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Monday, 21 January, 2002, 12:10 GMT
Uganda: Is political dissent being quashed?
 Is the president losing his touch?
In Uganda last Saturday, a rally organised by the opposition UPC was broken up by the police. One man was shot dead.

Currently political party activity is banned in Uganda. President Museveni claims that political parties lead to tribalism and division.

His position is to advocate a "movement system" of government.

But is the breaking up of Saturday's rally a sign of a government that cannot accept any criticism? Is it an indication that the president is losing his touch?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

The writing is on the wall

Godfrey Sannyuy, UK
You can never imprison the human spirit. Wilful participation in politics, is intrinsic to human nature, it is a question of right. You can only change peoples attitude towards politics, by persuasion, not brute force. The UPC rally, is a symbol and a reflection of the public sentiments. Museveni, the writing is on the wall. It is time to rethink the movement system. It might have been relevant in the past but not now.
Godfrey Sannyuy, UK

Multiparty does not mean democracy. Uganda experienced a lot of problems during the UPC, DP, KY days who associated them with religion and tribalism. The Movement has united Uganda and it is more stable than in the old days. The country is more democratic than most African countries. Look at the African countries with parties, are they democratic? In Uganda the President is criticised, made fun of etc, there is freedom of expression, trade etc. What more do Ugandans want, I really ask myself and fail to find any reason. I am a Ugandan and I know once parties are back there is going to be havoc. I think that Museveni was the answer to Uganda's problems but of course he cannot rule forever but at the moment Ugandans should concentrate on building the nation rather than crying for parties which will destroy the country.
Gazelle Anne, Switzerland

Is it not amazing that the reason Museveni went to the bush was to fight for democracy and yet after shooting his way to the top he sees no sense introducing democracy to Uganda?
Byamukama, USA

Change of leadership has to come through the movement system, not the political parties

Daniel Nnyombi-Kaggwa, Canada
Uganda is in a political dilemma.There need to be more political plurality than is presently permitted by the Movement System. That is why Museveni's hostility to Dr. Kizza Besigye was a disservice to the nation. Progressive leadership in Uganda resides in the Movement, not in the political parties. The UPC has not only maintained Obote as its leader, but has not bothered to distance itself from his murderous tribalistic policies, so it clearly not ready for leadership. It cannot lead the country without a new leader and policies distinct from its Obote-past. The DP is going nowhere either without new leadership. It is still led by the same fellow who won an election and went happily to sit in opposition, while the government massacred his voter-base! What the country needs is for Museveni to open up to dissent within the Movement, and create room and space for Kizza Besigye and others who have ideas not like his own. Change of leadership has to come through the movement system, not the political parties, which are not ready anyhow!
Daniel Nnyombi-Kaggwa, Canada

Uganda's many factions have thus far allowed Museveni to have his way. But for how long will this last? The company he keeps and the interests that they represent are depriving most Ugandans of the promise of a better today.
Mukweta Paul, Uganda

Those who have lived in Africa over the last 100 years (60 colonial and 40 post-colonial) know that governments in Africa will not take a challenge from opponents lying down. Certainly not, especially, if it is from the same people you threw out of power. The organisers of the rally should have known that having been thrown out of power "only" 16 years ago, they are still regarded as the prime internal threat to the current Ugandan government, as exhibited in political speeches of the ruling elite. By taking on the government head-on, despite many warnings, they should have expected what happened. Personally I expected even worse. That's why I avoided Kampala Road for that day and will avoid it again on 26th.
Maniple, Uganda

Museveni is the man and is the right man not just for Uganda ,but Africa in general. He is one of the few African leader that might bring the African continent into unity. Though some opposition complain about him and his system, they forget that he is the man that made Uganda a stable country. What else do they need? They should appreciate the man for his hard work.
Marco , Canada, Ottawa

What African Parliamentarians as a whole need to do is set Presidential term limits

Fredrick Ozomah, Nigeria / US
Here is another prime example of another tunnel-visioned, African leader. What African Parliamentarians as a whole need to do is set Presidential term limits not to exceed two four year terms. Even leaders who have turned their nations around end up negating the gains by hanging on to power for too long. Museveni and Mugabe please give up and retire because you have outlived your usefulness.
Fredrick Ozomah, Nigerian in Michigan, USA

