What you need to know:
- For selfish reasons, National Resistance Movement (NRM) has done so well in defining the struggle to mean taking up arms or using violence to change the political order of the day -full stop.
If there is one word or phenomenon that has received so much amplification and often been (ab)used with reckless abandon since 1986, it is the ‘struggle,’ (against dictatorship and misrule.)
For selfish reasons, National Resistance Movement (NRM) has done so well in defining the struggle to mean taking up arms or using violence to change the political order of the day -full stop.
They have with condensations asked ‘where were you when we were struggling in the bush to bring about the peace you are now enjoying and abusing to question us? Many of you were here eating sausages and hiding under your beds when we were in the bush struggling.’
Taking this direction is easy to understand. NRM has its origins in violence and militancy. As an organisation it thrives in that territory. As such, NRM endeavours to drag the opponents it encounters in that direction and then negotiates -from a point of strength with security agencies and the Court Martial as its tools.
That is why whenever you have an election in which the NRM is threatened, you end up having unexplained or unfathomable violent encounters like the Masaka panga massacres.
The end result is some of NRMs opponents being tried for treason -which scares many. Somehow by coincidence rebel organisations spring up during that time. This necessitates the invitation and the prominent use of the military even in the most mundane of activities like arresting unarmed suspects.
The unfortunate bit about this is that the Opposition has swallowed the bait.
In Uganda today if one does not speak about NRM’s excesses in an aggressive manner or protest and confront the police on the streets causing mayhem, they are not taken seriously as ‘strugglers.’
Yet whenever you have had protests and demonstrations on the streets many people have died or suffered injuries.
These have made headlines for the past 30 years but had almost no significant impact on the so called NRM dictatorship’s hold onto power.
NRM likes its opponents that way, for it becomes easier to crush them whenever they raise their heads unlike if they acted in a subtle and clandestine manner.
What this has done to the Opposition is to split it and turn it against itself.
One faction, which has mostly Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) hot heads, looks down upon those who appreciate a more civil and covert approach to fighting the NRM as being sell-outs who are in bed with the junta.
Indeed FDC has been right on the money, on fingering out many of these individuals who have been bought or are on a pay roll of sorts. These act like Nicodemus in the Bible, oscillating between Jesus and the Pharisees during day and night respectively.
That aside, struggles from time immemorial have never been a one trick affair. You always have a myriad of approaches by several groups and individuals.
For instance, in the days of the civil rights movements in the USA, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in a bus to a white man leading to her jailing.
What followed that act of civil disobedience was the Montgomery bus boycott organised by Martin Luther King Jr. Parks was never a stone throwing militant on the streets but she had a great impact on the movement. The act of defiance was taken advantage of by the intelligentsia to fathom the cause.
The intelligentsia have their place in struggles which may not be in the tall grasses or on the streets. Theirs includes matters cerebral especially regarding policy, strategy, tactics, marketing and ideology.
They may also use their privileged positions to help fund and secure financial help for the cause plus write and speak eloquently and intelligently for the cause to win hearts and minds.
It does not make sense to alienate them by dismissing them as ‘useless idiots’ because much as they don’t overtly express their grievances on the streets, they are some of the most oppressed category of society and therefore identify with the struggle.
They pay their taxes by virtue of being formally employed and yet they have to pay for services dearly like health and education as they ride on poor roads. They are allies waiting to be safely persuaded and included in the struggle.
In fact in Uganda’s case most of the struggles against dictatorship that have succeeded have been led by the intelligentsia. If you take the 1979 UNLF war against Iddi Amin and the NRM five year bush struggle. Compare these to the ones by Alice Lakwena and the LRA ended disastrously because they lacked that element.
Of course you will need the lumpen proletariat and the unwashed to provide a nuisance value once in a while but they cannot be the leaders of successful struggles.
Others like moles within the system, and all manner of turn coats, agent provocateurs and trojan horses also come in handy because the oppressor hurts them too.
If you look at Uganda at present you have individuals in the public service who leak information to the media. The exposure of such information has in some cases stopped corruption and abuse of power. So too is the police officer who will leak information about the machinations taking place in a bogus trial against an Opposition figure.
Social media is now awash with all sorts of information that irritates the powers that be and makes them very uncomfortable. Then you have the cleric on the pulpit and the barefooted farmer in the village who will provide some food or drink or hide an opponent of the government like it happened in Luweero and in many parts of Buganda between 1981 and 1985.
All these are allies even if they are not avowed strugglers, party card carrying members or street demonstrators whose contribution should be taken seriously.
In fact these are the ones governments fear most because they hide in plain sight and do a lot to change hearts and minds.
Any grouping coming up to dislodge the NRM should think very broadly and cast its net very widely.
Struggles are too important to be left to militant people alone.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues