*RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT MUSEVENI’S LETTER ON PUBLIC ASSEMBLIES*
6th May, 2019
Dear President Museveni,
In the recent past, I rarely allow myself to pausfrom our very important mission of liberating our country from your despotic rule, to respond to your threats, inconsistencies and falsehoods and those of your henchmen. However, your letter of 5th May, 2019 about what you call ‘legitimate public assemblies’ merits a response. The blatant lies and contradictions should not go unchallenged. Thankfully, the many ‘Bazukulu’ who read your letter were surprised that you still think Ugandans are unwise and cannot read through your lies or point out the contradictions.
For the record, many comrades in the struggle find it offensive when I address you respectfully as “Mr. President.” Despite the many crimes you have committed against our people, and on me personally, I still choose to address you with respect as an elder who in the past made a contribution to our country. Secondly, far from legitimizing you, addressing you with respect is a way of telling you that our struggle is not a personal one- we have nothing against you as an individual. We have everything against how you have mismanaged and continue to mismanage the affairs of our country!
Finally, I have told my colleagues that the atrocities you commit against us and our people are a deliberate attempt to make us very angry and incite us into dealing with you violently- which violence you have always bragged is your area of specialization.
In addressing you with respect, we make it clear that your attempt has fallen flat. Your actions, however brutal, will not divert us from our course of action.
Back to your letter, I read with consternation some of the points you raised and I will respond to them one by one.
You first of all indicate that your rule is premised on the great sacrifice of the freedom fighters in terms of sweat and blood- and then add that you have since upheld the 10 point-program. The first part of the statement is accurate- the second is ridiculous.
It is true that many Ugandans sacrificed heavily to bring you to power. Hundreds of thousands of our fathers and mothers died in the jungles of Luwero and other parts of this country to support the NRM’s ascendancy to power. Those people died fighting for a good country. They died fighting for a country where justice would reign and equal opportunity flourish. They died fighting for a free nation. They believed even in death, that they were leaving behind a country whose leadership was well aware that Africa’s problem was not the people, but leaders who overstay in power. Look back at the words you told them during those days, and think about how disappointing you have been to their memory!
You have chosen to completely betray their blood. I have had the opportunity to interact with several veterans of the bush war. Their general sentiment is this- “We did not fight so as to install Mr. Museveni as the King of Uganda. We did not fight for Mr. Museveni to rule forever.” Their hopes and dreams have been shattered because they see you do worse things than what they fought against!
In 2017, my friend, late Seargeant Kifulugunyu who played an enormous role in the bush war, developed health complications. There was no ambulance to take him to hospital. There was no emergency healthcare. He was carried on a wheelbarrow! To quote Gen. David Sejjusa- “I know those gallant sons and daughters who died in our struggle, and even those living, whisper to you at night. I would love to know how you answer those whispers!
Of course for the record, betrayal never goes unpunished. It may not be you who may suffer it but it surely comes to visit at its own time.”
It is laughable that you can say at this point in time, that you have upheld the 10 point-program!
The first point was restoration of democracy! Is Democracy rigging elections? Just to remind you of what you did during the 2016 election- you deployed the military on the streets, delivered polling materials many hours later in Kampala and Wakiso, switched off social media and mobile money, arrested agents for opposition candidates, impoverished opposition candidates while blocking their sources of funding, blocked their campaign rallies, beat up our people, manipulated the voting system, and literally declared yourself duly elected! Is this democracy to you?Cracking down on any form of dissent? Suspending journalists from media houses for publishing the truth? Using the police and the military to disperse peaceful citizens whenever they assemble to express their discontent? What democracy is there in framing your opponents with bogus charges, torturing them, and denying them the opportunity to reach the people? What happened to the guns which your government said were found in my hotel-room in Arua? What democracy is there in plucking Dr. Kizza Besigye off radio stations, and banning my songs from playing on the media airways because they criticize your wrongs? What democracy is there in imprisoning Dr. Stella Nyanzi for speaking out against corruption and nepotism?
The second point was restoration of the security of person and property! Mr. President, I think you need to find time and read late Hon. Eriya Kategaya’s book, “Impassioned for Freedom”.
In it, he stated that “I have observed that the longer one stays in power, the more one is insulated from reality. The trappings of state apparatus tend to make one live an unrealistic existence.” Sadly, this has happened to you, Mr. President!
You seem to be completely detached from the reality of the common Ugandan. That is why you actually make reference to cooked statistics and figures to portray Uganda as a haven of prosperity- completely unrepresentative of the poverty, unemployment and general struggles of our people! What security of person is there in the rampant murders of our people? The rape of women? The targeted killings of our Muslim brothers and sisters in cold blood? Moreover, most of these murders- whether of high profile persons or low profile persons remain unresolved because of a limping criminal justice system, and the lack of will in many cases to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of those crimes.
Have you forgotten, Mr. President, how many Ugandans were recently killed on your orders in Kasese, including many women and children? Is that the security of person you boast of? You also talk about security of property!
