Govt should be clear on Obote- Monitor - 12/4/2005
By Prof. Dani Wadada Nabudere
Since news broke out that the former President, Dr Apollo Milton Obote, was planning to return home to the country from exile in May, government statements have been rather confused and unclear. I think for government to claim to be a legitimate government able to make policies that stick and command respect generally from the Ugandan public regardless of their political orientation, such a policy must be clear and above board and not subject to the uncoordinated statements from ministers.

Unfortunately, the picture presented in the panicky responses so far, it is evident that no such policy exists on this issue as well as that of the LRA rebellion in the north. The best that can be said is that there continues to exist a hidden agenda to perpetuate conflict in the country, and perhaps this may be the real government policy that the directionless ministerial statements are intended to cover for it has become a f act of life that politicians in Uganda - old and new - always prefer to "eat in kavuyo" (confusion), which they create for the purpose.

Be that as it may, the contention of the government statement made by the minister of information, Dr Nsaba Buturo, that "Obote must answer for Luweero killings" immediately contradicted the one he had made the previous week, in which he and Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, were reported to have said that the government was ready to welcome Dr Obote back and that once he returned he would be availed the privileges of a former head of state.

Indications of what these privileges would be were also given both in the local press as well as in the East African of last week. All sounded well and marked what appeared to be a spirit of reconciliation in the country.
But then came the reversal. Dr Buturo on Friday April 8, 2005 informed the country that the same government wanted Obote to "answer for the Luweero killings." The immediate question that arose in the minds of many Ugandans who tried to grapple with this new demand was "which killings?" for it is known that many killings by different groups took place in Luweero. The killings in Luweero involved two parties - the NRM and the UNLA.

Many Ugandan soldiers were killed in a battle in which they were victimisers as well as victims. They were fighting for a government in power and "legitimate" in the eyes of those soldiers. They were also regarded by the NRM as illegitimate "killers."
The fact that elections of 1980 were rigged is not at issue here. Because rigged elections should not be answered by "fighting." There are other ways, which other Ugandans, including those in the UPM adopted.

We have also seen that since NRM came to power the problem of rigged elections we saw, especially in 2001, does not have to involve the killing of government soldiers. So there is a problem about the legitimacy of the NRM "struggle" and their role in the killing of the UNLA soldiers on legal, moral and philosophic grounds. This is the truth of the matter, however much the NRM may use the cover of legality because they hold power to overcome this reality.

The killings by the government forces of the rebels were legitimate in as much as they were intended to defend the government in power that was internationally recognised despite the rigging of the 1980 elections. The NRM could only justify its war if the war was national in character and was waged against an illegitimate government regarded to be so by the entire population or at least a sizeable majority of them.

Moreover, it had to be national in the sense that it was not directed against a specific ethnic community. Today, we call such a sectarian war either genocide or ethnic cleansing.
There were other ways of dealing with rigged elections. The fact of the matter was that although the argument of the rigged elections was used for outside propaganda purposes, the politics in Luweero were different. Here the argument was that the "Anyanyas," "Northerners, or "Acholis" had dominated Ugandan politics by controlling the army, which had deposed Kabaka Edward Muteesa and so there was need to overthrow them. This is what explained the alliance between the Lule Freedom Fighters and the FRONASA faction of the NRM. In short, it was an ethnic cleansing against the "Northerners," which is a crime against humanity.

PROSECUTE HIM: Dr Milton Obote in a September 2004 picture

In fact the real purpose of the war was neither the problems of the northerners, nor that of democracy nor that of the return of Muteesa. As we have now seen since Museveni came to power, the real purpose of the Luweero war was for him to win power so that he would put in place a permanent dictatorship not to be challenged again by the "Northerners."

So long as they constituted a threat, he would manipulate the situation so that he can perpetuate himself in power. This is what is happening now. Now that cannot be a legitimate purpose of waging war which could by any imagination be called 'national liberation." To call it so is to dupe the whole population and no wonder all kinds of manipulations have been made to bring about this state of affairs where we even fear to criticise this attempted imposition of permanence through kisanja, which is underway in the parliament, where `democracy' that was `rigged' was supposed to have been 'restored' according to the Ten-Po int Programme!

So please let us cool down and remember the words of Jesus Christ, which he directed at those who wanted to throw stones at a poor woman who was accused of having committed adultery. We must admit that in this respect, we are all sinners in different degrees of our human condition and the purpose of government is to bring about reconciliation and not retribution.

If crimes are committed, an independent public prosecutor must prosecute those responsible without discrimination by investigating the crimes and bringing those responsible to the courts of law. If the government is so serious about punishing Obote, why is it that they have never followed up the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into violations of Human Rights presided over by Judge Arthur Oder?

In Appendix 9 of the Report, in section 1 there are 13 cases that were referred by the Commission to the Director of Public Prosecutions for investigation and prosecution; in Section 2 there were 14 cases which had been tried by law courts in different places of the country; and in section 3 there were 14 cases originating from the Human Rights Commission that were referred to the CID for further investigations and action. The point here is that in none of those references was Obote named to have done any killings in Luweero or at any other place in Uganda.

Ugandans also want to know whether those cases that the Commission recommended to be investigated and prosecuted were followed up. Otherwise please stop the threats about Obote being prosecuted. This is becoming a persecution!
Furthermore, the Commission in its findings, conclusions and recommendations produced a guideline to prevent future human rights abuses. In one of the paragraphs at page LXIV, the Commis sion correctly observed:

"Large scale human rights violations often take place in a context of acute political, social and ethnic polarisation, armed conflict and generalised break down of law and order and the institutions of society. A human rights policy regarding such legacy is therefore, influenced by existing constraints (military, political, social and economic) and by the need to achieve pacification, national unity and reconciliation, and to build or restore the rule of law and functioning institutions."

Any attempts to find a political settlement with Kony have always been interrupted by some bombastic statements and threats. In 1994 at the height of Bigombe peace initiative with Kony, the president, out of the blue, ordered her to stop and told Kony to "surrender within seven days." Last year, when it appeared that Kony was willing to come out of the bush and talk peace, he was given a few hours to sign the memorandum of understanding for a ceasefire and when he asked for more time, the talks were cut off and the UPDF ordered to "kill him immediately."

Now that Obote is reported to be preparing to come home, the same manoeuvres are being made. "If you come you will be required to answer for the killings in Luweero." But what does that mean, Dr Buturo, even if your government were seriously considering the trial of Obote? In his statement Dr Buturo says: "Mr Obote's role in the massacres of Luweero has to be handled before the issue of his return can finally be resolved." Now what does he want Obote to do about his role in order for him to return home? What does he want him to handle? Does he want Obote to stay away so that the matter "may be handled?" If so, how? Does he want to set up a tribunal in Lusaka to determine Obote's role before his return can be "handled?" Is it not better for Obote to come home so that this matter "may be handled" in the institutions of law of Uganda? How can the Director of Public Prosecutions to whom he refers "handle" Obote's alleged killings unless Obote is within the jurisdiction of the prosecutor? Please let us stop playing games with the intelligence of Ugandans!
What Dr Buturo is saying is actually a threat! He warns Obote that if you return, you will face charges of the "killings in Luweero. So don't try to come, otherwise you will be tried."

The author is the head of African Study Centre in Mbale Contact:

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