Storm Clouds in Uganda

My last Global Voices piece seems to have brought to light an interesting conversation of how seriously to take Museveni's recent excesses in suppressing opposition activity. On one hand are those who see storm clouds fast approaching on the horizon. James can see Uganda becoming the next Zimbabwe.

On the other end of the spectrum is 27th comrade, who worries little when Presidential storm troopers raid the High Court after opposition candidates have been let off bail. Sadly, this represents the attitude of a large portion of Ugandans, for whom state excess has become commonplace.

Unfortunately, by the standards of the continent, Museveni is a darling. He has not gone the way of Mugabe, bull dozing entire slums and eliminating entire opposition parties. Nor has Museveni gone the way of Ethiopia's Zenawi, who blatantly kills protesters on the street of Addis, spies excessively, and censors the Internet.

However, no nation in East Africa is beyond falling back into despotism, and Museveni's recent excesses should be treated as part of a slippery slope. International pressure, and to the extent that it is possible, domestic pressure, should continue to hold Museveni responsible for the excesses of his regime.

These recent government excesses are certainly not limited to any one area of the country. Sarah Grainger, is an piece of bold reporting for the BBC, corroborates over 200 interviews to report on Friday that government forces killed 66 children in the long forgotten and dangerous Karamojong region in north Eastern Uganda. The frightening thing about storm clouds is that it is difficult to tell how far away they are.

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  • You know, that story at the BBC, about the 66 kids, is interesting for how the stereotypes have shaped it. And it is stories written like this that are to blame for the many wrong stereotypes. A bad Museveni is one of them stereotypes, but we'll get there.

    "Ugandan army 'kills 66 children'" is the title. Does it, for you, blend in with the fact that none of the (allegedly 200) interviewees said the army killed his/her kid? They said the kids died in stampedes. I know these people can't be telling a lie about their children's deaths. Neither about whether the kids were shot or crushed by cows. But look at the title. Wouldn't it be the opening line, if, indeed, someone had said `look what they've done to my boy.'? (Line stolen from The Godfather.)
    "Reports of children being killed in indiscriminate, illegal and inhumane ways is absolutely devastating."
    Joshua, do you honestly believe some soldier went shooting at kids, especially since nobody mentions it? I know why the West (of which you are, unfortunately, part, both in geography and mindset) believed that kind of absolute crap. Everyone there has been re-educated into believing that anything - even that - is possible in these primitive outposts of dictatorship.
    From the article:
    "The aid group said it had not found physical evidence of the alleged deaths in Karamoja, but had consistent reports after interviewing some 200 people."
    Not found any physical evidence? Either they didn't go to Karamoja, or some reporter was dying to file a story that would sound like `the true Africa' (and get it labelled `a piece of bold reporting') than to get sanity onto the BBC website.
    There is a mini-title that says `Crushed', but none for `Shot'. Yet look at the whole article's title.

    To the BBC reporter, and the West in general:
    If your love, care and concern are going to be as naïve as that, please reserve them for the memory of the people who die of your empires everyday. The rest of us will revert to pre-colonial order.

    Now, I have wasted my time on that, and I have to go. Damn. But understand that you are so wrong in labelling this as `Museveni's excesses'. I have expressed acute dissatisfaction over the High Court thing, but I have no real reason to wring my hands over it, because I know Uganda (and many other African countries) is squarely incapable of returning to despotism. It could be because I don't have that low a standard for despotism: expressions of power are, to me, not despotism. That is why I don't look at China as a despotic state. (Neither do Blair and Bush, who had Hu Jintao over for dinner, while dissidents were being shot publicly.) I have no problem with those who wield power being open about their power - it is why the Judeo-Christian God has Hell for those who piss him. It's why society has jail. (And America has Guantanàmo Bay.) Power is for routing, defeating and oppressing the opponents of the power, full stop. Me, I am realistic, not an idealist believing that artificial governance systems (democracy) can work.

    No, I won't justify Museveni's stuff. But I won't look at these distant, sporadic shouts as the sound of the forest. It is a classic case of you negativists (yay! Wordufacturing!) focussing on the rare normal and calling it the clouds over the sky, and ignoring the fact that there was civil action, which latter is a sign of what is normal in Uganda - no sieges.
    Why should the siege, one event, indicate the future, and all those times everything is nice and dandy indicate what is dying? Think hard about this, Joshua. Who knows, you may be the first Westerner to break out of the brain-washing and get rid of the Doublethink (i.e., you look at a good Africa, and yet see a bad Africa).

    By Blogger The 27th Comrade, at 1:27 AM  

  • Okay, I am back. Quick points for you:
    Museveni has not yet suppressed opposition. Them guys, contrary to what is in the post, were suspected rebels. Maybe Bush just moved to Uganda. It should not have happened, but still they were suspected rebels, not opposition candidates, as you say.

    Also, the `excesses' have not become commonplace for `a large portion of Ugandans.' You can ask about. That is why they protest agaist it. It is a rare, shocking phenomenon when it happens. It's why it gets the headlines.

    You mention international pressure. Yeah. I see Bush telling him not to be such a copy-cat.
    Museveni has more-than-enough domestic pressure to do the things Ugandans, not the friggin' Americans, want to see done. I don't see why international pressure is necessary. Don't mind. We can take care of ourselves.

    I talked of the Karamoja comment, so I'll skip that.

    I note how you used the word `excesses' six times in a five-paragraph article. Hmm ... you may have to tell me what exactly what it is you mean, because you seem to believe it rather strongly, even though I didn't know there were any excesses here.

    By Blogger The 27th Comrade, at 7:24 AM  

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