi Wine’s statements very petrifying.
After Reform Agenda’s (RA) presidential candidate Col Kizza Besigye fled into exile fearing for his life after the bitterly contested election of 2001, a rebel group called the Peoples Redemption Army (PRA) sprung up like a bolt out of the blue.
Col Besigye was accused of electing to use the bullet after failing at the ballot, using the PRA as his vehicle. Supporters of RA, including Besigye’s younger brother Joseph Musasizi, were arrested and charged with treason.
‘Sasi’ as Musasizi was fondly called, died after being freed from a long stint behind the prison gate. A person like Patrick Manenero, who was arrested on July 20, 2002 died in detention.
It was alleged that he had been tortured by security agents on the orders of the late Brig Noble Mayombo, the then head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
Rogue security agents or even impostors and con men had a field day extorting and blackmailing Opposition supporters and business people by threatening to arrest them for being ‘PRA rebels’ or sympathisers.
There was an air of fear for jail and life by would be followers, which scuttled the mobilisation of members of the Opposition. Col Besigye returned from exile in 2005 to contest for the presidential election in 2006, he was welcomed by treason charges.
When Col Besigye and his co-accused were granted bail, the High Court was surrounded by armed men in black T-shirts and they were arrested and back to jail they went. The Military Court Martial in Makindye then slapped similar charges against them and kept them in the coolers.
Col Besigye was granted bail, which prompted many with a seemingly propaganda motive to criticise him for ‘misleading’ other people and leaving them in trouble after cutting a deal with ‘the dictator’ for himself. His co-accused remained there for long spells. Some were only released much later after asking for amnesty ‘confirming’ that the PRA actually existed.
One of the greatest assets of regimes that have a military background is violence. That is their turf. They will do everything to translate contention into a violent military confrontation. One makes it easy for them if they threaten or imply that they intend to be violent.
It works so well for them because in a situation of violence, the law takes the back seat and there an autocratic regime has the licence to arrest, torture, destroy and kill in the interest of ‘national security.’ National security also comes with good budgets that are under the vote of ‘classified expenditure’ and is very enriching for many involved in security.
One of the first tricks in the book is quoting Opposition politicians who in any way suggest opting for violence. Then they blow out of proportion and context what they said so that it is interpreted as a declaration of war.
This is dressed up and linked to a nice sounding outfit of a rebel grouping complete with ‘prisoners of war’ arrested from the ‘frontline.’
They may also throw in a parade of hitherto armed Sauls turned to Pauls, ‘seeking for amnesty.’ These confess that they “realised that fighting against the government, which has brought a lot of peace and development was futile and only intended to cause suffering of innocent people by misleading selfish politicians.”
So Bobi Wine should weigh his words carefully. Even as a hoax intended to threaten and make one appear serious, putting the government on notice for dire consequences if they do not deliver a credible election or anything else puts the burden on the one who initiates it.
In the 80s under the UPC regime of Obote, Uganda had DP President General Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere claiming that he was compiling a Black Book. In this book, he was documenting and detailing human rights abusers to be exposed when it was safe to do so. It dented his reputation when the book was never published.
In the recent past, Col Besigye has promised a ‘Tsunami’ and other mass actions against the regime, all of which have not amounted to much. Many are now sceptical about his promise to enact ‘Plan B’ after declaring that he will not stand for the presidency.
To be taken seriously and for his reputation and security of his followers, Bobi Wine should either fold up his sleeves ready to go the entire nine yards or forget about it. In these matters of violence, there is no half way house.
It is all or nothing, a yes or a no, anything more than this is a temptation from the devil, that leads one into playing into the hands of the enemy.