If you asked me why I decided to link military occupation, militarisation and criminalisation of Uganda’s society, I would straight away retort that it is because the three processes have been going on simultaneously in an interrelated, interconnected and interdependent manner, especially since the early 1980s, but more so since 1986.
The interrelationship, interconnection and interdependence between military occupation, militarization and criminalization reflect the violent and criminal mind-set of those in the leadership and governance of Uganda. This, in my view, explains the rising phenomenon of crime of all types, which together are the reason why corruption continues to proliferate and spiral upwards despite the good intentions of government to contain it, although some thinkers see corruption as integral to the governance system. The mind-set is that nothing, including leadership, governance and wealth, can be obtained and realized without violence in the past, present and future. The implication here is that one cannot lead, govern, or be rich without having a violent and criminal mind.
Before I proceed with expounding my thesis statement that In Uganda the military occupation, militarization and criminalization of society are interrelated, interconnected and interdependent”, let me try to define the terms military occupation, militarization and criminalization in the context of this article.
Wikipedia defines military occupation, also known as belligerent occupation, or simply occupation, as the effective military control by a ruling power over that territory —-. The territory is then known as the occupied territory and the ruling power as the occupant. Occupation is distinguished from annexation and colonialism by its intended temporary duration. While an occupant may set up a formal military government in the occupied territory to facilitate its administration, it is not necessarily a precondition for occupation.
Wikipedia also defines militarization as the process by which a government organizes itself for military conflict and violence. It is related to militarism, the ideology that reflects the level of militarization of the state. Sometimes, however, militarisation may refer to the making of a civil society or organisation resemble armed forces, with uniforms and weapons.
A dictionary definition of criminalization is that it is the action of turning an activity into a criminal offence by making it illegal, or that it is the action of turning someone (or a group of people) into criminals by making their activity or activities illegal.
For the purposes of this article, I will define military occupation of Uganda as the use of violence and offensive weapons by a group dominated by refugees from Rwanda and the Mulenge area of the Democratic Republic of Congo to capture the instruments of power and use the power thereof to impose itself on the country in every sphere of life and activity. I will define militarization of Uganda as the process of refugees or former refugees using and applying military methodologies and strategies to retune the Ugandan society or people into accepting, thinking, believing and being convinced that the military and militarism are essential aspects of civil society. Indeed, unlike before, military personnel live among civil society and buy goods and services from the same sources.
I will take criminalization in the context of the dictionary definition because in the Uganda of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, many activities have been made illegal and most prominently alternative political actors have had their political activities made illegal by law.
Thus, effective occupation of a country involves militarism, militarization and creation or adoption of various methodologies of criminalizing individuals, organizations or society as a whole. Let me begin by elaborating how exactly Uganda was occupied, by whom, why and who helped the occupiers to occupy what was a sovereign country with a sovereign people.
When the British colonialists handed over power to back to the people on 9th October 1962, they left the new country with the scourge of refugees, mainly from Rwanda. The new postcolonial government in Uganda had to play a balancing act of helping the new government in Rwanda led by President Kayibanda (who was a Hutu) to establish and sustain a stable government, and providing a safe haven for and containing the Tutsi refugee malaise in Uganda with its origins in the socio-political chaos and collapse in Rwanda in the early 1920s (particularly 1926) and the late 1950s (particularly 1959). The socio-political conflicts were between the nomadic-pastoral Tutsi nation and the settler Hutu nation. They were largely caused by the poor governance of the Belgians colonialists who preferred and encouraged the migrant Tutsis to manifest as a privileged group of royal and imperial people over the Hutus. The Tutsis repressed and dehumanizing Hutus as their slaves.
