The news of the multiple murders of people in the military barracks at Makindye, Kampala, has left me deeply saddened. While the circumstances of the killings remain to be fully explained, the irreversibility of the deaths is a dark certainty that concentrates our minds on the ugliness of violence that has troubled our country for decades.

My heart goes out to the families of the recently deceased in Gulu and Makindye, to the men, women and leaders of the Uganda People’s Defence Force and the Uganda Police Force, and to all the people of Uganda.

Coming in the wake of the violence that was reported in Bugisu, then Rwenzori and then Acholi a few days ago, one cannot but feel deep angst at the gun culture that some continue to believe to be a solution to political and social disagreement.

The people of Uganda have the benefit of hindsight that should deter them from violence.   In the 54 years since Uganda’s independence, we have witnessed so much violence that the gun as a tool of political argument has become the norm. Yet the greatest evidence that the gun cannot and will not settle political problems in Uganda is the fact that the various battles for control have simply triggered new battles for control.

It is very tempting for those in power to seek to control the population with guns. It is equally tempting for those opposed to the rulers to seek to wrest power from them using the gun. This is a futile proposition with mutually assured destruction that leaves no winners. Violence creates violence. Today’s rebels become tomorrow’s dictators. The cycle is endless.

There is an alternative to the gun, namely, mutually respectful dialogue with a shared agenda for peace and justice. We recognize that the gap between the ruling group and their political opponents is so wide that it appears unbridgeable. However, the pursuit of violence by either side will further widen that gap and deepen the crater into which our country stares at the moment.

On the other hand, the pursuit of sincere dialogue offers us a chance, however remote it may seem, that peace may come to our land. It is worth the effort.

Mandela and De Klerk
F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, 1990

I therefore appeal to my dear brother Yoweri K. Museveni, the president of Uganda, to order the immediate release of Dr. Kizza Besigye from prison and unconditional withdrawal of all charges against him. The two men should shake hands once again as a public gesture of a shared hope for peace.  South Africa’s Frederik Willem de Klerk and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela did it and pulled their country from the precipice.

Museveni and Besigye
President Yoweri Museveni (L) shakes hands with Dr. Kizza Besigye in 2015.

I appeal to the president and his army and police commanders to extend a genuine invitation to the actual leaders of the opposition to open dialogue for peaceful resolution of the current impasse.

The actual leaders of the opposition include Mugisha Muntu (FDC Party President), Kizza Besigye (former presidential candidate), Norbert Mao (DP President General), Olara Otunnu (UPC President), Winnie Kiiza (Leader of the Opposition in Parliament), Amama Mbabazi (former presidential candidate) and David Sejusa (former chief of intelligence services.) Any effort that excludes any one of these leaders is a self-defeating exercise.

Likewise, I appeal to these opposition leaders to renew and reaffirm their commitment to peaceful resolution to the national political crisis. While they still have the ears of their supporters, they can help cool down the tempers and mobilize the population to embrace peace as the only viable and sustainable option.

The political crisis in the land is not a private disagreement between a few men and women. It is a matter that affects the lives of 37 million Ugandans, with an impact on the lives of another 110 million East Africans.

Therefore the search for peace must be a public effort, pursued with the transparency and honour that are central to successful reconciliation. It must not be a closed-door affair of negotiated trade between the rulers and select opposition figures. It must involve all leaders. This includes religious heads and other recognized opinion and community leaders.

Meanwhile, citizens and other genuine friends of Uganda need to actively rally together in a non-partisan coalition of peace seekers. As Ugandans for Peace, we must insist on non-violence no matter the circumstances. War is not an option.

The word War is replaced by Peace on a blackboard

It is not enough to want peace without actively working to achieve it. In Matthew 5:9, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” He did not say: “blessed are the peaceful.” To make peace, we must be prepared to sacrifice our wishes, to keep our emotions in check, to exercise patience and to renounce and vanquish the urge for revenge. Like the Disciple Peter who cut off Malchus’s right ear when Jesus was arrested, it is human to want to fight back when injustice is visited upon you. However, Jesus, even as he faced imminent death, commanded Peter to put back his sword into the sheath, for He did not need his passionate disciple’s violent defence. Instead Jesus was determined to drink the cup that His Father had given Him so that His people might be saved.

Both the rulers and the opposition leaders and their supporters need to drink the cup of humility and collective sacrifice for the sake of a country that we shall soon leave to future generations. There  are no winners and losers in this episode. We all win or we all lose – together.

I believe that as a country, we must turn from the bloodletting to the blood on the Cross of Him who died so that we may live in peace. Whether president or peasant, soldier or scholar, when we genuinely turn to the Lord and put Him at the centre of our lives, we shall find the grace and humility to join hands and make lasting peace in our country. It is not a task beyond our ability, if we choose to try.

 

 

 

 

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11 Responses to “Ugandans for Peace must insist on non-violence”

  1. Ann Karasanyi

    I didn’t realize there was a lot of recent deaths. Thank you a balanced appeal to our leaders in Uganda

    Reply
  2. Roland Kamujanduzi

    Dear Mulera. Dawa ya motto ni motto. I wish I could mobilize as many with guns to relinquish their anger. Do you remember”kotapini” slogan? Then you know to some leaders you are wasting your time with such beautiful article.

    Reply
    • Muniini K. Mulera

      My dear brother Roland,
      Releasing anger through the gun offers very transient relief, followed by more anger by the temporary “losers” of the dual. The lessons we have learnt from countries as varied as East Timor, Sri Lanka, the Sudans, Nigeria, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and so on is that violence never brings peace. When they sat down and agreed to live together, hope was restored. The lessons we have learnt from Libya, Syria, Israel/Palestine and so on is that when opponents dig in, the rivers of blood drown both sides. There are no victors. All become losers.

