In the Sunday Monitor of 28th September, 2014, Mzee Paul Ssemogerere gave an extensive interview covered from page 14 to 15. I agree with some of the contents of the interview such as the rigged elections of 1962 and 1980. The rigging was structural and obvious. The multiple ballot papers, the multiple ballot boxes, the enclosed polling booths, the failure to count immediately after polling at the voting points and declaration of results, the gerrymandering of Constituencies etc, etc.
It is also true that in the 1980 elections, the DP attracted leaders that had been in UPC and KY in 1962. Mzee Ssemogerere quoted a number of names and they are well known. In fact that re-alignment of forces had already taken place even by 1965-66. I remember the vote in Parliament for the election of, I think, Kakonge. The DP, KY and the Ibingira UPC had put forward Mashaate. Kakonge won by a narrow margin.
However, there are many points on which I do not agree with Mzee Ssemogerere – both in the past and now but will not go into them here. They include the decision by the DP leadership to join the Parliament of 1980-1985 and his belief in lobbying Oyite Ojok and Muwanga to “save the lives” of some Ugandans. The NRM position has always been to hold accountable all killers if they are identified.
I confirm to the readers that the Okello Government released some of the prisoners that had not been killed, but not all. I did not know that it was Mr. Ssemogerere that spearheaded that. I congratulate him for that. I am also pleased that Mr. Ssemogerere confirms that in the 9 years he was with the NRM, he was “not inhibited” from carrying out his work as Minister of Internal Affairs or Minister of Public Service.
However, there are fundamental points in Mr. Ssemogerere’s interview that I cannot leave unanswered. Top on the list is Mr. Ssemogerere’s answer to the interviewer’s question that run as follows: “DP will be 60 next month. Don’t you get a feeling that it is considerably weakened?” What was Mr. Ssemogerere’s answer? It was as follows: “you have got to see what has been happening to other parties. Tell me which political party has stood? Look at UPC, CP, KY etc, etc”. He goes on: “Where is Kanu in Kenya? Where is Banda’s party in Malawi? Where is Nkrumah’s Party?” The point Mzee Ssemogerere was attempting to make was that all political parties had to decline on account of not being encouraged by the People in power at given times. Unfortunately, that is not true. Yes, there are those parties which have declined and there are reasons for that. However, there are those that have stood the test of time. I may cite four of them: the ANC of South Africa, Swapo of Namibia, MPLA of Angola and Frelimo of Mozambique.
I have not added Tanu/CCM because it has been in power all the time. That notwithstanding, Tanu/CCM/Afro-Shirazi have had to struggle ideologically and politically against competitors both before Independence and after independence when Multi-partyism was re-introduced in Tanzania. The other four (Frelimo, ANC, Swapo and MPLA), however, were, for long periods, under-ground and being persecuted by the People in power (the White racists in South Africa and SW Africa and the Portuguese colonialists). They, however, survived and thrived. ANC was in opposition and under-ground for most of the time between 1912 and 1990 – a period of 78 years. When democracy was introduced, it won with a good majority and it has continued to win ever since. Why did ANC thrive and survive while other Parties were emerging and disappearing? It was on account of a correct ideological diagnosis of the South African Society.
While other political parties were sectarian (racist, for instance), through the Freedom Charter of 1955, the ANC offered the therapy of multi-racialism. ANC offered South Africa the medicine that could treat the sickness of their society which was racism. The NRM, which Mzee Ssemogerere seems to detest although it gave him an opportunity to serve without “inhibition” for 9 years and separated from it of his own volition, has been winning elections even under multi – partyism because it gave the Ugandans the medicine they needed most – non-sectarianism and security of person and property.
Mzee Ssemogerere contradicts himself. He says Obote and Amin established political – military dictatorships where some people had to be saved, by Mr. Ssemogerere’s lobbying, from “dangerous go-downs” in Makindye (killing centres) and where thousands had to be released by Minister Ssemogerere from detention without trial.
Yet he seems not to approve of the NRM/NRA ─ the political – military force that had to end those dictatorships. He even finds it a problem that Serving Army officers (just 10 of them) are in a Parliament of 365 MPs – all of them elected, either by the population or by the Army Council.
There is, however, something that Mzee Ssemogerere did not raise at all in his interview. Why did some Ugandan elites choose to start another Political Party in 1954-56 – DP, when other Ugandans had already started another political Party – UNC – to demand for Uganda’s Independence? If these elite were genuinely interested in Independence, was it not easier to work together? Or could it be that these Ugandans did not care about Independence? What was it that was in DP that was not in UNC? Why did our brothers and sisters in Tanganyika rally around TANU but our political elite here could not act together?
Could this failure be the reason for the turmoil that followed? Here, I do not have to talk about Kabaka Yekka (KY) and their chauvinist and opportunistic programme of involving the Kabaka of Buganda in partisan politics.
To round off this point, I would like to state that I am not against Political Parties. If that was so, I would be against ANC, Frelimo, Swapo, MPLA, Tanu etc. Mr. Ssemogerere knows that that is not so. He was a member of the cabinet when I had to struggle to make them agree to Uganda hosting the ANC fighters in Kaweweta, Ngoma. There was a strong position in the cabinet that our hosting the ANC would annoy the South African Whites and the Western Countries. Fortunately, people like Dr. Rugunda, the late Eriya Kategaya and others supported my position and we were able to host the ANC fighters until their country won freedom.
