Dear Mr Museveni,
I have been compelled to write an open and public letter to you for the first time. I will be brief.
You will recall that the reasons you gave for launching a vicious war in Luweero that cost tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of lives of Ugandans was that the 1980 general election had been ‘rigged’.
You claimed – baselessly – that, the then Electoral Commission (EC) favoured UPC and that ruling Military Commission chairman Paul Muwanga (RIP), interfered with the process by (simply) intervening to halt the announcements of ‘fake’ results by DP.
You were vice chairman of that Commission. Those elections’ timetable, 18 months after the fall of (your friend) Gaddafi/Libyan-backed Idi Amin, had been agreed – on consensus and in your presence – at Moshi Unity Conference in Tanzania, which formed the UNLF/UNLA; organisations you served at the highest levels, including as Defence minister.
You will recall that, on return to Uganda you bitterly opposed it; as part of a government consultative delegations to presidents Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and Samora Machel, you now claimed that it was too soon to hold elections, citing ‘insecurity’.
Except for president Machel – who like you – did not believe in elective politics, the other leaders supported the processes as earlier agreed by Ugandans at Moshi. Whatever the grounds for your arguments, your UPM party (curiously currently in abeyance) obtained only one parliamentary seat somewhere in Rwenzori.
Mr Museveni, at the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, I wrote on these pages offering an olive branch and, expressing hope that for once (after decades), we might just emerge – as one nation one peoples, united by shared (strategic) interests – guided by a leadership of some sort.
But with scandals over money, LDU beatings, posho, beans, more donor and borrowed money, budgets that do not add up, ministerial announcements that do not tally with Parliament, I lost hope. Wasted opportunities.
You failed to show selfless and responsible leadership when you took the country to an ill-thought out lockdown without round-table consultations with political parties and stakeholders like religious and civil society leaders that would have led to a national consensus on whether or not, (with implications) elections could proceed in February 2021.
Instead, (through your EC as confirmed by Mr Stephen Tashobya), you have shamelessly elected to throttle Ugandans with an apparent (NRM)-for-selves ‘electoral’ process. Three dead-months and, the next three are mere guesses even by your own scientists.
You know the mathematics and dynamics of media ownership, access and distribution, you know the country from Katuna to Karamoja; even to the standards of your own 1995 Constitution, its Electoral Commission provisions, the presidential and parliamentary legislations.
This is a half-backed process that would never pass the very basic test of free and fair elections and, on these terms alone, constitute a nullity.
If you do not want to declare state of emergency for reasons I suspect, then, call a national conference, amend your Constitution and, in national interest, seek to postpone the elections. Nothing sacrosanct about this Constitution; political parties were never party to its drafting after all and, you have since severally amended it at whims, anyway.
If you truly love this country then, for once (1Kings: 3:16-28), heed.
Joseph Ochieno, is a former columnist with New African Magazine and Dr. Milton Obote’s Permanent Spokesperson
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