Uganda: Rallies for regime change grow despite repression

KPFA Weekend News, 02.05.2012



Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has held office for 26 years and had the Constitution changed to allow him to power. KPFA Weekend News Anchor: Thirty one years ago tomorrow, then General Yoweri Museven launched a U.S.-backed guerrilla war to overthrow the Ugandan government then led by Milton Obote. Museveni succeeded in overthrowing Obote in 1986 and has been Uganda's president and a key U.S. military and geostrategic partner ever since. During that time, his repression of his own population has grown to the point that the Parliament dominated by his party is about to make it illegal for as many as three people to walk in the street together. KPFA's Ann Garrison has the story.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Ugandan soldiers have served U.S. geostrategy on the African continent ever since the U.S. backed then General Yoweri Museveni's overthrow of the Ugandan Obote government in 1986. In an April 21, 2011, NTV-Uganda segment titled "US Army completes UPDF Air-force training," Lt. General Ivan Koreta, Deputy Chief of the Ugandan Defense Forces said, with right hand raised, that Ugandan soldiers would be ready to go wherever the U.S. Army sent them, including Somalia and Garamba, in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Lt. General Ivan Koreta: We swear to go and serve wherever you send us, so it's Somalia or Garomba, wherever, where the skills will come in very handy. 

Ugandan opposition leader Anne Mugisha has been trying to build a culture of nonviolent protestt, in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, in Uganda.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: In recent years, as Museveni's soldiers have increased their numbers in Somalia, and U.S. Special Forces joined Museveni's forces in Northern Uganda, Museveni's infamous repression of his own population has worsened and resistance has increased. After the latest round of arrests and beatings of protestors, opposition leader Anne Mugisha told KPFA that Museveni and his party were on the verge of passing a Public Order Management bill making it a crime for three people to walk down the street together without police permission:

Anne Mugisha: As you know, the government is very very worried that Uganda might go the way of all these North African countries, where people have actually walked into a square, held their ground and it has lead to change in regime. As a result, the police has been heavily reinforced, because, I think, that the government believes that the next war is going to be fought on the street. So they always try to make people run when they gather together, to disperse. There is actually a Public Order Management Bill that is being pushed through Parliament to make it illegal for three people to be walking on the street together without permission from the police.  

KPFA: Mugisha says, however, that repression is only strengthening the resolve of the Ugandan people.

Activists for Change rally in Kireka, a district of Kampala, Uganda January 22, 2012.

Anne Mugisha: That has strengthened us.There are more people who are more determined than I've ever seen them. We are going through a process where people are losing fear.The same people who have been charged with treason, treason for planning a demonstration, are the same ones who are beaten and harassed every day.They come back every day for more and that is really puzzling to the security forces who thought their brutality would keep people away from the rallies. Rallies are getting bigger.  

KPFA: Uganda's protests and government repression are reported every day in Uganda's Daily Monitor. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who applauded Museveni's soldiers service in Somalia, has expressed some concern about it, but has not yet shown any sign that the U.S. will respond by ending its financial support or its military, geostrategic partnership with the Museveni regime.

Museveni has been president for the past 26 years and even had his party change the Constitution to make it legal for him to remain in office.

For ​Pacifica, ​KPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.


Follow Ann Garrison on: