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Creating a monster: Why President Museveni should clean own house

COMMENTARY | JULIUS BYARUHANGA

For the last thirty-two years of Museveni’s rule, his major strength has been his ability to professionalise the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces and the Uganda Police Force (at least up to 2011 for the Police). “Peace and security” have been the bedrock of his government’s popularity not only among the business elite but also among the common Ugandans in rural areas “wananchi”.

But as William Adam once said, “there’s a reason you separate Military and the Police – one fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, the enemies of the state tend to become the people”.

Clearly, President Museveni’s legacy and that of the UPDF and the Police are on a self-destruction mission. In future when we or our children are reading history books, they will say “something better could have been done at this and that point in time”.

Julius Byaruhanga Ugandan

In the previous opinion piece I argued that to weaken any government you attack it from its position of strength. However, it appears that while the opposition is doing exactly that, the security forces with the support of their Commander in Chief are aiding and abetting the same – at least based on the President’s recent social media and NRM caucus meeting statements on what happened in Arua and why.

The 2017 events in the parliamentary chambers when SFC Officers attacked and brutalized MPs and the events in Bugili and Arua are regrettably a manifestation of a force that is out of control, arrogant and lawless. I would want to perceive that President Museveni, at least based on his previous ideals of the 1980s is a peace-loving and progressive leader.

However, his current defense of the actions of the security forces, especially those tasked with his protection, and the reasons given in that effect could prove me wrong.

Clearly, President Museveni’s legacy and that of the UPDF and the Police are on a self-destruction mission. In future when we or our children are reading history books, they will say “something better could have been done at this and that point in time”.

As we wait for that moment, we are only left with an option of seeing events unfold. Recently in an interview with NBS TV’s Joyce Bagala, Gen. EllyTumwine when asked about change, he said “every day is change in life” and I would want to agree with him on that. However the dismissiveness of that change and the arrogance that comes with it is what is consequential to the future of Museveni’s government.

The two “monsters” that President Museveni has created seem to be turning back to bite him. One is the security agencies and the arrogance and lawlessness that has been nursed. I think in this Arua by-election saga and the debates thereafter, the government had all the powers, capacity and chance to deal with it in a more decent and strategic manner.

After all, paying evil with evil does not make one any different. President Museveni has been/is being failed by either his Public Relations Team, or probably himself by the kind of statements being put out without a clear understanding of the consequences and probably even before clear facts are out.

Whereas the President has all the rights to communicate to his people, it isn’t a must that he must respond to every social media criticisms but his surrogates can and should.
The second “monster” is the youth. We must applaud President Museveni’s government for having elevated the literacy levels significantly.

In Makerere University only, over 15,000 students graduate every year. Of these, less than 20% gets something to do into the job market. Hence, tens of thousands of students who finish university and other tertiary institutions are either in cities and towns across the country idle and frustrated without jobs or are involved in criminal activities to make ends meet and probably few of them are back to their villages.

Secondly, at least 60% of the voting population in Uganda are these same youths. Dismissing this fact is not only dangerous but also irresponsible on the part of a ruling government/political party.

After all, this government has set a very dangerous precedence of making the youth think they can only get jobs or handouts from the government or President Museveni himself. This is turning out to be irreversible by the same government. Hence, unless something more tangible in terms of policy is done, the road ahead is slippery.

So, Museveni’s two major strengths are turning out to be his major threats. It is simply up to him and his handlers to accept it or dismiss it. But doing the latter only escalates an already big problem. As for some elements in the security forces, I think chances are that they can still be tamed but that will only take the political will from the Chief Executive.

The author is a Ugandan and Ph.D. Researcher of Oil and Gas Governance at KU Leuven, Belgium

byaruhangajulius2@gmail.com

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