Both in 1926 and 1959 the Hutus revolted against the harsh, repressive Tutsi rule, forcing the Tutsis to flee to Uganda. In 1926, the British colonial rulers welcomed them in their evolving British Protectorate of Uganda, finding them useful in the emerging sugar industry. Even in 1959, the colonial rulers welcomed more Tutsi refugees following renewed social and political conflicts between Hutus and Tutsis. Many mixed freely with the population but a good number were put in refugee camps in Western Uganda. However, there were also economic refugees who transcended to Uganda to work on the coffee farms, mainly in Buganda, and sugarcane plantations, mainly of Kakira Sugar Works. Kakira Sugar Works would ferry the Tutsi labourers to and from Kakira back to Rwanda and bring others to replace them on tracks. Other Tutsi labourers migrated on their own to seek all sorts of shoddy jobs, including looking after cattle of the well-off-to-do Ugandans in all regions of the country. Others frequently migrated with their cattle across the boundary between Uganda and Rwanda looking for grass and water. Those migrating with their cattle from Rwanda to Uganda and back to Rwanda could not be referred to as refugees because they did not come to stay. Their residence in Uganda was always transient.
By the time the British colonialists handed the instruments of power to Apollo Milton Obote on 9th October 1962, there were refugee camps established by them. The Obote government established more to accommodate the large numbers of Tutsi refugees flowing in from Rwanda. However, these refugees did not like to be restricted to the refugee camps. They wanted freedom to organize militarily and go back to their country as the rulers. They were ever belligerent and organizing themselves, perhaps in concert with their own kind outside the camps, to invade Rwanda and overthrow the Hutu government o Kayibanda. However, the sovereign Obote-led government would always intervene to constrain them back to the camps. This was one reason why they hated Obote: not allowing them to fight their way back to the seat of power, Kigali. Another reason was when in the 1980s, a Minister of Agriculture in the Obote regime, Dr. Patrick Rubaihayo, forced the refugees to get out of the swamps of Ankole they had occupied illegally back to country when Obote was out of Uganda. It was the intervention of Obote that halted what could be called The Force the Tutsi Refugees Back to Rwanda Operation. Nevertheless, it was the Obote regime that was in in power, and the refugees did not see Rubaihayo but Obote as their enemy. For them Obote deserved no forgiveness.
The people of the Tutsi nation, who came from Ethiopia upstream the Nile nearly 500 years ago, settled in Bunyoro for a long time as Bahuma, so-called by the Banyoro because when they sang, they hummed like bees. They are very closely related ethnically the Hima who settled in Ankole as the Tutsi continued migrating southward into Rwanda and Burundi. Some scholars have written that they are people in Namibia who are related to the Tutsi, meaning that they continued migrating further down. One characteristic of the Tutsi is their extreme ethnocentrism.
Although the Tutsi of Rwanda and Burundi were Hutunized linguistically, the Hima of Uganda were Bairunized linguistically. However, both Tutsi and Hima, related ethnically as they are, retained their Coptic language, which is unique to them only in the Great Lakes region, and a good uniting factor. They are a very determined people who regarded the Bantu they interacted with as inferior good for nothing beings worth only for serving as slaves. They are a people who believe that everything, including cattle, money, jobs, opportunities, land and future should only belong to them, while other people can best serve as slaves. This plus their being a small group dictate their collective behaviour towards other people. As such they are prone to building a cultic hegemony. This is what has happened both in Uganda and Rwanda in recent times, as was the case in the past.
This is not surprising. The rulers of Rwanda first helped their kind to capture the instruments of power in Uganda, before their kind could also help them to capture power in Kigali through the barrel of the gun. In both countries the rulers use military power, money, jobs and elections whose processes they own and control to ensure that there is no challenge to and destabilization of their perpetual hold onto power. They effectively occupy Rwanda and Uganda, not only militarily but also politically, economically, socially, ecologically and environmentally, and are struggling to ensure they control all cultures. In Uganda, the rulers -both in the military and politics (where is the difference?) have been heard severally during the last 37 years both declaring and pronouncing that they cannot, and will never hand over power to those who never fought in the bushes of Luwero in Buganda.
