By Solomon Muyita, Simon Kasyate, Charles M. Mpagi & Agness Nandutu
KAMPALA — Demonstrators protesting to what they called “unfriendly remarks against the sovereignty and independence of Uganda” yesterday stormed the British High Commission and the Parliament in Kampala.
The crowd of several hundreds, calling themselves Concerned Patriots, condemned remarks by a British minister who recently questioned Uganda’s commitment to democracy and Irish rock star and aid campaigner Bob Geldof who accused President Museveni of wanting to rule for life.
The demonstrators first marched through the city, before camping outside the British High Commission. They later moved to the Parliament, which is about 100 metres away.
Many were walking, while some clung to several trucks in a convoy.
They blew whistles, chanted slogans in support of the government and danced to music blaring from a truck.
Many were draped in dry banana leaves (essanja), the symbol of the campaign for a third term for President Yoweri Museveni.
The demonstrators carried tree branches, banners and placards denouncing remarks made against what is widely believed to be Museveni’s attempt to cling onto power through a constitutional amendment. “We support our system until 2011; Long Live Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni,” one placard proclaimed.
The demonstrators denounced what they called attempts by Britain, Uganda’s former coloniser, to recolonise the country.
“We say NO to recolonisation,” read one placard.
“You never gave us democracy yet you colonised us,” another said.
Some others read: “You called Amin a gentle giant”; “Keep your donations, we retain our freedom”; “Cheap politicking should not be part of UK led economic commission”; “We fought for our freedom, we died as you looked on. Keep off.”
Mr James Mutumba, 35, who described himself as the Chief Operations Coordinator for the demonstration said: “We are here because the British are belittling us; they forget that Uganda is a state.”
Some of the placards were aimed at Geldof.
Geldof recently criticised Museveni at the launch of the report of the UK-led Africa Commission. He said, “The president of Uganda, who implemented poverty measures and AIDS measures that all worked with debt relief, is now trying to be president for life. Get a grip Museveni. Your time is up, go away.”
Some demonstrators’ placards read: “Geldof sober up and shut up”; “NO to drug addicts and Rock Homos”; “Geldof, Africa is not a drama theatre, let Museveni stay”; and “Geldof, know that Museveni is a freedom fighter not an actor.”
For about 30 minutes, the demonstrators interrupted movement in and out of the High Commission on Parliament Avenue. One of their leaders was let in to hand over a statement addressed to the High Commissioner, Mr Adam Wood.
The statement said the demonstrators had been offended by remarks made by Bill Rammell, a minister in the Foreign Office, and musician Geldof.
Rammell was recently reported to have told the British Parliament that his government was concerned about “countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe, where poor adherence to inernational human rights standards, and a lack of commitment to democracy, good governance and the rule of law, cause us particular concern.”
The demonstrators’ statement said, “We are citizens of Uganda who are deeply concerned and bothered by these remarks and the circumstances under which they are being made. We should like to request you to please kindly and urgently communicate to the government of the United Kingdom our extreme displeasure.”
The statement signed by Mr Paul Musamali and Mr Odur Byaruhanga, the chairman and secretary general of the little-known group, added, “We condemn the remarks in the strongest possible terms and dismiss them with the contempt they deserve.”
The demonstrators were later denied entry at Parliament, although Musamali and a few leaders were allowed in to present a copy of their one-and-a quarter-page statement to the Speaker, Mr Edward Sekandi.
In a brief address to the leaders, Sekandi called upon Ugandans not to panic adding that foreigners cannot influence Parliament’s decisions.
“I agree with the petitioners that Uganda has to be respected as a sovereign country. Uganda has its constitution and is able to handle the constitutional amendments,” he said.
He said MPs can ably handle the constitutional amendments and they will take national interests to guide them to do what is good for Ugandans. One of the demonstrators, Mr Moses Nuwagaba, a media coordinator for Makerere University Movement Forum said: “We are saying no to external influence from neocolonialists specifically UK. We are telling them that they ruled us for 100 years and we did not see any elections or term limits, so what moral authority do they have now to preach democracy to us?”
