Politics, Violence and the Government; The Case of Uganda
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Picture Credit: VOA
On November 18, violence erupted in several cities of Uganda following the arrest of Bobi Wine, a musician turned lawmaker, who is also a Presidential candidate in the upcoming January elections. The Ugandan government accused him of breaching Covid-19 guidelines which clearly stated that only up to 200 people could attend the election rallies. Soon after his arrest, his supporters took to the streets, leading to violence. A series of protests took place in some of the major cities like Kampala, Masaka, and Jinja. Videos leaked on different social media platforms showed agitated protesters burning vehicles and tyres. There were also reports of hooliganism and vandalism as government officers made use of tear gas to disseminate people. Security forces fired live rounds to curb protects which were triggered by the popstar’s arrest, resulting in death of more than 30 civilians and 65 injured. Patrick Onyango, a deputy police spokesman in his statement, said more than 300 people were arrested. Wine, whose actual name is Robert Kyagulanyi, told the media that police dragged him out of his vehicle and took him into custody. On his Twitter account Wine wrote, “The price of getting freedom is much more. Resistance against an oppressive regime is not only our right but also a duty which all oppressed people must carry out.”
Wine has been arrested multiple times in these recent years as he has repeatedly asked for President (current) Yoweri Museveni’s retirement and is also seen as a major threat to his political career. He is seen as a young, aspiring, and educated leader who belongs to the ‘new generation of political leaders’ across the African region who are opposing dictatorial and autocratic leadership, in the hope to harness a deep sense of dissatisfaction among the young, urban and educated masses. Fumba Chama, a Zambian hip-hop artist, and activist said that musicians have a deep connection with people and this is what makes the powerful and elites uncomfortable and insecure. He further highlighted that earlier they were communicating their message through art and music. But due to the unreasonable restrictions put by the government on art, they are running their campaign in an impromptu style, where they choose a location, address people there, and disappear before the police come. They are basically acting like ‘non-violent rebels.’
Wine entered politics in 2017 after winning a seat in the National Assembly. Since then, he has been badly beaten, assaulted, and even arrested on many occasions. With the banning of political rallies in Uganda to prevent the spread of coronavirus, he has been left with no political weapon. The secretary-general of the National Unity Platform Party, David Lewis Rubongoya, said that Wine’s detention was extremely unfair as Museveni along with his supporters had been organizing many political rallies. He further stated, “this has nothing to do with Covid-19. This is about repression. The people of Uganda are furious and are tired of this government’s double standards. They are tired of the oppressive and dictatorial rule that has left the country battling with so many problems.”
Picture Credit: NewYorkTimes
The lethal response against the opposition leaders inflates the suspicion of dictatorship. When the dictators take unreasonable and gruesome actions against their opponents, the dictatorial traits begin to surface themselves. Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986, seeks his sixth term. However, last year he was cleared to contest by the court following scrap of the Presidential age limit, which was set at 75. Museveni, in his statement, said that due to the effects of coronavirus on Uganda, he would not tolerate any violations related to Covid-19 protocols. He also addressed in one of his rallies that the protesters were used by homosexuals and other outsiders who didn’t like Uganda’s stable and independent state. He also warned that whoever will engage in any kind of violence will regret it later.
Although Museveni has been praised for establishing peace in the region, dealing with AIDS, and promoting economic growth, his government is accused of increasing corruption, widespread surveillance, and deploying unlawful tactics.
Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General in a statement condemned all kinds of violence and atrocities in Uganda and urged authorities to “make sure that all offenders and perpetrators are penalized.” He also asked the Ugandan leaders and their followers to “take part in the electoral process ethically and peacefully, to abstain from giving hate speeches or engaging in violent activities and to follow Covid-19 rules and guidelines.”
Since Uganda’s independence in 1962, the electoral process of transfer of power has never been peaceful. The world needs to hope that history doesn't repeat itself and the country would witness elections ethically in times to come.
Srinjana Michelle Das | Kabir Kalia