April 11 may probably pass us by as any other normal day. However, in 1979, it gained prominence as a brutal dictatorship was brought to its knees. After a lot of planning and failed attempts, Ugandan exiles with the support of Tanzanian forces, overthrew the Amin regime and a new dispensation was ushered in. Eyewitnesses will fondly remember that day being commemorated as Liberation Day for the following years as Ugandans reminisced on their extraordinary success in overthrowing a dictatorship that had rained tyranny on the nation for 8 years unabated! However, in 1986, the celebrations came to an end abruptly when another Liberation Day was proclaimed – January 26 – which was actually January 25, 1986, ironically the very date 25 years earlier that Idi Amin Dada had overthrown the then Obote I government.
In his missive on the Libyan Crisis, President Museveni departed from his usual rhetoric about why the government fell on January 25, 1971 to allude to the already widely held view that Obote I fell because of the government’s insistence on pursuing a “move to the left” ideology that did not augur well with the Western powers. Amin was an easy choice because of his limited exposure to the blackboard but with him in charge; it turned out to be more than they had bargained for. Amin openly humiliated the ambassadors from these nations and actively supported causes he associated with his Islamic faith. Uganda was adopted into the family of Islamic nations – a membership that remains to date. Amin was famous for supporting the Palestinian cause. The stand-off at Entebbe when Palestinians hijacked a plane full of Israelis is legendary and several motion pictures have reproduced the drama that unfolded at Entebbe as highly-trained Israeli commandos raided Entebbe and rescued all but one of the passengers of that ill-fated flight.
Apart from the obvious coincidence in the date of capture of power twenty five years apart, there are a lot of similarities that the Amin and Museveni government have. Both were welcomed as liberators with song and dance on the streets of Kampala and towns across Uganda. They were hailed as freedom fighters, patriots and congratulated for taking the bold move to put an end to dictatorship and the suffering of the people. This was, however, short-lived. The atrocities claimed to have been committed by Amin on the people of Uganda, starting with the Langi and Acoli (whom he regarded as Obote’s people) have been widely documented and they live on in the hearts and minds of the victims’ families. In the same vein, attempts have been made to document the alleged atrocities committed by Museveni in Northern Uganda, Karamoja, Western Uganda, Congo, in demonstrations in Kampala and in the various safe houses around the city and the nation.
This has made the Ugandan people get disillusioned about these so-called liberators who come as beacons of hope and riding on high moral principles, only for their leadership to degenerate into what we had before or even worse. It’s a classic case of Animal Farm, repeated all over our motherland Afrika from Libya, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya and Ivory Coast.
What does it mean to be liberated? Have the Ugandan people ever experienced true liberation? The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda is very clear in Article 1:
Sovereignty of the people. (Article 1)
(1) All power belongs to the people who shall, through regular free and fair elections, express their will and consent on how and by whom they shall be governed.
(2) The Government and its organs obtain power and authority from the Constitution and the Constitution in turn derives its authority from the people.
Who are these people that have all the power in this nation? What happens when the elections are adjudged to NOT be free and fair? Do the people still have sovereignty when a government that has clearly rigged elections is in place? When will they truly claim their supremacy as stated in the constitution? When will Uganda be truly liberated?
For God and my country,
Guild President MUBS 2004/5
Member, Strategic Leadership Forum