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The Growing Need for Democracy in Africa

Rev. Gabriel Odima is President & Director of Political Affairs- Africa Center for Peace & Democracy

MINNESOTA, USA, Oct 3 2018 (IPS) - Many scholars argue that democracy is not the answer to Africa’s problems. To certain degree, I agree with such statements that democracy alone cannot guarantee African nations’ happiness, prosperity, health, peace and stability. In fact, modern democracies also suffer greatly from many defects.

Uganda Police Force manhandle a journalist covering a demonstration in Kampala, Uganda. Courtesy: Wambi Michael

But in spite of the flaws, we must never lose sight of the benefits that make democracy more desirable than undemocratic regimes. The direct benefit of democracy is that it helps to prevent government from violating the rights of their people like the case of Uganda.

After observing the political development in Uganda for the last 33 years, I have come to the conclusion that human rights abuses, the lack of political freedom, corruption, poor leadership, greed and thirsty for power are the leading pillars of President Museveni ‘s rule in Uganda.

On becoming President in 1986, Museveni confirmed the massacres and the decapitations dramatically in two ways. The first was the exhibition of the male child soldiers. Museveni claimed that these soldiers found the children abandoned in villages and adopted them. The lie could not hide how only male children who were made child soldiers were found in villages allegedly abandoned by their inhabitants.

The second mocking order by Museveni that the remains of the dead be collected and exhibited on roadsides. In the collection, Museveni’s soldiers took journalists to scattered graves where only skulls were unearthed.

No one who had not participated in the burial of these skulls could have known of the sites of the graves. Despite this glaring evidence, the propaganda was that all the remains and skulls were of civilians killed by government troops of the late former President Milton Obote.

The message of the propaganda war that there had been no war in Luwero lunched by Museveni, in which his and government combatants died and were buried in Luwero, and that his army never killed anybody during that war and none of his men were killed or even died of other causes and was buried in Luwero.

This insult to human intelligence, knowledge and experience of war, any war, is still being preached 35 years later. The devastating war which Uganda’s present regime launched in February 1981 was not inevitable nor was it necessary. What many people in Uganda and the International community did not realize is that this kind of war was launched with one objective: to remove from Africa’s body politic the power of the citizen’s freedom of assembly and association.

This removal creates conflicts and suffering to millions of Africans whose lives are under constant fear. From Uganda, the same war spread to Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

By turning a blind eye not only to the deepening of dictatorship in Uganda, to the extent of even rejecting its very existence but also by ignoring the very extensive gruesome and widespread massacres and devastation committed in the process, governments, media, and human rights organizations in developed countries have cleansed, rewarded, and licensed Museveni to entrench the dictatorship in Uganda.

The International community should emphasize respect of territorial integrity of each nation. No country in Africa should have the power to invade another country for selfish interests. A civilized nation cannot engage in political assassinations and massive human rights violations.

The international community needs to come to terms with reality and help address the crucial crisis facing Uganda today.

1. The International community should encourage President Museveni to step down at the end of his current term in office.

2. Open up political space and call for Uganda national conference to deliberate on the political future of Uganda.

3. Formation of a transitional government to review the current constitution of Uganda and prepare for free and fair elections in Uganda.

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