That Museveni used live ammunition against an armed crowd of people who were gathering to join the global coalition against terrorism and dictatorship shows that Museveni was himself hiding something. He is either a terrorist or sponsors terrorism; himself a dictator or both. I believe he is both and that is why he opted to prevent the people from holding a rally to discuss this new global threat. It is sad that it has to take the killing of a young journalist for the rest of the world to take seriously the miseries Ugandans have been living with since 1986. As the de facto UPC Leader in Uganda Dr. James Rwanyarare said, we have been living with terrorism since 1981. That is when Museveni started bombing villages, mining roads, destroying buses and civilian vehicles in his quest for power, having been humiliated in a free vote, observed by the Commonwealth - including Britain. The "good" out of this is that all Ugandans who have the future of the country at heart are now more vigilant and determined to free themselves than ever before.
Pinytek, UK

Museveni didn't pull the trigger on any gun to break up the riots. Police officers did, individuals who could judge for themselves what is right and wrong, and how far to go with the situation (watch the movie 'Conspiracy', or read about the Wannsee Conference ). I think that sometimes we get so caught up in the Western, or rather American, application of democracy (which is far from perfect) that we forget that what works for one nation doesn't necessarily work for another. I think, I pray, Museveni believes in what he is doing as being good for Uganda and her people. Education is the key, the only key.
Dawit G, Ethiopian in US

The NRM military dictatorship has now exposed its true colours for the World to see. The UPC hopes that the world will now view and regard Yoweri Museveni's NRM dictatorship as that of many past dictatorships all throughout the world. The people of Uganda are yearning for freedom from oppression. Friends of Uganda must side with us in our hour of need.
Opoko Matek, (Member of the UPC's Presidential Policy Commission) Washington DC, USA

Museveni is a political nuisance that has to be isolated. The sooner his backers, mainly Britain and America, came to their senses, the better for Ugandans and Africans from that region. It is a fallacy to claim that the multi-party system causes division. It worked in Uganda before, if it was not for those who were supporters of apartheid who sought to overthrow Oboe. Why then are we bagging Mutable? The new world is as hypocritical as the old. The rally that Uneven quashed was against terrorism. It was under an Article 29 of the constitution that is supposed to allow the freedom of assembly. What wrong then did the UPC and those thousands of Ugandans do?

If anything, the killings took place in front of UPC headquarters, not Kampala City Square, where the supposed rally was to take place! The US was sensible in supporting the rallying principle. It would be interesting to know what position the British took, considering their concerted effort to get rid of Mutable, supposedly for being repressive. Finally, I read the other day that Museveni threatened to close all political party headquarters. If he does so, he will drive them underground and am most confident that it is Uneven who would lose. The writing is on the wall; he and his friends had better read it.
Wangara, UK

I admire Museveni for his creative ideas that have seen the Ugandan economy succeeding. However, I strongly despise his "Movement" ideology. This system can not stand the test of time as it kills the freedom of people to associate. The absence of organised political thinking with a shared approach will end up bringing dictatorship since those in authority will have it easy to fight isolated pockets of dissent. I do not see this ideology surviving without anarchy in Uganda
Mavuto Kapyepye, Malawi

Party elections will end up in tribalism

Bhekuzulu Khumalo, Canada
Lovers of freedom. Museveni knows what he is doing. He needs to maintain Uganda. Party elections will end up in tribalism, that is why the only solution is to let Africa break into its natural states, then the BaGanda who are so feared need not be feared anymore. When will logic and reasoning enter into the continents heads. It is logical to vote for one of the same tribe, one will naturally think a fellow tribesman will look after their interests.
Bhekuzulu Khumalo, Canada

I think that Museveni is finally being like they all are down there, drunk with power and letting it get into his head. Uganda will always be there, but Yoweri will not be. When he is gone, (it does not matter whether that happens tomorrow or 10 years from then), Uganda, and indeed all the other African countries will continue to exist. These people need to understand that the world will always function, with or without them, and that their ends will not necessarily mean the end of Africa and its peoples.

I hope that Moi, Chiluba and Mugambe among others, are listening to this. It is such a shame that we never seem to learn from past mistakes. Museveni, you have done such a good job for Uganda (this is my own opinion) and you need to go ahead with your life, living behind an untainted legend. Long live Africa, long live democracy.
Peter Mukora, USA (Kenyan)

Museveni is right to doubt multi party politics, because with the possible exception of Botswana, that system hasn't worked in one country in sub-Saharan Africa. Even South Africa is barely a democracy in practical terms now. Why? Because, in Africa, for "parties" read "tribes". Can you imagine that system being successful in the UK if the parties were "English", "Scottish", "Indian", "Pakistani", "Afro-Carribean" etc? Would anyone trust anyone?
Pete, UK

Why is everyone acting surprised that an innocent student exercising his constitutional right to assemble was killed in the most cold-blooded of ways? Museveni's political idiocy and moral bankruptcy are only now beginning to show. Yes, he redeemed a nation that was headed down the drain and has restored some of our hitherto lost pride as Ugandans.