      Reply
  3. Sam Musoke

    This a balanced/neutral and insightful appeal for peace Musawo. Thanks.

    Reply
  4. Lillian Kimumwe

    This whole episode of the deaths taking place in my beloved country Uganda reminds me of the Amin regime. This is a time of which I have some of the worst memories of my life. Very sad and depressing.
    We need peace, peace, peace in our country. Dont take us back to that dark era in history.

    Reply
    • Daphne Nyakatura

      This is exactly what Uganda needs!! We have tried all other means to no avail. Why not this way…it’s the only sure way to success. Thank you! Uncle Muniini for being the voice of reason. I couldn’t have put any better. Peace and reconciliation is what Uganda really needs…sincerely. Enough is enough!! Otherwise we keep going in circles. We have examples to follow for who it has worked. Let us keep our Egos in check for a better out come. Uganda needs progress even if it means living in ciaos for now… God see 👀 and hears 👂👂 our prayers. The better days are head of us… Through prayer 🙏 and sacrifice. So help us God.👊🙌

      Reply
  5. I have been working in one of the most conflict and violence-prone countries in the world. Citizens attacking and killing citizens. Some time back, I asked one of my national counterparts, “Why are your people killing each other like this?” He answered, “People are settling old scores. Some of these conflicts have been going on for 400 (four hundred) years.” There is a lesson for Ugandans in this man’s statement about his own country. Uganda stands on the edge of a dangerous precipice. For almost 60 years, the country has latched from one conflict situation to another. Do we want to continue in that vein? Muzeeyi Muniini is right: let us consciously become peacemakers.

    Reply
  6. Kisoro

    Good appeal but what can we do? Perhaps we are the wrong addressees! Why? The person who holds the key is Museveni alone. He is the only one who can change the dynamics.

    Opposition can reach out. I don’t even know how they begin. Accepting to be co-opted into NRM? That’s what would suit M7. Is that what Uganda needs? We just held an election. Besigye is in jail.

    Roland above says, “dawa ya moto nimoto”. While this as you rightly respond, provides only temporal relief I must be one to admit it provides some satisfaction as the oppressed feels a sense that for a change, the other party is shifted from their comfort zone. As long as oppressor is comfortable, he has no incentive to negotiate anything. He might throw some crumbs eg appointing Kamya and other opposition nothing’s some jobs. There might be a semblance of peace because population is cowered by massive deployment of troops. It’s not a pretty picture.

    May I suggest Daktari. We are both good men. Love peace. Find your best English or even best Runyakitara and write the best appeal to the people around M7. The closest people to him. That might have some impact. I am imagining everyone has a conscience.

    Address this appeal or warning to Janet Museveni, Muhoozi, M7’s daughters, his brother Salim Saleh. They have it good. Remind them that all too frequent, we have seen the apparently most secure families of strongmen suffer incoviniences of being dislodged from their comforts. History can only be defied so far. It always repeats itself only variable is timescale but it does repeat itself.

    Write this directly to these individuals. They must love him ( I may be wrong). In their position, I know I’d act.
    Naive? Perhaps but what influence do I or you have on M7 compared to those closest to him who stand to lose more by his intransigence or continue to enjoy if he makes the right adjustments?

    Reply
  7. Kyokusinga Kirunga

    Dear Dr. M.,

    Thank you for the article and for the sentiments it shared – really, who could argue against peace? But even as the over-arching sentiments of the article undoubtedly resounded with all who read it, my issue is with the details.

    The devil, is after all always in the details! As I read it, I felt as though we were all gathered around your warm and inviting fireplace, holding hands and singing Kumbaya! It is great to have a fellowship of sorts and to sing together, etc. but after we all get up and go home, can we say we’ve inched things forward even a little bit?

    Frankly speaking, it will take a lot more than Kumbaya to get Uganda out of the quagmire in which it finds itself and move towards true and lasting peace. I think that you could have gone a lot farther and deeper in your prescription for peace. Just what does “mutually respectful/open/sincere dialogue with a shared agenda” mean in the current Ugandan context? Exactly how do we “pursue sincere dialogue”? Break it down for us please. I suggest you start by diagnosing what it is that ails Uganda. Is it the feud between the government and the opposition? I say no. This feud is symptomatic of something much greater. It is that which we need to define and for which we then need to begin creating solutions.

    You offered South Africa as an example, with reference to the memorable handshake between de Klerk and Mandela. But behind that “made-for-the-cameras” handshake, there was a mountain of detail and tremendously hard work. The handshake was not the beginning, the catalyst. It was a symbol of how far the nation had come; of what had been so hard-won. It said to South Africans and indeed the world: we have arrived!

    Please pull out your peace prescription pad and tell us what Uganda, with its particular history needs to do, step-by-step, to get to that handshake moment. A prescription that involves ALL Ugandans — not just those with power, not just those with money, not just those who believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings, not just men, not just purported leaders, but every Ugandan.

    And while we have peace on the mind, let us think about how a broken public education system threatens a lasting peace. How a large youth population with pitifully few opportunities for progress and personal development threatens a lasting peace. How a culture in which women are still subjugated threatens a lasting peace. How a marginalized civil society undermines a lasting peace.

    During a week where violence worldwide has shaken us to our core, we need to get real and serious about removing the barriers to a lasting peace!

    Reply
  8. Kato Peter

    When some other people (actually the majority) make comments, why do we still see your ugly picture?

    Reply
    • Muniini K. Mulera

      Dear Mr. Kato:

      Thank you for your question. The reason why you see my ugly picture is because that is how the system is set-up by the software developers. I too wish the authors would have their photos show instead. We continue to work on that with my team. Thank you for visiting, and please come again.

      Kind regards,

      Muniini K. Mulera

      Reply

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