Interview by Sam Jumbwike
Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has been in power for 31 years, but it has been a turbulent period, in which he has faced allegations of corruption and conflicts with rebel groups. Since he rose to power in 1986, three of the five elections have been challenged in courts, due to allegations of voter fraud and corruption.
In the 2001 Presidential elections, Museveni’s main challenger, Colonel Kiiza Besigye, petitioned the Supreme Court of Uganda, when he accused Museveni of bribing voters, and appointing partisan military officers to be in charge of security during the elections, which ultimately led to voter fraud.
Although the judges agreed with Colonel Besigye that the election had not lived up to the required standards, three of the five judges exonerated Museveni and the Supreme Court dismissed the petition.
Colonel Besigye then fled Uganda, fearing for his life, only to return in 2005 to participate in the 2006 Presidential election. Yoweri Museveni was again declared President after obtaining 59.28% of the vote.
The 2016 election had the almost the same outcome, with 60.75% of the votes going to Museveni, but he once again found himself accused of bribery, violence, intimidation, and misuse of government resources.
The judges were on Museveni’s side again, concluding that there was no evidence linking him to the accusations that were brought against him. Naturally, tensions and anger followed, this time with the emerging rebel group, SCAD (Super Coalition Against the Dictatorship), waging a war against Museveni.
I asked SCAD’s spokesperson, Joel Wakayima, why they has decided to wage a war against Museveni and his government, and how they differ from the previous rebel groups that have tried to bring down Museveni.
“The notion that that government is democratically elected government is simply not true. In the aftermath of the 2016 election there was a wide spread critique of how the population was disallowed to participate in a free and fair election. Prior to the elections, there was a convention that had the attendance of all vital stakeholders in Uganda. They recommended that the Electoral Commission be disbanded in favor of an all representative Independent Electoral Commission. The latter would then accommodate all the wishes and aspirations of the divergent groups in the country. The government should have abided by the conclusions of the meeting, in order to promote democracy. Unfortunately, Members of Parliament were told that government had no interest in the reforms proposed.”
You are talking of a flawed electoral process, yet no one boycotted the election. Those who were dissatisfied with the process turned to the courts, but the judges ruled that Museveni had been fairly elected. Is this a vote of no confidence in the judicial system in Uganda?
“We do not listen to the President, the Electoral Commission or the courts rulings if we think that they are corrupt. Even in democracies like the United States, people have been on the streets ever since Trump was elected, because they are unhappy with so many things surrounding his presidency. Like the Americans demonstrating against Trump, the people of Uganda have a say in challenging flawed processes irrespective of the courts’ rulings.
If you asked each member of the Higher Courts, they would tell you separately that they are not satisfied with the system, but because Museveni’s government is a Military Junta, you can’t expect them to do their jobs. So we are appealing to the international community and to international law. From what we have seen, we can’t agree with the judicial rulings which concluded that the electoral process was free and fair, when we know that the judges are controlled by the military. We have explored all democratic avenues but failed so far.
We have written petitions to the government, engaged in the media, and protested but we still can’t mobilize and organize our country because of the corrupt system in place. Now that we have failed in everything, we have opted for the last resort, and that is to wage a war against Museveni’s regime.
We call ourselves the Super Coalition against Dictatorships. We want the people of Uganda to reclaim their country. We can’t let Museveni and his mafia run our country as if it is was a private enterprise. Museveni has labeled the ICC (International Criminal Court) a bunch of useless people, and it’s exactly those kind of dictators that the international community has to stop. We have undergone all kinds of training, suffered in camps and prisons simply to make sure that if needed, we will be strong enough to use all means to stop criminals from taking our country.”
Museveni has defeated all past rebel groups that waged war against his government, including The Lords’ Resistance Army, The Holy Spirit Movement, The West Nile Bank Front and The Allied Democratic Force. How does SCAD differ from those groups?
“We salute all the rebel groups that previously waged war against Museveni. All those people tried and it was very courageous of them. Like us, they realized that Museveni had nothing to offer Uganda. The difference between them and us is that we are what the country has been waiting for. We were born and raised in Uganda, passed endless obstacles and remained true to ourselves. We can’t be bribed, and we don’t hoodwink people. . That is what makes us different. We will fight to save innocent civilian lives, and everyone is going to be able to tell the difference.”
There is a wide sense of insecurity in Uganda now. Military installations are being attacked, and government officials being assassinated. Is SCAD responsible for these attacks?
“Since we are not yet in power, the government needs to explain what is happening in Uganda. Museveni and his Mafia should answer this question. If they think that the country is at peace with itself, why are we seeing these attacks? Don’t they have firearms? Don’t they have an army, and a police force to prevent those killings? Unless the government admits that it has failed to provide security for people, they need to take responsibility for what is going on now.”
What will SCAD do differently from the current government in case they oust Museveni from power?
“We will give back the country to its rightful owners, namely its citizens. We want to see freedom back on the streets, in homes, in schools and universities. We want to promote fundamental social liberties. We want to avoid the nepotism that we are currently seeing everywhere, such as in the police, the army and in public service. Look at the leadership of the Uganda Police Force; why do they all come from Western Uganda? Look at the permanent secretaries in Ministries. Almost all of them come from Western Uganda. Who is appointing these people?
We need to restore sobriety in the country. Uganda used to be the food basket of the entire east and the central African region. Now, people are starving and that is what Museveni wanted. It’s by design that people are be impoverished, only so that the government at some point can appear generous by giving people some handouts. It’s about time that the people in Uganda experience food security and fundamental human rights in an equal society. That is what we are fighting for.”
With a BA in Community Development, Sam is now covering the political situation in East Africa closely. He previously handled the anti corruption Caravan Reports in Eastern Uganda and Western Uganda between 2014 and 2015, and is now a reporter on Oil & Gas for Earthfinds Uganda.