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On peaceful resistance and why I speak the truth to Museveni

On peaceful resistance and why I speak the truth to Museveni

 An online newspaper published an article about me last Tuesday, in which the author made false allegations that suggested deliberate disinformation or loss of the struggle with the English language. He was reacting to my column of Tuesday May 3 titled “Tibuhaburwa dynasty still stoppable.” 


The author falsely alleged that (1) I wrote that the Muhoozi Project was “more or less a done deal”; (2) that I disputed Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s Ugandan citizenship; (3) that I was a “renowned Museveni hater”; and (4) that I endorsed civil disobedience. 


The writer appears to have been briefed to distort my message. How else to explain his interpretation of my clear statement that “the Muhoozi succession is not a done deal” to mean that “the Muhoozi Project is more or less a done deal?” The same applies to his allegation that I disputed Muhoozi’s Ugandan citizenship when, in fact, I argued that all evidence was that he was a Ugandan citizen by birth. The only caveat was that Muhoozi’s citizenship would be problematic if he violated the provisions of the 1995 Constitution as amended in 2005.  


I understand why the author interpreted disagreement with Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa to mean hatred for my president. The unliberated mind, nurtured in a culture of automatic agreement with teachers, elders and rulers, cannot understand freedom to speak the truth to power. 


Abakiga n’Abanyankore say that “akanyonyi katagyenda tikamanya ahibwezire.” (The sedentary bird remains ignorant of where millet is in seed.) Ignorance, lack of exposure beyond one’s narrow horizon, conspire to undermine many people’s ability to imagine that one can disagree with the ruler without hating him. 


By God’s grace, I do not hate anyone. Hatred of others is futile, and self-destructive.  What I hate is violence, oppression, and all forms of injustice. Otherwise, I have a Christian’s affection towards my older brother Museveni, a fallible sinner like me, one whose mistakes and misdeeds I point out because it is my duty to do so. And I expect him to return the favour. 


His close relatives and associates will attest to my warm and tender feelings towards them. Some have been welcome guests in my home. We have broken bread even as we have engaged in mutually respectful dialogue. However, my political life does not include blind adoration or hero worship of anyone. I worship the one living God who taught me about love, justice, honesty, forbearance and forgiveness. 


Flattery and lies to the ruler do not mean love for him. To me, blind adoration of any ruler is recklessly unpatriotic. My criticism of the ruler’s policies and actions signifies patriotism and loyalty to my country. As so marvellously stated by Junius, an Englishman of that pseudonym who bravely championed the constitutional rights and liberties of English people during the reign of King George III, “The subject, who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate, will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures.”


Throughout my column in question, I did not use the phrase civil disobedience. Not even once. What I advocated was peaceful resistance. These are well-documented concepts with distinct definitions. Civil disobedience is a deliberate, public violation of certain laws or regulations as a peaceful form of protest. Whereas it is a legitimate measure, it involves breaking the law. For example, public assembly without notifying the police, or blocking a road or refusing to pay taxes are perfectly legitimate and time-honoured forms of protest. 


However, civil disobedience assumes the presence of constitutional rule, and an environment where the rule of law determines the government’s response to the citizens that engage in the protests. The current environment in Uganda is hostile to civil disobedience. As we have repeatedly witnessed in the last two decades, civil disobedience in Uganda invites a massive violent response by the government. 


This violent state response is non-discriminating. Protestors and non-protestors risk severe injury and death. The police and other security forces are happy to push the protestors to react to the state violence. The situation can rapidly descend into anarchy, death and destruction. 


Furthermore, civil disobedience disrupts the lives of citizens, most of whom are already burdened with struggles for daily survival. For these reasons, I do not support civil disobedience (or defiance) in Uganda. That is my personal position. It will remain so.


On the other hand, I am a strong advocate for peaceful resistance. This is a legal and legitimate rejection of a policy, measure or an entire regime without breaking any laws. It is always peaceful and completely non-violent. It involves mobilization of public opinion and democratic action in favour of a just cause.


Peaceful resistance invites an intellectual meeting of minds and hearts of patriots who seek change without intended or unintended violence. Thus, peaceful resistance denies the regime the gratification of shedding blood in the defense of its feudal interests.


My idea of peaceful resistance does not include public demonstrations.  Whereas public protests are legal and legitimate in Uganda, they invariably attract brutal response from a regime that can only maintain power through fear, intimidation and violence. 


Peaceful resistance moves the struggle from our multiple tribal, religious and partisan silos to a common vision of patriots who seek a safe and just society for all. Millions of Ugandans can resist by becoming paid up members and regular funders of political parties of their choice. Citizens can raise socio-political awareness of their neighbours and relatives about their rights and responsibilities.


The clergy, the imams and other public speakers can use peaceful gatherings to raise social and political awareness and warn against apathy, political bribes, political intolerance, and voting for those who have abused power. The security organs can resist by peacefully enforcing the law. The police and other security agents can refuse to beat their brothers and sisters. 


An excellent example of peaceful resistance was the recent action of members of parliament who rejected the attempt to hand Uganda’s coffee to a small group represented by Enrica Pinetti, the Italian woman who has already built an invisible hospital at Lubowa, Kampala.  Another example of peaceful resistance is the constitutional petition by Gawaya Tegulle against Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and the Chief of Defence Forces and the Attorney General.


Uganda belongs as much to Museveni as it does to Mugisha, Luyombya, Okupa, Okello, Drani and Musani. All should stand together as a country, reclaim our rightful inheritance, and create a peaceful nation that honours and protects every law-abiding citizen. That is peaceful resistance. 


© Muniini K. Mulera


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