I have watched and listened in utter amazement as leader after leader (of all shades and hues), the Oppositionists who go by the sobriquet of “civil society”, etc. – lambast Police over alleged brutality.
For the avoidance of doubt, where there are incidents of senseless “brutality”, the Police must be held accountable. They have a Political Commissariat, Professional Standards Unit, Disciplinary structures, etc – to deal with any such and other excesses.
But, blanket condemnation of the Police and Security forces which is not based on the appreciation of the totality of our situation, including the behavior of our political class, is not very useful.
Yesterday, Thursday, 5th November 2020, the Candidates and, or, their representatives were slated to have had a meeting with the Independent Electoral Commission to harmonize campaign programs, and to agree a Memorandum of Understanding about related and other matters. We hope all this works out – and holds.
Earlier in the week, Tuesday was the second and final day in the nomination of Presidential Candidates in the 2021 Presidential Elections. Warmest congratulations are in order to all those who were successfully nominated, then, and on the day before.
Commiserations are also in order for all those Ugandans (whoever they might be, including Police Officers) who were hurt or maimed in related face-offs between political actors and the forces of law and order. The media kept up running commentaries and pictures of a kaleidoscopic change of scenarios regarding “violence/brutality”, the whole day. I do not want, at this point in time, to apportion blame for whatever happened. We shall return to that another day.
What I find most disturbing, though, are important signals which all those condemning “police brutality”, are conveniently ignoring. A case in point are the repeated public declarations of now Presidential Candidates Hon. Patrick Amuriat, and Hon. Kyagulanyi Robert Sentamu – several days in the run-up to the nominations … To paraphrase: “We shall move with all our supporters to the nomination venue” … Hon. Amuriat declared in at least one interview (again to paraphrase): “We are defying … we shall defy all the way”. Put very simply, these leaders were mobilizing openly for defiance of the regulations for managing the nomination processes. It did not matter to them the impact of such “defiance” on the success of the nomination exercise itself, public order management and the protection of the lives and property of wananchi. It did not matter to these leaders that we are still very much in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thankfully, these type of declarations did not come from Hon. Nobert Mao, Generals Mugisha Muntu and Henry Tumukunde, the venerable Nancy Kalembe, etc.
Now, what were the forces of Law and order supposed to do faced with such recklessness and irresponsibility? Were the forces of law and order to assume that the esteemed Presidential Candidates were joking? Were they to assume that declarations announcing defiance of the guidelines of the Electoral Commission covering the nomination process were benign political jokes? Or, were the forces of law and order indeed supposed to prepare adequately to meet such recklessness head-on and deal with it firmly – while ensuring that the nomination exercise was successfully concluded?
I was quite worried when I heard NRM leaders call on supporters of their Candidate to line peacefully along the way to cheer him on – why, because enthusiasm of supporters during an election Campaign is difficult to bottle. In the event, the supporters did exactly that – were peaceful, and did not form processions. Those who tried something more ambitious, were quickly and firmly brought to order by the forces of law and order.
What however, illustrates my concern best today, are the declarations of Hon. Kyagulanyi at his house at Magere – after his nomination. He warned that “what happened to Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gadhafi, Mohammed al Bashir, etc”, shall happen here! He laid out a toxic and interesting tableau before us: foreign invasion; the “Arab Spring”; intifada (uprising) etc! It is such declarations that the political class and elite must interrogate, and very quickly – before blanket condemnation of the Police.
Such declarations betray a serious political mbaliga, a malevolent sub-plot: one leg in the electoral process, the other leg in a misguided, fuzzy and not to be, uprising. What would pre-occupy those living in such a mirage would not be the fundamental concerns of our people. No. It is to help create images of disorder, “brutality”, etc – so that “friends” of Uganda and Africa, help them “ease out the dictator”. This fringe group always forget that no country in the world, owes the African people a living.
All pretenders to the leadership of our people, badly underestimate the capabilities of our people to see through the charade. They underestimate – to their peril – the sheer determination and mobilization capacity of patriotic forces in their animated millions and majority, in favour of national transformation, and securing the strategic future of the Ugandan and African people.
The pretenders are paper tigers – very loud and frightening, while extremely weak. Yes, they must be taken very seriously in the short term because of the damage they can cause (like bulls in a China shop). In the medium to the long terms though, these pretenders are totally irrelevant to the fundamental liberation processes of the Ugandan and African people.
Finally, our Presidential Candidates must avoid any commission or omission that wittingly or otherwise, contributes to the destabilization of the country, and devalues the ongoing democratic electoral process. Presidential Candidates, further, are not above the law of the land – and must subordinate also themselves to the Common Good.
About Author: K. David Mafabi is the Senior Presidential Advisor/Special Duties at State House