A paltry number of Ugandans based in the Diaspora last week staged protests in Washington while President Yoweri Museveni was there to attend the US-Africa Leaders Summit. Apparently, the intention was to embarrass the President to turn his hosts against him. Not only were the numbers so meager after massive mobilisation and a propaganda blitz against the President’s visit, but the few protesters may have achieved the opposite of what they intended.
Interestingly, H.E Museveni was in the US on the invitation of President Joe Biden. Indeed, the Ugandan leader was accorded a befitting reception. He went on to freely tour, and even took walks from his hotel to the meeting point where he joined other heads- of- state. He did not even see these protesters, neither did they see him.
In essence, the action of protesting was just a show with no effect on the President’s programme or the relations between Uganda and the US and the leaders there. President Museveni, indeed, went on to attend to his business, addressing the summit on pertinent issues with everybody listening keenly to him. He emerged a hero, lauded for his strong and effective fight against Covid-19, among other endeavours. Using the World Cup analogy, Museveni thrashed the protestors 7-nil.
This was not the first protest of the kind. They have been held a number of times under the banner of different groups and in different countries, but they have yielded nothing in as far as denting the fortitude of President Museveni is concerned. There is nothing new that the Americans can be told about President Museveni or the Government he leads. If they didn’t want him like opportunists claim, the advanced US system would have got rid of him long ago. They don’t need a few protesters, not even larger constituency of theirs to achieve that.
But the US Government knows that Museveni is dully and democratically elected by the majority of Ugandans. Yes, voices of dissent can be there but they don’t amount to much. Claims of human rights abuses and other “undemocratic” tendencies have been raised over and over again but President Museveni’s record as a guarantor for human rights is well known. It’s not a matter of one or ten people carrying placards and making all sorts of allegations that his credentials will be erased.
I believe that the stunt protests are communicating little if not nothing to the wider Ugandan public and serious influencers in the West. They are echo chambering-that is, and deluding themselves that they are “removing a dictator.” If he was a dictator, are street protests tens of thousands of miles away the best way to address him? The best channel is to mobilise and defeat him at elections, but every few years, Ugandans have affirmed his credentials as a democrat, a popular leader, a statesman, and the tried and tested leader they still want.
Moreover, the Ugandan Diaspora has hundreds of thousands. Even the Washington protests had garnered 10, 000, the “silent majority” would still carry day and these as the Ugandans that matter when it comes to representing the democratic sentiments towards President Museveni.
I can’t count how many times small groups of dissenters have been at UN headquarters, foreign missions demonstrating, but what are the results?
If they had the kind of effect projected and if they represented the views of majority Ugandans, Museveni would be history. But these are the same faces, moreover some are self-exiled with a criminal history while others are chasing greencards. Their actions have nothing to do with bettering Uganda’s situation but finding permanent residency and citizenship in foreign countries. Yet, many foreign countries are going slow on receiving immigrants since some of them have checkered backgrounds, while the advanced nations are also facing the same economic and human management challenges.
The US has had its own challenges, with protests (even riots) breaking out over various issues but that has not shaken the Government of President Biden or the previous Governments. In short, unless protests are massive like those which uprooted Governments in North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, they are a waste of time and very misrepresentative.
True, sometime the parameters by which African and other leaders of small nations’ are judged are unequal to those of the West but the truth is that nobody is going to fight or ignore Museveni basing on three or ten or twenty “walkers”. Museveni is a lot more valuable and viable than most leaders in the world, which is why despite the state of the world and the changing global economy, he remains relevant and firm.
The countable protesters in Washington only confirmed that the Ugandan leader is very popular otherwise we should have seen the hundreds of thousands of Diasporians pouring on the streets and preventing him from attending to the national and international interests that took him there.
I want to urge funders of such futile protests to channel their monies into income generating and economic empowerment activities so that these “idle protesters” join the “silent majority” and work to build their country.
I appeal to Ugandans out there; please, always be patriotic and love your country, love your leaders as you also aspire to lead. All leadership comes from God. We should not damage the image and state of Uganda simply because we have gone abroad and believe that we have “reached”. East or West, home is best! Everyone is free to return to Uganda under the leadership of President Museveni who embraces even the most dangerous of his adversaries.
We should also respect the voice and choice of majority Ugandans and the ways they use to exercise their rights and thinking on Ugandan issues. Dialogue, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence should be our way of life if we are to build the Uganda we want.
The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary
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