Mr. President, open your eyes wide and see what is happening in our country. The abnormal levels of grabbing of poor people’s land by the powerful and mighty who are many times directly or indirectly connected to you! Is that security of property? The shameless grabbing and giving away of public property to regime cronies! Then the looting of public resources with reckless abandon!
The other points were consolidation of national unity and elimination of sectarianism; consolidation of national unity and elimination of all forms of sectarianism; defending and consolidating national independence; building an independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy; restoration and improvement of social services and rehabilitation of war–ravaged areas; elimination of corruption and the misuse of power; redressing errors that have resulted in the dislocation of some sections of the population; co-operation with other African countries; and, following an economic strategy of a mixed economy.
Mr. President, I do not have time to write about each of these points and how your regime has betrayed each of them with great skill and zeal. Important to note is that no leader in our country’s history has presided over a government with the levels of corruption, nepotism and greed that we see today. It is very painful to the memory of the combatants who fought alongside you, that you can mention eliminating corruption and misuse of power, as an achievement of your government!
Now, regarding the subject of your article on public assemblies, let me refresh your memory that Article 29(1) (d) of the Constitution provides that “Every person shall have the right to freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed and to petition.” The Constitution also guarantees every Ugandan the right to move freely throughout Uganda. I make reference to the Constitution, not because it means anything to you, but because it means everything to us who believe in constitutional governance.
You write that if one wants to hold a public meeting, he or she should liaise with the police on the route or on the venue. For your information, Mr. President, we have written to the police countless times- notifying them of our intention to peacefully demonstrate against the injustices on our people such as the Social Media Tax. We have been open to demonstrating from any venue and route agreed to between ourselves and the police. But the police, acting on instructions from above (apparently yours), have always ignored the letters and not responded to them! For your further information, letters addressed to the Inspector General of Police notifying police about public assemblies are never received like other normal letters because they know that they will not act on them. They are not stamped to prove receipt because under Section 6 (1) of the Public Order Management Act, 2013 an authorized officer is commanded to respond to such a notification within forty-eight hours. The law keepers behaving in such a rouge manner! When our letters are not responded to as commanded by the law, the presumption should be that there is no objection on their part.
As always, when such demonstrations are staged, a section of the police and the military swing into action to break them up with so much ferociousness. You also say that demonstrations and public gatherings can take place in venues that are not congested. Mr. President, One Love Beach in Busabala is not on any street. No people will be inconvenienced there or the many other venues in which we have always had our music shows. But, so far 124 of our music shows have been blocked acting on ‘instructions from above.’ How do you explain this?
Is it because some people’s rights will be violated when I stage music concerts? Therefore, we are not fools. Ugandans are not fools. The citizens of the world are not fools. No amount of grandstanding can change the fact that you do not want anyone to demonstrate or assemble against your regime.
Then, in your letter, you also say that public assemblies must be for legitimate reasons. What an invention! Mr. President, who made you an arbiter of what is legitimate and what is not legitimate in our country? For you, the only thing that is legitimate is that which doesn’t criticize your bad governance, or that which is apolitical. In fact, the most legitimate thing in your mind is that which supports your regime of shame and plunder. Let me give an example- you say that political rallies and assemblies should never be held near markets or crowded streets. Yet, so many times, the NRM has carried out processions and rallies on the same busy streets which you now say is wrong! Only on October 5th, 2018, you led a procession and addressed rallies in downtown Kampala!
People were ferried from different parts of the country, paid allowances and given NRM T-shirts so as to participate in that event! This has happened other countless times. Here you are, now saying that, “to insist on a procession or an assembly in a market or crowded street is criminal abi initial!” The problem is therefore not the crowded streets- it is simply because you fear seeing Ugandans coming together to protest against the corrupt system which you preside over. In a democracy, people exercise their right to assemble and demonstrate- if they commit any crime during the protest, they are charged and arraigned before courts of law. It cannot be you, Mr. President to suggest that some Ugandans protest for legitimate reasons while others protest to spread lies. If you paid attention to all demonstrations that normally happen, they are normally peaceful, until the police comes in and begins teargasing people. But this too shall pass!
It is such a shame that you send criminals in police uniform to commit crimes against citizens but you come out to verbally criticize them but still take no action.
You are on record justifying my brutalization by the SFC and indeed the brutal murder of my driver Yasin Kawuma went unpunished even when you clearly know who killed him. Now you are shamelessly condemning the way the criminal policemen broke into our car to arrest us but we know that no action will be taken.
Everyone knows these people are always working on your orders. How can you be so dishonest?
Finally, you try to portray our people as rioters and disturbers of peace. But Mr. President, we as a generation decided a longtime ago, that we are not going to be defined by you. You can call us what you want but you can be sure, we are not your subjects, WE ARE CITIZENS OF UGANDA. No amount of intimidation is going to make us give up our struggle for freedom, equality and justice. The people of Uganda might be sweltering under your heavy yoke of oppression, but they will soon speak with one voice and get rid of you and your corrupt system once and for all.
*Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert (MP)*