An online newspaper published an article about me last Tuesday, in which the author made false claims suggesting deliberate misinformation or losing the struggle with the English language. He was reacting to my Tuesday, May 3 column titled “The Tibuhaburwa Dynasty is 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 the Ugandan nationality of Muhoozi Kainerugaba; (3) that I was a “notorious Museveni hater”; and (4) that I approved of civil disobedience.
The author seems to have been tipped to misrepresent my post. How else do you explain his interpretation of my clear statement that “Muhoozi’s succession is not a fait accompli” to mean that “the Muhoozi project is more or less a fait accompli?” The same applies to his allegation that I disputed Muhoozi’s Ugandan citizenship when in fact I argued that all the 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 the disagreement with Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa as meaning hatred of my president. The unliberated mind, nurtured in a culture of automatic agreement with teachers, elders, and leaders, cannot understand the freedom to speak truth to power.
The Abakiga n’Abanyankore say that “akanyonyi katagyenda tikamanya ahibwezire”. (The sedentary bird remains ignorant of where the millet is in the seed.) Ignorance, the lack of exposure beyond its narrow horizon, conspires to undermine many people’s ability to imagine that the ‘one can disagree with the ruler without hating him.
By the grace of God, I don’t 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 affection for my older brother Museveni, a fallible sinner like me, whose faults and misdeeds I point out because it is my duty to do so. And I expect him to return the favor.
His close relatives and associates will attest to my warm and tender feelings for them. Some have been welcome to my home. We broke bread while engaging in mutually respectful dialogue. However, my political life does not include blind worship or hero worship of anyone. I worship the only living God who taught me love, justice, honesty, patience and forgiveness.
Flattery and lies to the ruler do not mean love for him. To me, blind worship of a leader is recklessly unpatriotic. My criticism of the leader’s policies and actions is synonymous with patriotism and loyalty to my country. As Junius, an Englishman by that pseudonym who bravely defended the constitutional rights and liberties of the English people during the reign of King George III, so wonderfully stated, “The subject, who is truly loyal to the chief magistrate, will neither advise nor will not submit to arbitrary measures.
Throughout my column in question, I have not used the expression civil disobedience. Not even once. What I advocated was peaceful resistance. These are well-documented concepts with distinct definitions. Civil disobedience is a deliberate and public violation of certain laws or regulations as a peaceful form of protest. While this is a legitimate measure, it is breaking the law. For example, a public gathering without notifying the police, or blocking a road or refusing to pay taxes are perfectly legitimate and hallowed forms of protest.
However, civil disobedience presupposes the presence of constitutional rule and an environment where the rule of law determines the government’s response to citizens who engage in protests. The current environment in Uganda is hostile to civil disobedience. As we have seen repeatedly over the past two decades, civil disobedience in Uganda invites a massive violent response from the government.
This violent state response is non-discriminatory. Protesters and non-protesters risk serious injury and death. Police and other security forces are content to push protesters to react to state violence. The situation can quickly descend into anarchy, death and destruction.
Moreover, 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. This is my personal position. It will remain so.
On the other hand, I am a strong advocate of peaceful resistance. It is a legal and legitimate rejection of a policy, measure or an entire scheme without breaking any law. It’s always peaceful and completely non-violent. It involves mobilizing public opinion and democratic action for a just cause.
Peaceful resistance invites an intellectual meeting of the minds and hearts of patriots who seek change without intentional or unintentional violence. Thus, peaceful resistance deprives the regime of the reward of shedding blood in defense of its feudal interests.
My idea of peaceful resistance does not include public demonstrations. While public protests are legal and legitimate in Uganda, they invariably elicit backlash from a regime that can only hold onto power through fear, intimidation and violence.
Peaceful resistance moves the struggle from our multiple tribal, religious, and partisan silos toward a common vision of patriots who seek a safe and just society for all. Millions of Ugandans can resist by becoming dues-paying members and regular funders of political parties of their choice. Citizens can make their neighbors and socio-political relatives aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Clergy, Imams and other public speakers can use peaceful gatherings to raise awareness in society and politics and warn against apathy, political bribes, political intolerance and vote for those who have abused the able. Security organs can resist by peacefully enforcing the law. The police and other security guards can refuse to beat their siblings.
A prime example of peaceful resistance was the recent action by parliamentarians who rejected an attempt to hand over Ugandan coffee to a small group represented by Enrica Pinetti, the Italian who once built an invisible hospital in Lubowa, Kampala. Another example of peaceful resistance is Gawaya Tegulle’s constitutional petition against Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Chief of Defense Forces and Attorney General.
Uganda belongs as much to Museveni as to Mugisha, Luyombya, Okupa, Okello, Drani and Musani. All should unite as a country, reclaim our rightful heritage, and create a peaceful nation that honors and protects every law-abiding citizen. It is peaceful resistance.
Muniini K. Mulera is a Ugandan-Canadian social and political observer. [email protected]