He said British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, was also seeking a third term in office.
Odwori Akwenda, 20, of Mukono University, said he participated in the demonstration because he was opposed to the British government’s interference in Uganda’s politics. “We are telling them that power [to decide on our governance] belongs to Ugandans,” he said.
Nakawa Deputy RDC, Mr Mpimbaza Hashaka, said the event was a “demonstration of the people’s power.” The donors are yet to see more, he added.
The demonstration appeared to be well coordinated. Some unconfirmed reports said the demonstration was orchestrated by forces close to the NRM and the government.
Students were ferried to the city centre on trucks and omnibuses from the universities of Makerere, Kampala International (KIU), and Mukono, as well as Kibuli Teachers College and various secondary schools in and around Kampala.
They joined other demonstrators ferried in earlier.
After the demo they were served with soda at the Constitution Square.
Re-published from www.monitor.co.ug
Uganda Fedayin storm British Embassy
By Solomon Muyita, Simon Kasyate, Charles M. Mpagi & Agness Nandutu
Britain calls for more protests
KAMPALA — The British High Commission in Kampala said yesterday they were happy that a “well-organised and peaceful demonstration was allowed to take place” against the UK government.
The British challenged the government to extend a similar opportunity to other groups, including the opposition, who also wish to demonstrate peacefully.
“Regardless of what views are expressed, we welcome the fact that Ugandans are able to assemble and make those views known publicly,” said Ms Lynda St Cooke, the second secretary at the British High Commission. “We look forward to this permission being extended to holders of all shades of political opinion over the coming months.”
The Police often allows demonstrations in support of the government or the NRM, while blocking those staged by the opposition.
Opposition MPs meeting in Jinja were beaten and dispersed last year, while a student was shot dead when security forces fired at an opposition demonstration in 2002.
St Cooke said they were still studying the statement that the demonstrators handed to the High Commissioner Adam Wood.
The demonstrators interrupted movement in and out of the High Commission on Parliament Avenue for over 30 minutes yesterday.
They were protesting what they called “unfriendly remarks against the sovereignty and independence of Uganda” by the British.
The Popular Resistance Against Life Presidency, another pressure group, has also written to the Regional Police Commander for Kampala Extra, Mr Benson Nyeko, seeking permission to demonstrate on Thursday. They said they want to show their solidarity with Geldof over his stand on President Museveni.
Geldof, an Irish pop star, recently criticized Museveni for trying to change the constitution to seek another term when his last constitutional tenure expires next year.
Geldof needs to stop drinking Waragi and stay out of politics! He has little, if any, pertinent education that qualifies him to makes any reccomendations in the international political arena. I've never even heard of Geldof as a musician, let alone as a political analyst...and I'm a mzungu! Well done Uganda. Keep trouble makers out!
The British should stay out of uganda business. What are you going to teach us, how to fuck arses and children?
The British are the biggest losers and they know it!
Long live Lt General Museveni!! Long Live Robert Mugabe!!
THE former pop star, of Boomtown Rat’s fame, Bob Geldof (also known as Sir Bob or Saint Bob) is not a very popular man in some very powerful quarters in Uganda these days.
There is nothing new in that because even in the Irish republic where he was born and in Britain where he made his pop name and was later Knighted by the British Queen, not for his pop music but for inspiring the Band Aid appeal that caught global attention in 1984 in response to the Ethiopian famine, he is not universally popular.
He has earned a well-deserved reputation for being a loud-mouth (and here I should declare a potential personal conflict of interest because my mouth does not often have a stopper too), rubbing people the wrong way and ruffling all available feathers in his now famous crusade against hunger, debt and poverty in Africa. I have had occasion to observe that he sometimes appears to be mourning more than the bereaved.
But which champion of lost causes worth that title will not admit to zealotry and singular determination to use every opportunity to make their case?
