It is becoming cool again to roundly condemn security agencies especially the police when handling protests by groups well-known to promote the political campaign dubbed civil disobedience to “make Uganda ungovernable”, by disrupting economic and commercial activities, in the hope their foreign backers will step in. The foreign backers are mainly some elements from the US, West Minister Foundation for Democracy, and Netherland Institute for Multiparty Democracy channeling various forms of support either directly or through CSOs and the media.
The erstwhile Kizza Besigye is returning to his old political scrip of civil disobedience that has not worked well for him to cause a violent and abrupt end to President Yoweri Museveni’s government and catapult him into the presidency. The strike at Makerere university, and political protests this week those who focus on the choreographed ‘police brutality’ against protestors will most likely miss the end game plan.
Often these groups are portrayed as prodemocracy, non-violent and peaceful, but perhaps inadvertently, or due to lack of better training in propaganda, sections of the partisan and untruthful media reported that the people who barricaded themselves at the FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi on Tuesday, fought for many hours lobbing stones and other objects at the police that was firing teargas at them. One should wonder where those many stones came from at a party office. Clearly, this is an indication of preparation for violence.
Besigye’s return re-opens the debate about the future of FDC and the opposition in light of realignment of political forces ahead of the 2021 general elections in which he intends to be a presidential candidate, which should all be fine if he uses legal and peaceful means. But there is evidence that Besigye, through an outfit he calls ‘the peoples’ government’ has been building cells, with the main objective to recruit, train, organize and mobilize violently militant groups for a campaign of civil disobedience, and he is beginning to unleash them in the field.
He believe, cells are less easy to detect, and where possible structures in universities, towns and urban centres comprising mainly idle, or youths and women in informal businesses. There is a large group active in Kampala known as Kazinga nsenene whose main job is provoking and rampaging in violence. Having suffered series of political and organizational setbacks in 2001, 20016, 2011, 2016 and the tidal wave of people power movement, Besigye appears to have noticed some weaknesses therein which he seeks cash in, and hopes to bring back hooligans who previously followed him.
With the help of foreign groups, the opposition has been infiltrating some NRM politicians hoping they can orchestrate internal discontent or rebellion and use them to provide political cover as if government isn’t responsible. There are ongoing training sessions at diverse places on disruptive methods disguised as democracy, good government, rule of law and human rights engagements. The trainings include provocation, defiance, coordination, propaganda, and resistance against law enforcement especially police seen as lackluster in approach, procedure, action and response.
They have calculated that under provocation police personnel are vulnerable, likely to respond with panic, highhandedness and brutality. In addition, they know police public communication is weak and unlikely to give consistent, coherent and plausible explanation of its own actions even when legitimate, measured and lawful.
With this in mind, as we have seen this week, police actions portray a negative image and enlist widespread condemnation locally and internationally, leaving many Ugandans dismayed whether they have disciplined security services or rogue elements on the loose! The Police need to be polite, humane and even-handed but nevertheless swift and very firm in handling insidious protestors and save the public from unwarranted harm.
Often, these provocations are staged with compliant media and journalists at hand to record all the altercations and eventual water spray and teargas battles deemed powerful in social media propaganda. Opposition and clueless NRM leaders especially MPs are usually roped in to provide civilized political veneer on parliament floor and in media interviews. The chain of events from last week in Makerere and at FDC headquarters are part of the mischief.
They plan to put girls, women and PWDs as the forefront of these confrontations well-knowing they enlist public empathy much faster than men, and no wonder this has been at play these past two weeks including a wild claim that the UPDF soldiers raped students in Mary Stuart hall but to this day none of the alleged victims or journalists who reported that false story has provided any particulars or details. One would expect that a young female MP who has the parliamentary floor shouldn’t be on the streets protesting, but many believe it is a gimmick for positioning herself for the Soroti district woman MP seat in the next election where she is battling an FDC veteran.
The other line of action yet to be unveiled is to depict the forthcoming electoral process as a sham and fraud which will be mired by state sponsored violence, and unfortunately, so far, the police appear to be walking into the bait.
Ofwono Opondo is the Executive Director of Uganda Media Centre
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