Yet, none of that is licence for him to drive Uganda down the same path that he supposedly saved it from. The silver lining however is that this latest upsurge of support for political pluralism will brook no shenanigans and try as he might, Museveni is bound to lose. Museveni will not live forever and will be gone someday. Political parties WILL be restored in Uganda, one way or the other!
Benjamin Waiswa, Uganda

Listening to what happened in Kampala on January 12, one would get the impression that it was a deliberate and brutal crackdown by the government on its opponents. But if you read about a press conference given by President Museveni on January 15 in Kampala, he too blamed the shooting dead of a student on a reckless policeman. It is easy to find an emotive interpretation of the Saturday incident. But the opposition UPC are delighted, because this is the exact international publicity they needed. They know that they did far worse while they held power between 1962 and 1971 and 1980 and 1985.
Timothy Kalyegira, Kampala, Uganda

Ugandans need education, clean water, and decent houses. Parties will not necessarily bring these. Party politics in this part of the world, is, unfortunately, guided by ethnicity and religious sectarianism rather than modernist issues. One-party politics, on the other hand, is dictatorship. Dialogue and compromise between the two camps, to ensure stability and sustainable development, is the solution.
Mugarra Adyeeri, UK

Museveni outlived his insights and contributions before 1995.

Alex Free Andrua, USA
I believe there is yet another boiling pot in Uganda about to tip over in the near future. The suppression of opposition voices is a clear sign of fear and defeatism. Yes, Museveni has tried his best to recapture the name of a country that was once equated to living in hell in the '70s and '80s. Indeed, I credit him for that. But I think the "time is ripe enough to uproot a dangerously standing dry wood on the compound that seems to be providing hope and assurance yet nobody knows when it can collapse and cause more damage." Museveni outlived his insights and contributions before 1995. This time Uganda has become an oily pot from where family members eat to self-aggrandise themselves. I mean that there is no more the national spirit of governance except for tribalism and sectarianism. The West, with the efforts of the people of Uganda, should put more pressure on Museveni so that he steps down lest soon there be another bloodshed. May peace reign in the Pearl of Africa!!
Alex Free Andrua, USA

True democracy is the only way towards justice in a country. It is sad that people like Museveni come up with ideas that only keep them in power longer. Such leaders are self-serving. The country remains in poverty, disease and ignorance while African leaders create war and killing to stay in power. I hope this will change in my life time. Uganda had no business to fight a war with Congo. Uganda has not found a good considerate leader as yet. I mourn for the people
Abrayham W. Selassie, Uganda

Museveni should try and listen to the people of Uganda for a change and not dismiss what is taking place in Uganda as something imaginary. Change is inevitable. The last elections in Uganda indicated this. We do not want Uganda to revert to its state of the past, but the way thing are going in the country, that state of unrest will happen again.
Cyrano Burgess, UK

Museveni has received so much praise from the West that he thinks everything he does is right. It's time for the West to put some requirements (democracy, free and fair elections, ...) on the aid given to Uganda as it is done for other African countries. Maybe Museveni will get the message.
Jean-Remy, DRC

The lack of political maturity as displayed by the UPC rally is the very reason why Multi party politics should be banned from Uganda for a very long time. Political rally's are a distraction from the really key issues - economic development, poverty eradication, education, etc...What has the UPC done for me lately??? Absolutely nothing....
Majezi, Uganda

Museveni knows that even if he is corrupt he will always receive foreign aid

Nsambila Cecilio Mbolela, Zambian in US
To answer this question we need to review a little of history of Museveni. For some time now, Uganda has been a large recipient of foreign aid without regard to Uganda's human rights record. Uganda has shown a good economic growth but less transition to democracy. Museveni knows better that even if he is corrupt and implements political policies detrimental to the opposition parties, he will always receive foreign aid because he has shown economic growth.

Unless foreign aid is used to reinforce values of democracy Museveni will always get away with corruption and power abuse. As for you, my fellow Africans vis a vis Ugandans, Museveni will not live forever, therefore do what you can to get him out. Leaders come leaders go - but democracy is intrinsically every African's right whose long term results depends on what we choose to do with corrupt leaders like Museveni now.
Nsambila Cecilio Mbolela, Chicago-USA-Zambian

The breaking up of the rally does not really indicate president Musevini's loss of his touch. The process of democratization varies according to the real situation on the ground. The way democracy is managed in the West may not work in most African countries, where there is diversity of ethinicism. In some African countries political parties are organized on the basis of ethinicity, which in some cases escalates the already existing loss of confidence among each other. Thus, at least in the early stages on the way to democracy, it seems reasonable to restrict tribal political parties.

