What you need to know:
- Uganda has never had a peaceful handover of power. Those in power use the state resources to strengthen their hold onto the same. Those who contend with them become overwhelmed.
Once again Uganda has been struck by an act of terror seemingly targeting innocent revellers.
Uncle Sam’s and Ronnie’s pork joints are the scene of the gruesome act.
According to a witness, who happens to be a waitress and whose interview has gone viral, a man in a red ‘People Power T-shirt,’ who acted strangely while posing as a customer left a package under a table. He excused himself and it then exploded shortly after, killing a waitress and injuring several others.
The ‘People Power T-shirt,’ has become a bone of contention. Some members of National Unity Platform (NUP) party, the leading Opposition grouping in Parliament which mutated out of the People Power pressure group, has made statements. That the T-shirt man was planted by their enemies to link them to terrorists as a pretext to make them unpopular, detain and may be ban them.
The interesting aspect of this case is that the T-shirt is a sort of sequel in the turbulent history of Uganda. Uganda has never had a peaceful handover of power. Those in power use the state resources to strengthen their hold onto the same. Those who contend with them become overwhelmed.
They resort to all manner of subterfuge to force the government in power into rush decisions and consequently become unpopular. The nuisance value they provide is enough to divert the attention of the government in power from thinking straight.
During the times of the late President Idi Amin, about 50 years ago, from 1971 to 1979 when he was toppled by a Ugandan exiles and the Tanzanian Defence Forces, many people were killed.
It is said Amin’s hand was pushed by a group of exiles who planned a strategy of making phone calls to individuals and ‘thanking’ them for the ‘positive discussions and contributions towards the liberation struggle.’
Others wrote letters with similar messages knowing that they would be intercepted and read at the Post Office by the snooping eyes of the State Research. Most of these letters came from Tanzania, Kenya, and the United Kingdom.
The letters were mainly addressed to politicians, managers of the companies that were grabbed by the state from former Asians and multinationals, prominent civil servants, soldiers, religious leaders and intellectuals at Makerere University.
The regime would then kill them while others fled to exile or disappeared. The world was alarmed and soon Uganda became a pariah and Amin was isolated eventually weakening him.
When Amin was toppled and replaced by the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) governments of Yusuf Lule and Godfrey Binaisa there was a reign of terror that followed.
Prominent public servants such as Dr S A Obache, Dr Mitchell Bagenda, Dr Jack Barlow, and Dr Joseph Kamulegeya, were shot dead. A military officer Lt Col John Ruhinda was also hit by a bullet.
It is argued that the warring parties from Tanzania wanted to discredit the ‘weak civilian’ regimes and take over instead. Eventually the Military Commission took over.
Then came Milton Obote after the controversial 1980 election. It was another disaster. The government fought literally from day one since a guerilla war took place in the jungles of Luweero from 1981.
It is alleged that the notorious UPC Youth wingers and clad in red T-shirts bearing Obote’s potrait would go to homes in the Luweero area the epicentre of the war in the dead of the night and kill people.
The next day the villagers would run away while others decided to join the rebels like the NRA or UFM to fight against the government. UPC has for years claimed that it was an act of subterfuge by its enemies against them as a recruitment strategy. They claim there was no way they would have foolishly exposed themselves by that distinct dress code.
A counter claim has been made that the reason they had to have the party T-shirt is because they needed to be identified by the government soldiers who protected them under the cover of darkness. Whatever the case, it made the UPC government unpopular and it eventually collapsed.
When the NRM took over in 1986 these strange acts still persist.
Way back in 2001 the precursor of the FDC party, the Reform Agenda at some point strangely banned people from attending their own rallies in the party T-shirts. They said that their ‘detractors’ had planned to wear the same and go into a looting and violence spree. In the last election the NRM also claimed that some of the trouble makers in the election were opposition members dressed in NRM colours to disrupt NRM party primaries and cause chaos.
There have been instances where criminals have left letters of intent to raid villages and kill people being dropped. It has come to pass in some cases like it happened in Masaka where NUP legislators Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana are accused of being part of the sponsors of the machete wielding thugs. The letter writers kept their promise while the security operatives who were beforehand allegedly informed did not protect the people.
During elections it is also a given that a group of youth from the opposition will be paraded handing in the party T-shirts and membership cards of an opposition party claiming that they have ‘reformed’ having accepted to join the party in question to cause mayhem.
We also know that there is the ever present ‘foreign’ enemy who wants to disrupt Uganda’s peace and order who may be responsible.
Because we never get to the logical conclusion of most of these cases, the issue of subterfuge be it by the state or against it remains a matter of speculation in debates.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues