By Rwamuguma Mwene Yongyera
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the National Resistance Army. On 26th January 1986, the NRA marched on to take power under the leadership of General Yoweri Museveni and he took oath as president,word has it that Kampala had fallen on the 25th January but the date coincides with the Idi Amini takeover and so the NRA rather stayed in kololo and marched on to Parliament the next day. I have coined the word 86ers to mean the men that happened to Uganda in 1986
Revolutionary parties in Africa normally rise on the basis of fighting bad rule and dictatorship but usually go back to where they found the country. Now most of us have been born post 86 so I can safely say that we are the Musevenica generation.
We are told that the past governments rigged elections,had no respect for human rights and so on. It is interesting that Museveni who lost the Mbarara North constituency decided to take up arms which was treasonous rather than filing a court petition but that is a story for another day so we are generation which by now is having children and here are the lessons to them about liberation.
The most important lesson we must teach our children about our history is that there were no messiahs in the struggle; no individuals to whom our nation’s liberation should ever be accredited. While we had individuals who made outstanding contributions that inspired confidence in a time of despair and incredulity, it was organised national liberation movements and indeed, the people themselves, who were the architects of their own emancipation. It is through their collective consciousness, their collective resistance, that an oppressive regime was challenged and ultimately, defeated. Our children must be taught history differently to how we were taught it, differently to how we were socialised into a discourse characterised by the elevation of individuals and the total ostracisation of true revolutionaries whose actions and sacrifices were guided by great feelings of love: our ordinary people on the streets without whom, revolution was impossible. In our children’s minds we must instill correct teachings.
And necessarily, we must teach our children, future economic freedom fighters, future fighters against the minoritisation of African, culture at the hands of Western cultural imperialism, future truth defenders, to never dishonour the course of that struggle and above all, to never await a messiah to fight for the accomplishment of their generation’s mission, because messiahs do not exist. In the poignant words of Che Guevara:
“There are no liberators. The people liberate themselves.”
So it is safe to say that people liberate themselves, one may ask how is this possible? The 86ers were young men in their early twenties with flourishing careers and all but they decided that their country needed liberation and so they were willing to do anything to get the country on the right path.
Moving forward,many 86ers have since abandoned the struggle and plied their own route citing contradictions in the government
Kiiza Besigye; he was a medical doctor who was working at Aga Khan hospital, Nairobi he rose through the ranks and became the National Political commisar of the NRA so it is safe to say that he partly birthed the beast.But to his credit,in 1999 he authored a document critical of the broad based movement system and warning of the dire consequences. He is the only one who believed and rightly so that the President wasn’t going to respect term limits. Time would absolve him as later Parliamentarians had to be bribed to scrap the term limits, that was Ugandas greatest undoing and we have never looked back . Recently, Parliament amended to the age limit to enable someone who should be telling stories to the grandkids and living off pension to stand for office
Mugisha Muntu; The youngest army commander,son to a UPC supporter also joined the revolution in hope of bringing the desired change but fell out with the government joining Besigye’s FDC.
Benon Biraaro(RIP); The fallen soldier was part of the NRA before retiring and running for President in 2016, At his funeral, Mugisha Muntu said that the reason he joined the liberation was because there was a cause and told the president to stop personalising the army.
Augustine Ruzindana; A banker by training and also part of the 86ers external wing( These were non Combatants but sought support for the NRA) Appointed as Inspector General of Government he also fell out with the government and joined FDC
Now these are a few of the 86ers who said that they owed their country better. The NRA/M is just like any other African Liberation Movement, ride on people’s hope only to do what they were preaching against.The plain truth is that the current chairman of NRM will not retire soon, like Mugabe he will say he has support and I don’t see any transition. We were once a country.
Rwamuguma Mwene Yongyera is a social political commentator