Friday, January 18, 2013

(BLACK STAR NEWS) Uganda Dictator Museveni's Grip Slips Following Critical Lawmaker's Mysterious Death

Uganda Dictator Museveni's Grip Slips Following Critical Lawmaker's Mysterious Death
By Dr. Vincent Magombe
01-09-13

A Young Lawmaker's Death Puts General On Defensive

The recent death of Ms. Cerinah Nebanda, a critically-minded ruling party politician, is being compared by some Ugandans to the demise of Mohamed Boazizi, a young Tunisian street vendor, whose death triggered an unstoppable wave of opposition and protests against dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Ben Ali, who had ruled Tunisia with an iron grip, tried hard to clamp down on the ensuing popular uprising, but was rapidly swept away by People power.

Uganda’s Gen. Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled with a similar iron grip since he fought his way to power in 1986, after a six-year long bush war, is being accused by the family and political allies of the late member of parliament, Ms. Nebanda, of having a hand in the death of the politician, who was only 24.

Just a few days before her sudden death on December 14, Museveni had publicly admonished Ms. Nebanda, warning her to stop criticizing him and sabotaging government policies relating to the country’s newly found oil wealth. Critics are demanding for a more transparent oil-governance and management regime. (Here Nebanda is shown in Parliament at the 2:00 minute mark in a past meeting last year being critical of the president for unfulfilled campaign promises)

Cerinah Nebanda had castigated the Museveni regime and her own National Resistance Movement (NRM) ruling party over bad-governance, rampant corruption and unending intimidation of critical politicians.

Museveni’s political opponents and the family of Ms. Nebanda were even more intrigued by the actions and reactions of the regime, and in particular the president himself, in the wake of the Parliamentarian’s death.

Museveni ordered the arrest of the senior pathologist, Dr. Sylvester Onzivua, who had been mandated by parliament and the deceased’s family, to carry out an independent investigation into the cause of the death. He was traveling with samples from Nebanda's body to South Africa; it's unclear what the regime has done with the samples. The doctor was charged with "smuggling" body parts. A second doctor, Chris Baryomunsi, who also supported the independent forensic testing was also arrested.

Parliamentarians were outraged after the arrest of the doctors.

Museveni also ordered the arrest of several parliamentarians who had raised doubts about the government’s own explanations of how Nebanda might have died; with the regime claiming tests administered in London from samples sent by the government found traces of cocaine and alcohol.

Museveni also went wild, throwing angry abuses at any politician and critic who suspected foul play as an "idiot" "fool" and "despicables". He warned critical lawmakers that they could be arrested inside Parliament and advised them to flee to the U.S. embassy instead, perhaps an indication by the general that the blank check policy he once enjoyed from Washington has ended.

Most critics of the Museveni regime, including the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, don't believe the government's version of the cause of Ms. Nebanda's demise. Many of them believe she was poisoned.

This contrasts with the government line that she died of alcohol and drug misuse.

As a result of the ruthless clampdown on any form of criticism of the government’s poor handling of the Nebanda affair, Ugandan parliamentarians went into over drive.

They collected signatures to recall parliament into session for an emergency sitting, and mobilized themselves into what is fast becoming the most significant bi-partisan legislative rebellion against the Museveni leadership. Museveni's spokespersons said the government was "barring" Parliament from calling the special session.

Museveni Power Meltdown
Museveni’s extra-hostile reaction to the recall of Parliament, together with his inability to contain the uncharacteristic rebellion by the Members of Parliament, particularly those from his own NRM party, may not have yet resulted in the Tunisia-type mass revolt.

But no one can doubt the fact that the dictator’s iron grip on the country and his NRM party is in serious jeopardy. The violent attempt to silence his critics has turned Museveni into a hate figure right across the political divide, and more and more Ugandans are becoming convinced of the need for political transformation sooner rather than later.

The hemorrhaging of Museveni’s support within his own ruling party must be the most worrying crisis that he has had to deal with in his 26-years in power. In the past, opposition within his own party was limited to a few individuals, and whenever Museveni raised his voice, the majority of his senior party members quickly jumped back into the fold.

The death of the young member of parliament from his own NRM party seems to have solidified the resolve of Museveni’s critics across the board, but more profoundly, it seems to be bringing home some truths to the majority of NRM politicians and party supporters across the country – that Museveni’s popularity is waning fast, and it is not a good thing to side with a loser.

With an increasing number of NRM supporters turning their backs on Museveni, and the rest of the country already readying themselves for a Tunisian-type struggle, the question that must be asked now is – could this the beginning of the end for President Museveni's 26 year-long rule in Uganda?

The answer to this question will be known as Ugandans start to organize new rounds of popular protests in the months ahead.

With growing evidence indicating that pro-democracy activists are indeed mobilizing as they have in the past, Museveni’s political journey in 2013 will be full of dramatic twists and turns, and things could easily turn for the worse for Uganda's long-ruling dictator unexpectedly and without warning.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

Dr. Vincent Magombe, a London-based journalist and broadcaster, is also Director of Africa Inform International.

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