I am, therefore, never against political parties. I am always against sectarian parties – using religion and tribes. See the chaos that is generated in the Middle East by this mistake; and even in North Africa. Parties that opportunistically try to manipulate the identities of people rather than crystallizing the legitimate interests of the people are a disaster for any country that has the misfortune to go through that experience. More, if necessary, will be said on this later.
In his interview, Mzee Ssemogerere blames the NRM. He says: “unfortunately, the Musevenis continued with their fighting”. Here, Mzee Ssemogerere was saying that we did not implement the Nairobi Agreement of power sharing with the Military Government of my friend, Gen. Okello; and that it would have been in the best interests of Uganda to continue with that agreement. We were, therefore, in the wrong to continue fighting. Of course, we did not want to continue fighting. We preferred peace.
However, we had made it categorically clear to the Okello side, which at that time included Ssemogerere, that the NRM/NRA would not tolerate any massacres any more. Remember there are 33 mass graves in the Luwero Triangle, each containing about 2,000 skulls. These people were not killed in combat or cross-fire; they were killed in cold-blood by the criminal soldiers. Why kill non-combatants, prisoners of war, children, women, etc? These were following the massacres of 1966 and the killings throughout Amin’s rule. Extra-judicial killings by deliberate action by Government agents had to stop. It was compromise enough that we sat down and negotiated with elements of the same Army that committed these massacres with impunity. It was part of the agreement that not only were the massacres to stop but the ones who had committed them had to be held accountable. The massacres did not stop. Massacres were carried out at Kibibi in Butambala and massacres were carried out at Kasaala in Luwero. That was the end of that agreement. We moved in to create a totally new situation for Uganda. That is what we did and Ugandans can judge whether we created a better situation or not. Certainly, the Ssemogereres and other multi-partyists could walk out of the Constituent Assembly (CA), over constitutional arguments using their democratic right to do so, while they stayed in the 1981-85 Parliament when Ugandans were being massacred.
Then there is another statement by Mzee Ssemogerere that is not correct. He says: “Ah, no. Museveni was on the retreat at the time. He was fleeing to the Rwenzoris. He only bounced back after the coup by the Okellos”. That is a falsehood. We did not flee to the Rwenzoris. We opened the 2nd Front after we had successfully carried out gun-raising operations in Masindi (20th of February, 1984) and Kabamba (1st January, 1985). We deployed the 11th battalion, under Chefe Ali, along with the sick, the political wing and the civilian workers to the more easily defendable Rwenzori Mountains; but kept the mailed fist of the NRA, the mobile Brigade under Saleh (1st battalion, 3rd battalion and 5th battalion) in the Luwero triangle. The 7th battalion, under Kyaligonza, was in the Wabusana areas and 9th battalion, under Kihanda, was in the Nkrumah area (Kiboga-Kyenkwanzi). It is the Mobile Brigade that, finally, defeated Ogole and Erica Odwar at the battle of Kembogo, along River Mayanja, on the 21st of June, 1985. It is those defeated troops that came back to Kampala and made the Coup of July. Therefore, Ssemogerere’s statement is false. On the Western Front, the late Fred Rwigyemera and the late Chefe Ali ambushed and killed Lt. Col. Obot, commander of the UNLA forces in the West and overrun Rubona Stock Farm where the UNLA had made a big camp, killing many soldiers of the Government. It was also in those days that the late Muammer Gadaffi dropped for us, by air 800 rifles and 1 million rounds of ammunition. Where did the Libyan planes drop the cargo, Mzee Ssemogerere? In the late Ruharo’s farm, in Nakaseke. Where is Nakaseke? Certainly, not in the Rwenzori but in Luwero area.
Finally, Ssemogerere continues to misunderstand the role of the Army in national affairs. Countries have different histories. It is correct to say that the army and public servants should not be partisan in politics. They should not, however, be barred from taking part in national affairs – patriotism, unity, stability, development, etc. Ideologically, our army is patriotic and Pan-Africanist. Other armies are guided by different ideologies.
The main problem of the Obote and Amin Armies were not even partisanship. It was extra-judicial killings, looting of people’s properties, raping women, sectarianism, etc. Countries with a history of Resistance, always have and should have the Army playing some role in the national – not partisan – affairs of the country.
In countries like China, the Soviet Union, South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, etc. you have former freedom fighters – some of them with a military background ─ playing leading roles even in politics. Even in Western countries such as the USA, you get Generals being elected as Presidents or Ministers: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Bush the elder, George Marshal, John Kerry, etc. In fact, for a long time, service in the US military was a sine qua non, of being elected to high political office. If Ssemogerere could not see retired Army officers in the past, he has got a chance now; even Mzee Pangarasio Onek, retired peacefully after many years. When the economy improves and we are able to look after the welfare of soldiers and retired soldiers better, their life will be good.
Yoweri K. Museveni (Gen. Rtd)
P R E S I D E N T