Olara Otunnu: Democratic change is the non-violent resistance’s objective
Reposted from the Daily Monitor
By Olara Otunnu
Posted Sunday, May 8 2011 at 00:00
Throughout the country, the verdict on the last elections is clear: it was a completely sham exercise, marked by comprehensive fraud, the fusion of NRM and the State, horrendous pouring of taxpayers’ money to buy votes, and systematic intimidation by the security forces.
It is now manifestly clear that no democratic change is possible in Uganda working within the framework of the institutions and processes which are entirely controlled by Yoweri Museveni and the NRM. The time has come for Ugandans to assume their constitutional responsibility to take direct political action to effect democratic change. All other avenues for change have been blocked with utter impunity.
A social movement is a broad concept describing a popular citizens’ struggle to change an entrenched, oppressive status quo. The public protests unfolding in the country since the February elections are indeed the beginnings of a social movement.
Citizens are protesting against the sham elections; families are demanding relief from unbearable costs of living; traders are saying “˜no’ to unfair tax burden, students and parents are agitating against escalating fees and appalling diet; and lawyers are protesting the collapse of the rule of law.
These are various but related manifestations of the social movement for change. This is what I have had in mind when, since last August, I have been calling for a national social movement to spearhead democratic change, and to insist on genuinely free and fair elections.
This national social movement must be non-partisan and pan-Ugandan. It should bring together democracy-seeking political parties, traders, civil society, religious organisations, workers, pressure groups, women and youth organisations, and professional associations. In this, I include many of our brothers and sisters who are in the NRM, because there are many patriotic and democracy-seeking Ugandans who are travelling in the NRM bus. What unites us is a common hunger for freedom and democracy in our land. This is a citizens’ struggle.
That is why I urge the various groups to recognise the need for collective and collaborative action by connecting the issues and developing cross-sectoral alliances. We need to create a strong coalition for change; that is how a national social movement functions. That is what the opposition political parties envisaged when on February 24, we collectively rejected the outcome of the sham elections and when on March 8, we resolved to work together under the umbrella of Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE).
On March 9, the leaders of CAFFE launched the positive non-violent resistance with a public protest walk in Kampala. This was followed by similar walks in Jinja and Iganga by the leaders. Then came the current walk-to-work campaign, launched on April 11 by Activists for Change. The Museveni regime has responded to the campaign of protest by using the security forces to unleash wanton violence on unarmed civilians. Although the security forces are being misused in this way, I cannot over emphasise that the Police Force is not our enemy, neither is the army.
We should not target the police or the army. In fact, members of the security forces are victims of the same system as other Ugandans. We shall hold accountable only individuals who are personally responsible for brutalities.
The central moral-political objective of our struggle is to directly challenge Museveni’s entrenched edifice of oppression, injustice, discrimination, corruption, impunity, and state-sponsored terror; it is to realise the deep yearnings of Ugandans for democratic change.
At different stages in this struggle, particular issues and preoccupations of particular sectors of society may come to the fore, but all through, we must remain lucid and steadfast about our ultimate goal. For example, the galloping inflation constitutes one of the great discontents in the land: it maybe curbed by government intervention or it may persist.
Similarly, walking is one of several gestures of public protest. These are variable dimensions; they may come and go. But we must not get hung-up on any one of these dimensions. Or else we shall miss the forest for the trees. We have consciously chosen positive non-violent resistance as our method for conducting this struggle. The ground rules for public protest that we developed and published on March 8 reflect this choice and commitment on our part.
Several examples from recent history inform us about the method and effectiveness of positive non-violent resistance. Gandhi’s salt march in India, Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement in the USA, Lech Walesa’s solidarity movement in Poland, Vaclav Havel’s velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia and Ignatius Musazi’s boycott movement in Uganda challenged entrenched status quo and prevailed.
I know we have been told that we cannot effect change because the Museveni regime is so entrenched and ruthless, that we should accept the status quo as a fact of life. Well, they said the same thing about Milosevic in Serbia, Mobutu in Zaire, Marcos in the Philippines, Taylor in Liberia, Ceausescu in Romania, and Pinochet in Chile.
I know we have been told that change will come gradually, that we should be patient and wait. We have been waiting for a full quarter century. How long shall we wait? The time has come to borrow a leaf from President Obama who, quoting Martin Luther King, insisted on “the fierce urgency of now”.
The moral force that propels our struggle is far more powerful than the awesome weapons of terror in the regime’s arsenal. With our bare hands, waving only the oboko lwedo, we shall prevail over this edifice of oppression.
We shall move forward trusting in God; because He is the God of justice; because He is not indifferent to the agony and humiliation visited upon his children; because He has brought down mighty rulers from their thrones of arrogance and decadence; because He has said to the oppressor, “Let my people go!”. Because He is a just and faithful God, we are not alone.
We Ugandans have been reduced to subjects (not citizens) in our own country, subjugated and humiliated in our own land. The people of Uganda are being held hostage by this politico-military clique. Ours is a Walk-to-Freedom. Ours is a struggle to Take Back Our Country from those who have hijacked it for the last 25 years.