In the mean time, there will be opportunities for the people to fully understand and enjoy democracy. Otherwise, it will remain, for most Africans, as a word in the dictionary. Once democracy is put on the track it is up to the people to organize in whatever criteria they choose. The situation in Uganda is not different from this basic idea. Therefore, in my opinion, Musevini is not losing by breaking the Saturday's rally, rather he is on the way to democratizing Uganda, and contributing his part for Ugandans to enjoy democracy in the future.
Goradew, Ethiopia

Museveni put together a country that was butchered by multi party politics. Until Africans stop the hypocrisy of receiving money to carry our Western Agendas, I will support Museveni's no party system. Political parties never serve the interests of the people. They are the graveyard of truth and national interest. No, let our countries be run by independents.
Thokozile Jeremiah, South Africa

A Referendum on a suitable system for Ugandans confirmed the continuity of the "Movement system". Museveni was recently re-elected in a fair election as confirmed by international observers...

"Criticism" is different from going backward to the dark times of Obote's UPC and the like. I was choked to hear the voice of the old man speaking on behalf of this Party he still leads from exile in Zambia. Obviously if Obote is still at the helm of UPC, that says a lot about how little the party evolved; and being cautious about the murderous years of UPC under Obote is absolutely the right thing to do.

It also seems the government opened an immediate investiguation into the killing.

When the time is ripe for people to participate in an open multiparty system, there won't need to be shots, volent demonstrations etc. It will or should just happen spontaneously without a "revolution" or chaotic scenarios...That will be a sign of maturity and successful transition.
Andre Shyamba Ruhigisha, Rwanda

Museveni and Mugabe are birds of the same feather.

Janet Nyeko, Swaziland
Museveni and Mugabe are birds of the same feather. They are both scared of open expression of opinions and democracy. Both are being supported by Gaddafi whose popularity is never tested through elections. The UPC should keep up the pressure and try to hold rallies every weekend. Let Museveni show what a scared cat he is by banning them. The struggle continues.
Janet Nyeko, Swaziland

The talk in Museveni's camp is that Ugandans are not ready for mult-party politics. They want to give the world a picture that they have an alternative political system better than the ones before. What Ugandans are seeing is that Museveni's Movement system is another form of dictatorship that does not allow other views. Museveni has to let Ugandans determine their own future. Ugandans have seen enough of guns. If he believes that parties are not popular, why can't he let the world see that parties organise rallies and attract nobody?
Max, Belgium

Museveni's actions may take Uganda back to the 1970s and 1980s if he begins to deny people freedom of expression and assosciation. What is wrong with people meeting? He should try to diplomatically contain whatever dissent is coming up or else if anything happens in Uganda, he will have himself to blame.
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya.

I believe Uganda has had sufficient time to reflect on where it went wrong in the past

Edward Ocen, UK
It is a great shame Museveni has not learnt or stubbornly refuses to learn from previous dictatorial regimes. I believe Uganda has had sufficient time to reflect on where it went wrong in the past and it should be allowed to return to multi-party politics unconditionally.
Edward Ocen, UK

As someone who has recently returned from working in Uganda, I can honestly say Museveni has lost the plot. The blame should be placed at the doors of the development/aid sector that has thrown money into Uganda, increasing corruption and making individuals like Museveni's brother (Salim Saleh) very rich indeed. When will these people realise that money has to be monitored? There are enough examples elsewhere in Africa.
David, Uganda

Yoweri Museveni's no-party politics is merely a revised and updated version of the single party politics of the '60s and '70s. The National Resistance Movement while banning party politics, conducts itself like a party, harassing and muzzling all internal dissent.
Benjamin Sehene, France

Let the better party win

Ejullu, Uganda
Ugandans should have the right to choose whichever group they would like to belong to - that is what freedom is about. Let the better party win. What Museveni should be doing is educating Ugandans on the power of voting.
Ejullu, Uganda

What happened in the Ugandan capital, Kampala on Saturday the 12th January 2002 was expected. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni is very fearful of competitive politics. He can only thrive in a war situation. In times of peace, he cannot convince the population to give him votes.
Boyi Yobbo, Uganda

Museveni has managed to hoodwink the world for a very long time. The recent local council elections is a reflection of the turmoil brewing in Uganda and ready to explode into another all-out civil war.
Andrew Mugisha, USA

See also:

15 Mar 01 | Africa
23 Feb 01 | Africa
06 Mar 01 | Africa
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
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