Let me emphasize! In Uganda it was mostly Tutsi refugees initially organized as Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), ostensibly to dislodge Idi Amin Dada from power; then as Uganda Patriotic Army (UPA) to dislodge Apollo Milton Obote’s Second regime; and then they were helped by former President of Uganda, Yusuf Kironde Lule who, with a few Baganda neo-traditionalists, formed the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and National Resistance Army (NRA) and summarily passed both onto Tibuhaburwa Museveni and his group. The member of the Yusuf Lule group believed they were participating in NRM/A as equals in the Project Dislodge Obote (PDO) and later in the Project Dislodge Tito Okello (PDTO). Initially many Baganda were included in the first NRM/A administration, which included many Rwandese refugees. Lule himself held the powerless post of Chairman NRM until his death. However, it became clear that the command structure of the NRA was dominated by former FRONASA and PRA combatants of Tibuhaburwa Museveni. Ultimately, NRA captured power in Uganda on 25th January, 1986 after waging a bloody five-year bush war in Luwero Triangle from 1981. Today, there is little or no evidence that the Lule group was part of the NRM/A onslaught to capture power. The overwhelming numbers of commanders of UPDF are people from the Tibuhaburwa Museveni group or those connected to them opportunistically. Tibuhaburwa Museveni is the undisputed Chairman of NRM and Commander in Chief of all armed forces in the country.
FRONASA was, therefore, a deceptive coinage. The absolute majority of Ugandans never imagined that it referred to salvation of the Tutsi nation. They did not think about it critically. They were hoodwinked into thinking and believing that FRONASA was about salvation of Uganda. Like the nation of Israel that had become a refugee nation in Egypt, and needed God to organize its salvation through the hand of Moses, the Tutsi nation became a refugee nation in Uganda where many were in in dehumanizing slavery. They needed Tibuhaburwa Museveni to salvage them. He performed, and has been performing, the task very effectively using his high military and political acumen, combined with capacity to use his tongue skilfully to convince the masses and the elite that he means well for Uganda. Apparently, the post-Amin governments before Obote 2 integrated FRONASA fully in the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) physically, but the collective mind-set of FRONASA was aloof and focused on capturing the instruments of power from Ugandans to rule Uganda and use them to help their kind to capture power in Kigali. The close ethnic relationship of the Tutsis to the Hima has served them well because they can conveniently pose as Bahima. And many people think they are building a Tutsi-Hima dynasty, not only in Uganda but the whole Great Lakes Region.
The military and political skills, which have helped the Tutsi nation to effectively occupy Uganda, include the skill to tune the constitution-making process of the early 1990s to serve the interests of the occupant nation. The resulting Uganda Constitution 1995 concentrated all power and authority in Uganda’s perennial ruler and former chief commander of FRONASA and PRA; created an artificial indigenous group called Banyarwanda to accommodate the former non-Ugandan FRONASA and PRA elements and the numerous elements from Rwanda who had no cultural, biological and ecological ties to Uganda; reduced the traditional rulers who in the past had political, cultural and spiritual power, to just cultural leaders, positions that used to be held by some of the clan leaders; and allowed the military (some of suspect origins) to sit in the Parliament of Uganda to make laws for Ugandans. In a way the military, in its disoriented composition, managed to superimpose itself over the elected representatives of the people. This has ensured that for over 37 years of NRM rule, it is more or less military rule of NRA whose name was constitutionally changed to Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), which to-date is commanded at various levels by people connected to the five-year bush war of the NRA, or to the families of those who participated in the war. It is not even clear to most Ugandans what the owners of the Movement are still resisting, if not Ugandans. Before they were resisting Amin, Obote and Tito Okello.
The skill of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni to go on changing the Uganda Constitution 1995 to serve the interests of the bush war combatants in power has played a critical role in entrenching the occupation of Uganda militarily and, by extension, socially, economically, politically, culturally, ecologically, environmentally and futuristically.