If there is a Guinness book of records entry for using expletives without caring whether to president or prisoner, diplomat or peasants, that are listening, Bob Geldof should be a runaway winner. It is part of his stock in trade. Sometimes his theatrics actually stand in the way of the message he has which makes many to accuse him of either insatiable individualism or petulant exhibitionism.
I have had one or two run-in with him where it was bull**** for bull****. But his publicity tactics have worked well for him because whatever he says often gets global attention. And so it was typical of him to fly off the handle, go against the grain, throw away the script at the launching of the Blair Commission for Africa two weeks ago and send verbal missiles in an aside about President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his worst kept secret attempt to tinker with the constitution of Uganda and lift the restriction on fixed two terms for the presidency so that he could stand again. Ekisanja has now reached global media. Thanks to Geldof asking Museveni to move over.
Not unexpectedly, the Ekisanja supporters have been up in arms decrying his impertinence: how dare he
interferes in our sovereign affairs? What does this foreigner, a musician for that matter, (some say with
angry disbelief), know about Uganda to be asking ‘Mzee’ to step aside?
The uproar culminated in an obviously orchestrated demonstration by supporters of the President on Monday condemning Geldof’s brash pronouncement. While they were at it, they also had non-diplomatic words for the British government for meddling in Uganda’s affairs.
The UK High Commissioner to Uganda has been grumbling rather too loudly recently and also a recent statement by a British Foreign Office junior minister voiced concerns about Uganda’s transition to a genuine multiparty democracy.
According to press reports, there were many placards and slogans on display. They were broadly nationalistic, anti-imperialist, very Pan-Africanist and anti-neo-colonialism. But one in particular caught my attention: it said, “Yes to Aid but No to foreign intervention! While Bob Geldof may not be surprised (and would have been disappointed if people were indifferent to his remarks) at attacks on him, I am not sure how he would react to a planned demonstration today by anti-Museveni, anti-Third term and opposition supporters or activists in his support. They must be hoping they can enlist his support as veteran global publicist for their local cause of preventing Museveni from succeeding himself. To Bob’s crusade to feed starving Africans, the Ugandan opposition is adding delivery of democracy too! The bad news is that only recently, Geldof in yet another choreographed outburst, openly said he was tired of being regarded as “Mr Bloody Africa”. However, maybe he can downsize to become Mr Uganda democrat or Terminator of “Sad Term”!
The banner that said “Yes to Aid but no to foreign intervention” exposes the self-inflicted humiliating contradiction confronting many African leaders. They expect foreigners to build their roads, feed their people, construct their stadiums, hospitals and other development investments but at the same time want
to assert their independence. Uganda is a country talked up as a success story, one of the periodic
“miracles” of Africa throughout the 1990s though it is fast losing its shine to new “miracles” like
Mozambique. Yet its budget and development plans are more than 50% dependent on foreigners. How sustainable is this in the long-run?
It would be ridiculous for those paying the piper not to want to dictate the tune. After all, those
who attended the Ekisanja demonstration must report back to those who provided them with the logistics,
facilitation and the sodas that followed their successful mission to Parliament Avenue. As it is with individuals, so it is with states and between states where the stakes are much higher.
African governments are prepared to sign away the national economy, without referendum or even perfunctory consultation yet when it comes to some very narrowly defined convenient political issues like
our obligation to continue to choose them, they suddenly declare the people are sovereign. What kind of sovereignty and selective empowerment is this that does not allow you to decide the way your national resources are managed (or mismanaged)? They go to IMF/World Bank without consultation.
They fight wars without consultation but when they have problems with their donor-friends then they remember sovereignty, self-determination and Pan- Africanism. Otherwise they are proud to be seen with their powerful friends from Europe and America. It is like wannabe African-Americans who only remember they are Black when they are in big trouble. Remember OJ Simpson? Now look at Michael Jackson.
Where were those now carrying the banner of non-interference when Uganda and Rwanda tragically fought each other, three times, in the DRC and both Presidents and their Executive entourage travel to Auntie Clare in London to settle their differences!
Like Wole Soyinka challenged Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, the apostle of Negritude, a tiger need not proclaim its tigeritude’.