The army is part of us: What they do is what we let them do!
By Okecho Dominic
Kotido—6, December 2020: Dear Editor, I read James Mugeni’s criticism of the UPDF in his opinion Democracy and Elections with mixed reactions. It is understandable where his disappointment stems from. Indeed, an army that is meant to defend the people ought to act better than what we have seen in the recent past.
Extrajudicial killings on the street by the men armed by public taxes against innocent civilians some of whom were merely struggling to survive on small trades such as street food vending, paints a horrible picture of the armed forces.
The President may have not done any better by wholesomely siding with the soldiers that are responsible for the mayhem. Contrary to a report that government would compensate those who lost property, the President had earlier shown no remorse when he publicly insinuated that such a move would be out of question.
While addressing delegates in Kotido during his campaign trail in Karamoja region the President likened the event to that of Mathew 21:12-13 of the Bible in which Jesus is reported to have cleansed the Holy Temple. The President said there was no report of compensation in this Bible invent.
Two facts could be alluded here; firstly, one would be inclined to think the President without rue approved of the action of the army. Whether the approval included the management of a supposedly dangerous riot and the killings involved, the clarity was not evident in the speech. Secondly, the President could have been understood as saying those who lost their lives and property were in the wrong place.
That they were involved in an illegality like those who had turned the Temple in Jerusalem into a den of robbers. Incidentally, when this is taken at a metaphoric level it would point back at the President being the chief priest presiding over a thieving regime – if the overwhelming corruption is taken as a default of the sitting government.
But let us look at the bigger picture. Most of the soldiers and police constables seen as brutal are men and women under the age of 35! The political figure head in whose name such riots are staged has just passed that age. Most of his followers are indeed below 35!
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These are actually the beneficiaries of President Museveni’s 35 years in power. They benefitted from his free education, improved infant mortality rate, improved tax base and a thriving private sector! These in fact are much more privileged than my cohort whose dreams were shuttered by the IMF’s infamous Structural Adjustment Programme of 1990s.
When someone stood up to say something was fundamentally wrong at the dawn of the millennium, these very youth shut us down by telling us in the face that ‘Mzee akyali mboko’, loosely translated as “the old man is still as fit as a fiddle”. This came at the time the President decided to ‘listen’ to the youth and started to throw sacks of money at them.
Not much impact was seen among the youth. Even when the initiative was streamlined and baptized “The Youth Livelihood Fund”, results of transformation are yet to be seen. The President again poured a lot of money into the hands of the youth especially in Kampala.
The media went awash with millions of shillings going to this carpentry group, the other metal fabricators, shoe makers, coffee shops, etc. All of the youth groups promising to better themselves and spread the multiplier effect like wildfire. Most of these enterprises are but cold ash in abandoned fire-stones.
Now put yourself in the President’s shoe! Excuse him of the trigger excited combatants on the street some of whom also own businesses down town Kampala – thanks to their WAZALENDO SACCO initiative.
The President has his share of flaws as a person and these have curtailed a portion of his dream for this country but the citizens have a bigger share of the blame. If only 10% of Ugandans can come out to say they deserve a better President and they are ready to provide the means by which this better President will be entrusted with authority, Museveni will hence forth relinquish power.
But as long as we allow to be engrossed in selfish emotions, we shall continue to hand over another term of office to him. The other thing is that President Museveni is not hued from stone. With one voice and resolve we can direct him and be fully in charge of his actions. After all leadership is a sacrifice more than it is a privilege.
Yet our tribal and faith inclinations still dominate a huge part of our brains; the village psychology has never left us.
The author is a Professional Teacher, social critic, political analyst and writer and a born of Tororo.
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