The Baganda have a popular saying about the tree for which one sought an axe, being felled by the wind. Kyewayagaliz’embazzi kibuyag’asudde.
National Unity Platform former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, has called upon Ugandans to “demonstrate peacefully” against what he calls the stealing of his (their) victory. You can almost touch the glee with which his detractors will take this call in case it comes to fruition.
From the day Bobi Wine joined politics projecting himself as the leader of the down-trodden in slums and ghettos, there has been an enduring smear campaign to discredit him and those who support him. That they are clueless, dishonest, intolerant, violent, despicable, former (and active drug addicts), whose major motive is to disrupt the peace in Uganda and probably return it to the stone age.
Bobi Wine persisted and broke many records. For the first time, the Opposition under his leadership, brought to Parliament about 60 MPs, against so many odds. These included being barred from campaigning in a vast part of the country under the guise of stopping the spread of Covid-19, imprisonment, abduction and killing of his supporters.
This has not gone down well in the ruling NRM camp and some in the Opposition. They have taken shelter under several excuses for Bobi Wine’s success. Foreign interference, tribalism, bias in the Church, media and the Kingdom of Buganda, etc, that advantaged him. Now it is intimidation, rigging, violence and killing. Those who have followed the NRM’s history will not be surprised that we have come to this point.
Having been birthed in the principle of achieving peace and liberation though violence, NRM is in its element in a ferocious environment. When you follow President Yoweri Museveni right from his student days in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, to FRONASA and NRM to date, the theme of violence trails him like a shadow. He has also put it on record that he is not a pacifist. It follows a cornerstone of Machavellian thinking. You crash the enemy not only to put them out of action, but also to demonstrate what awaits those who harbour similar thinking about contesting your hold onto power.
With the liberal licence NRM has to employ the coercive arm of the State, just one day of demonstrations is enough to make all and sundry come to belief. Already, we have a pandemic in the country of abduction, disappearance, torture, maiming and killing of suspected NUP supporters without any justification or charge. Many of these are picked up by armed men riding in vans with tinted windows and without vehicle registration plates. You can imagine what will happen now that NUP is suggesting taking matters to the streets.
This is the proverbial wind that fells the tree without the need to drop sweat, by swinging an axe. It will set the stage to ease the work of the NRM annihilating NUP and other Opposition forces, thus rendering them irrelevant as political forces. Even if the people don’t heed the call, you can’t rule out stage-managed demonstrations that justify the use of force. The agent provocateur is a common useful tool deployed in African politics. A few people dressed in Opposition party colours in a controlled experiment may set the ball rolling to ignite the dormant fires in the cold feet of the disgruntled.
Looting, snatching of handbags, muggings and extortion by all sorts of criminally-minded people would thrive in such a fluid situation. The majority of the victims will be the traders, working class, the middle class plus the investors and the expatriate community. These will then pray that the State moves in to save their souls and their deposits. It will be a vindication that all along, NUP was up to no good and will justify with the approval of many right thinking members of society that all means used (including extra judicial) to stop them are understandable.
Lobbing of teargas and live ammunitions will become acceptable and so will the drones that many people find despicable at the moment. You can also safely predict a pile up of dead bodies plus mass arrest of suspects with all sorts of charges, including the persistent one of attempting to burn the city.
In the pages of the rule book, a shadowy rebel group sponsored by a hostile foreign county may spring up. ‘Captured rebels’ popular known in the 80s as ‘computers’ may make an entrance on the stage. Like it happened when the government of Milton Obote was overwhelmed by the NRA rebels, these will ease the work of security. They will seek amnesty in a plea bargain and then finger out those who ‘lured them to fight the government’ in exchange for things as mundane as second hand cars and televisions. (The phantom rebel outfit of the early 2000s called PRA (People’s Redemption Army) may offer lessons to NUP.In Obote’s time, this scheme made many cry but others benefited. A rivalry would end up with an accusation of being seen in the bush.
One would have to pay a ransom to regain their freedom. Many security operations are a cash cow. It is such people who will be used as witnesses to fix leaders of NUP in the Military Court Martial on charges of terrorism and being in possession of military stores.
Bobi Wine may need to go back to the drawing board.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues