Uganda (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
Since 1962, Ugandans have suffered gross violation of human rights, including genocide, governmentsponsored violence, acts of elimination of elites, forced exiles and expulsions, imprisonment without trial, and denial of the other basic human rights. More than 2 million people have been killed, maimed, imprisoned, or forced into exile. Various political elites have sought power to control and to distribute resources at the expense of human rights. Ugandans have not yet developed mechanisms to change government leaders by peaceful means. Political change has been effected through violence, and this has invariably led to other forms of violence. The distribution of resources along ethnic and racial lines was a legacy of British colonialism. During the colonial period, the Europeans and Asians received the highest incomes because they controlled the state and business, respectively. Among the African population, the Baganda were the richest because they produced cash cropsotton and coffeend played the role of colonial subimperialists. Western Uganda became a reservoir of labor for the colonial state as well as the managers of the cash crop economy in Buganda. The armed forces of the colonial era were recruited mainly from the Luo and Sudanic speakers of the northern region. This specialization along racial and ethnic lines became the source of instability and violence in postcolonial Uganda. Unsophisticated leaders like Obote and Amin exploited the politics of ethnicity and historical imbalances to entrench themselves. They branded whole populations guilty for the inequities of British colonialism and imposed collective punishment regardless of class or political association and sympathies.
Thousands of Ugandans have suffered from acts of genocidal massacre. Since independence in 1962, Uganda has witnessed massacres directed against certain ethnic and consolidated social groups. Between 1966 and 1971, the first Obote regime targeted the Baganda, and 400 to 1,000 people were reported to have been killed. The Amin Regime (1971979) targeted the Acholi and Langi, particularly those in the armed forces, and thousands were eliminated. During the Tanzania-led war to oust Amin, groups of people suspected of supporting or sympathizing with Amin or even those who only came from the ethnic groups in his home region were killed. These included Muslims in the Ankoleasaka areas, the people of West Nile, and Nubians scattered in the urban centers. In the second Obote administration (1980985), the Baganda were again targets for killings. The activities of both the government and the guerrilla armies in the Luwero Triangle caused the deaths of more than 300,000 people and the flight of many more from the area. From 1986 to 2003, the people of the Acholi region in northern Uganda were indiscriminately terrorized. More than 100,000 people were killed and more than 20,000 children abducted. These killings were managed by individuals trying to destabilize the political machinery of the Uganda state.
The Elimination of Political and Commercial Elites
The violent struggle to control the state has led those in power to eliminate their political rivals. In the period from 1962 to 1971, many political opponents of the first Obote regime were either imprisoned (including Grace Ibingira, George Magezi, Balaki Kirya, Lumu, Ben Kiwanuka, and some members of the Buganda royal family, such as Prince Badru Kakungulu) or forced into exile (Sir Edward Mutesa II). When Amin came to power, he eliminated political and commercial elites who seemed to be a threat to his grip on Uganda. Those killed in the Amin period have been listed elsewhere, but they included prominent individuals such as Chief Justice Ben Kiwanuka, the Anglican Archbishop Janan Luwum, writers such as Byron Kawaddwa, Father Clement Kigggundu, and prominent business people. The elimination of prominent individuals continued throughout the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) governments (1979980), the second Obote administration (1980985), the Okello junta years (1985986), and the early part of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government. The impact of these eliminations has been the reduction of the number of individuals capable of offering alternative leadership to this unfortunate country.
Exiles and Expulsions
Since 1969, Uganda has lost thousands of people through exile and expulsions. During the Amin regime, more than 80,000 people were forced to leave Uganda. By 1984, about a quarter of a million Ugandans were living in exile as refugees. In the period from 1980 to 1983, almost the whole of the West Nile district population was forced into exile by the atrocities committed by the Uganda National Liberation Army.
Whole ethnic and social groups have been expelled from Uganda. In October and November 1969, Obote's government expelled about 30,000 Kenyan workers, most of them Luos. Their brutal expulsion did not make headlines in the international news because no strong international economic interests were involved. In 1972, Idi Amin expelled some 75,000 Asians of Indo-Pakistani origin and appropriated their properties. Although they have been compensated and some have returned, the action was a brutal one. In 1982983, functionaries of the official ruling party, the Uganda People's Congress (UPC), caused the expulsion of some 75,000 Banyarwanda who had over the years settled in western Uganda (Ankole, Rakai, and parts of Masaka). In the same period, the UPC government fanned primordial forces within Karamoja that led to internal conflicts in that region. Some 20,000 to 40,000 Karamajog were killed, and many were displaced in the same period.
Denial of Basic Human Rights
Between 1966 and 1986, Ugandans were denied basic human rights. The right to freedom of opinion was denied, as was the right of association. The media was state controlled, and political parties, trade unions, student organizations, and later, some religious organizations were proscribed. There was, particularly in the period after 1971 to 1985, complete absence of the rule of law. Court verdicts were not respected by the security forces. The security forces could arrest people without warrant and detain them for as long as they wished. But these forces were immune from prosecution. When the Museveni government came to power in 1986, it instituted a commission of inquiry into past human rights abuses and the creation of the Human Rights Commission. The situation dramatically changed for the better.
The 1995 Constitution put in place mechanisms facilitating conflict resolution, including separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. However, permanent peace and security can only be viable when Ugandans accept, in word and deed, the mechanisms for changing the guard without violence as embedded in the 1995 Constitution. Any rash action to change the Constitution to suit personal arrangements could cast Uganda back twenty years. The positive achievements of the last seventeen years would be thrown into the dust bin.
SEE ALSO Death Squads
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A. B. Kasozi