Today, it is people connected to the dominant group in power that is grabbing all the land, all the businesses, all the waters, all the forests, all the opportunities and all the juicy jobs, with people of other nationalities serving no more than slaves. The greatest slaves are the elites of Uganda who do not think beyond having good jobs to bring money for them, or other opportunities such as scholarships for their children. So, when President Tibuhaburwa Museveni says the time for identity politics is long gone and has given way to interests’ politics, he knows what he is talking about. The beneficiary group is now known by most Ugandans who care to follow what has been unfolding.
In order to sustain the dominance of the “dominant” group in power, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has used militarization and criminalization of society and certain groups of Ugandans quite effectively. Almost everything in Uganda is militarized – executive processes, legislative processes, judicial processes and electoral processes. The introduction of Mchaka mchaka (military indoctrination) saw many youths and adults become militarized. It was easier for one who went through militarization to get a job. Many posts in government departments and ministries as well as Cabinet are held by military personnel or people who were soldiers before. This has meant that the command-obey approach to governance is superior to the negotiated approach. Many posts of Resident District Commissioners (RDC) and their deputies are held by soldiers, some of the Tutsi nationality. Because the Tutsi are closely related to the Hima of Ankole it is easy to dismiss the Tutsi holding critical positions in government and in parastatals as Hima, when this only hides the truth of occupation of Uganda
Besides, the Uganda Police became so militarized that today virtually all command posts from top to bottom are held by military posts, except for Inspector General of Police. However, before the Inspector General of Police was for a General in the Army. At one time a person of Tutsi nationality, whose brother was also at one time an Inspector-General of Police in Rwanda, was Inspector-General of Police of the Uganda Police. Critical scholars may want to investigate the influence of militarization on leadership and governance of Uganda from 1986 to Present. It is no longer right to say Uganda Police is a policing force. It is more or less an occupying military force. Interested academic researchers many investigate this assertion to provide scientific information on the matter.
Militarization has been overstretched by tuning the national budget to overcapitalizing the military apparatus, which today consumes far more money than the social spheres of education, health and agriculture, either by direct budgetary allocation or other means. Some of the money is used to erect paramilitary groups of the Rwandese Interahamwe type of President Juvenal Habyarimana assassinated by Tutsi rebels of the NRA offshoot called Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) funded by the NRM/A regime in Uganda. The continuous talk by President Tibuhaburwa Museveni of the need to build a strong army, points to continuous militarization of the national budget away from meaningful and effective development of Uganda and Ugandans.
Criminalization as a strategy of occupation of Uganda has been most effective in excluding alternative political organizations of indigenous Ugandans. Political parties, since President Museveni captured the instruments of power, have been confined to their headquarters. They are not allowed to access the population after elections, whereas politicians of the ruling party are free to do so between elections and all the time. If they contravene this the militarized police easily ponce on them. As if this is not enough, there are laws purposely designed to disable them. These laws include the Sectarianism law, the Terrorism law and the Political and Other Organizations Law. Collectively or individually, they can be, and have been, applied to ensure that political actors are excluded from effectively participating in the political governance and leadership of the country. Instead, people in alternative political parties are either bought or coopted out of their parties to serve the interests the military owners of the country.
Therefore, the occupation of Uganda by FRONASA-linked rebels who formed government in 1986 has proceeded for long through a combination of strategies including militarization, criminalization, and firm grip of the occupants on critical processes such as the executive, legislative, judicial, social, financial, cultural, ecological, environmental, budgetary and administrative processes. We need liberation of the collective Ugandan mind to effectively reverse our deplorable situation. Mind liberation will help us to begin to understand why we have a Uganda that is so hooked to violence, militarization accompanied by criminalization using laws such as Terrorism Law, Sectarian Law and Political and Other Organizations, which do not add any value to the democratization of Uganda. Democratization should be taken to mean, among other things, ownership by Ugandans of all processes that characterize an independent and sovereign country, including budgetary, development, executive, legislative and judicial processes as well as citizenship and nation building.
For God and My Country.