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STATE POWER | Karoli Ssemogerere


The facts and fiction behind the NRA Luweero bush war
September 13, 2007
The war in Luweero was inevitable. The seeds of Luweero were sown by the British who sought to punish the Baganda for asserting themselves and trashing their plans for a mini-geopolitical entity called the East African Federation. The story of pre-independence Uganda and what happened in the first years are not the beginning but rather small stones along this path.

In 1959 J.V. Wild published the Wild Report that recommended self rule and direct elections across Uganda. In 1961 when the first direct elections were held, the Democratic Party emerged victorious even though these elections were mostly boycotted in Buganda.

Ben Kiwanuka was a square peg however in the plans of the British. He was too close to the Americans and during his term, 300 Ugandans were spirited off to the United States for advanced training in critical fields to anchor the needs of post independent Uganda.

Kiwanuka also had another problem; he was a Catholic at a time when Catholics were presumed to take orders from the Vatican, a global question many candidates for office who were Catholic faced at the time including John F. Kennedy in America in 1960.

In Dr Apollo Milton Obote, the British found the perfect foil. He was handsome, charismatic and wily enough to serve their short term goals. The UPC-KY alliance was not discouraged by the British. It disenfranchised one quarter of voters in Uganda, installed Dr Obote, a former trade unionist, rather than Kiwanuka, the barrister in power and delayed inevitable questions like the referendum on the lost counties in Bunyoro.

British ties with Uganda strengthened throughout the 1960s even after the bloody putsch exiled Frederick Muteesa to London where he died in a flat either from poisoning or abuse of alcohol.

Obote of course was sugar to the British who continued running the judiciary, playing a dominant role in the private sector and most importantly enjoying a monopoly over Uganda’s exports of coffee, tea and cotton which were traded as commodities in London.
At the end of the 1960s, Obote was suspected of exhibiting propensity to become politically independent of the British. The UPC government had credibly managed the economy both before and after 1966 without incident.

Idi Amin came into play as the perfect foil to re-appeal to sentimental Ganda interests hoisted on their wish to return the dead Kabaka home and reinstall the Kabakaship.
By supporting the 1971 Amin coup, the British were willing to make one step lower than the university dropout to an actual school dropout who would be much easier to manipulate than Dr Obote. At a time when goons were emerging across the African continent like Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa, their desperation drove them into Amin’s hands even though the results were a disaster.

They, of course, assembled Buganda’s best and brightest brains to provide intellectual fodder for Amin. Every prominent Muganda including Ben Kiwanuka, DP’s leader had a role in Amin’s regime, its creation and sustenance.

Yoweri Museveni, the quasi intellectual warrior, succeeded for three main reasons; he was able to understand that ruling Uganda depended on playing each of the major political factions against each other. Second, he, unlike the other political throne pretenders, was willing to assemble a force from scratch over which he and only he had absolute control, a reason why better educated and probably better leaders cannot aspire higher and succeed in Museveni’s organisation.

Third, as long as the outsiders guaranteed him political power, he would serve them to the joint end of his and their vision. Obote understood part of this story but was so tainted by the events of 1966 when he did the remote control work for the British.

Amin had the most detailed intellectual capital a regime has ever had at inception but got lost in the details of running the modern state whose design was oriented outwards rather than inwards. Neither of the others were strong enough or had the disciplined message and troops to maintain a bureaucracy especially in the opposition. DP, FDC all have many good men but the same fatal flaws that their predecessors in DP, CP, KY had.

In execution Museveni, however, was not flawless. He departmentalised responsibilities leaving NRM’s thinking faculties skewed towards the West, its operations in Buganda and the Infantry just like the British in the North.

The amorphous East, the intelligentsia; outside the West have struggled to find a role in NRM. A few intelligentsia now mostly decamped to Forum for Democratic Change got an illusion that they could rise to the top and replace Museveni and are now licking their chops, some returning to the fold on Museveni’s own terms. Bukenya has read the signs well and asked for out………the show has only begun.

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