On these columns last Sunday I joined the rest of Africa in lamenting one of the many curses; military coups. I tasted sour, the hypocrisy that has trailed Mr Museveni’s own record on these matters in practice, word and uniquely for him, in Opposition, in power and as a contributor to these practices outside Uganda’s own borders. I roundly denounced and again, I reject coups.
More than for many of my articles, I received above-average in-boxed reactions challenging my position, especially those that clearly missed the essential points I raised and worse, those who missed the tone-and-lines along which I deliver my messages in effect; suggestions that the coup in Guinea should not be condemned.
From the spirit of most submissions, it was clear that those responding were extremely selfish (understandably), Uganda-centric-limited but sadly, missing the points of principle; a coup is a coup. Violence is violence. Evil is evil, as the late man of God Derrick Prince would say; you cannot be neutral with the devil; you either deal with it or it will deal with you.
So, the idea that we can support coups when it serves our interests and reject it when convenient is bad politics for Africa and I tell you why. DP and their leader Ben Kiwanuka (RIP), plus many others, celebrated Idi Amin’s coup against the democratically elected government of UPC in 1971.
The poor guys even went further; they had refused to join the government of national unity requested by Milton Obote and UPC in 1962 for, among others, they could not sit on the same Cabinet table with Sir Edward Muteesa and his KY yet willingly went in to swim as key players in Amin’s government, Kiwanuka serving as Attorney General for Amin but was swiftly killed hardly one year later, in 1972, by the same regime.
In 1980, after losing elections, DP refused to join in government with UPC but instead elected to have one leg in Parliament and the other in the bush with bad losers UPM/NRA in Luweero. Together, they caused the 1985 coup against the elected government – hardly five months to the next elections – and they celebrated. Kampala was looted and lives lost. Within weeks, they were killing each other and innocent Ugandans, scrambling for spoils. The scramble granted State House to NRA in January 1986 and to date – 35 years later – they still occupy it effectively, as squatters.
If one considers the number of lives lost since then and even if one excludes Luweero; what about Kayunga, Kasese, Mukura, Paya, Iyolwa, Acholi, Lango, Teso one wonders, for whom were these coups?
And there is something else; most of the people who in-boxed me had the experiences of 2021 elections and the heartless wasting of more than 54 lives of Ugandans last November and they wrote;
“How do you change a leader through multi-party elections, who is frustrating the proper operation of a multi-party system and, therefore, you can’t have a genuine multi-party elections?”
Then wrote another: “Elections were held (in Guinea) but the constitution was changed, this by someone (Conde) who should have learnt from his predecessor – who had imprisoned him.”
And of the many others, I picked another: “What’s the alternative when an undemocratic incumbent won’t go by alternative means?”
While I was initially furious at their paces in appreciating my piece, I swung back to appreciating these sentiments in Uganda – home to a vicious circle of root causes of coups in Africa – after all, it’s Nelson Mandela who famously told the Boers that in blocking a civil and democratic change, they had no option but to ‘defend’ themselves by force.
Sixty years on, autocratic rulers should wake up, learn to repent, and with humility, honour the will of the people by retiring to nappy-change bazukulu. Only then shall they be counted as ‘building for the future’.
By Joseph Ochieno
The writer is a pan-Africanist and former columnist with New African Magazine