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Martha Leah Nangalama, Moncton, Canada

Martha Leah Nangalama
Friday, April 3, 2020

CHANGE OF GUARDS – Kenya has not declared a total lockdown but is managing a night curfew on top of other normal measures. However, in some instances its security forces acted high-handedly in the enforcement of the curfew. Some citizens were beaten up and one 16 year old boy was killed by a “stray” bullet. Consequently, President Uhuru Kenyatta has come out to apologise to Kenyans for the brutal conduct of the security forces and to recognise their (citizens) role as partners in the fight against the pandemic.

“I want to apologise to all Kenyans for some excesses that were conducted. But I want to assure you that if we work together, if we all understand that this problem needs all of us, and if we pull in the same direction, we will overcome. I want to thank all those who are are ensuring that they maintain their work schedule by allowing our Kenyans to leave work on time in order for them to comply with the curfew. We, as a government, are preparing for the worst, but together with the 47 million Kenyans, are hoping and praying that we do not need to take further measures.”

The Kenyan government has gone ahead to arrest the security officers who were involved and Kenya has commissioned a probe into the issue. Kenya has gone ahead to boost the fight with tax exemptions, salary cuts on all presidential appointees and cash grants to the elderly and other economically vulnerables.

Meanwhile in Uganda, Museveni declared a total lockdown with a 12 hours night curfew. He has put no single contingency plan to mitigate the plight of the economically vulnerable. Instead, as usual, his security forces descended on the population, brutally beating them up and confiscating their merchandise, cars and motorcycles. Already, four motorcycle transport riders have been shot and fatally wounded. The brutality has attracted wide condemnation, the latest being from Human Rights Watch. Unlike, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Museveni has not made a single comment on the high handiness of his security forces. Museveni is encouraging his armed officers through stern warnings to citizens to comply with the high-handedness of the security forces. He has blocked all initiatives by other stakeholders to offer relief aid (food and health) to the vulnerable victims of the lockdown.

He decreed;
“I warn the shameless opportunistic politicians who want to make a name by calling people to give them food. You are not allowed at all. The police will arrest you wherever you are and will charge you with attempted murder. It won’t be the usual games we are used to of illegal assembly or what. You are an enemy and we are going to crash you. Just because of greed for power. They think this will make them popular.”

The opposition kingpin, Dr. Besigye, who had mobilised relief aid before it was rejected by the regime had this to say;

“The COVID-19 pandemic which threatens the survival of all of us, calls for the urgent mobilisation of all energy and resources our country can master to confront it. It shouldn’t be a time for a exclusionist and partisan stance.”

For Museveni, the fight against COVID-19 is more of a military/security than a health concern. He is using the opportunity to fight his political opposition. That is why out of the 305bn shillings supplementary budget for the COVID-19, only 82bn shillings is allocated to the health sector and 39bn shillings for relief food while security is allocated 81.5bn shillings. The breakdown of the security vote is as follows:

UPDF 32.6bn, Police 41.2bn, Prisons 3.5bn, ISO 1.9bn, Immigration 1.8bn and ESO 490m shillings.

What has the external Intelligence outfit (ESO) to do with the COVID-19 pandemic when it failed to forewarn the country!!!!! What about the 3.9bn for the Prison Services!!! Coupled by the whooping 14.7bn shillings allocated to the Ministry of ICT and 1bn shillings for the so-called social media activists. Museveni intends to launch a fully fledged military and propaganda campaign against the opposition.

In the run-up to the sham February 2016 presidential elections, during Kenya’s President Uhuru’s visit to the Parliament of Uganda around later 2015, Museveni said that he would wipe out the opposition after winning the elections. Two days after Museveni’s Electoral Commission announced him as the winner of the February 18, 2016 Presidential Elections, he made a speech where he vowed to wipe out the opposition in the next five years (by 2021). Since then, he has been brutally fighting any form of political dissent. His security forces have been at the center of this fight through physical brutality, concocted treasonous charges, arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, torture, forced disappearances, running of illegal torture Chambers dubbed Safe Houses, suffocation of political space, etc. This is not even to mention the internal disharmony within the main opposition political parties that is instigated by Museveni’s intelligence services.

Museveni has personally led the crusade to buy off political dissent through dishing out of hundreds of billions of cash handouts to urban youth groups to dissuade them from the much feared mass protests that have seen other totalitarian African regimes kicked out of power. The situation was worsened by the coming to the fore of the youthful legislator cum musician, Bobi Wine, who seems to be tapping into the youth constituency. Given Museveni’s 33 years hold on power, his authoritarianism and his now open secret scheme to have his son, Gen. Muhoozi inherit the throne, the level of dissent among the majority of citizens is beyond mitigation. Mindful of this situation, Museveni is uncertain of the aftermath of the 2021 presidential elections where he will obviously be declared winner.

Therefore, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a golden opportunity for realigning the political terrain. Museveni is only waiting for an opportune moment to declare a State of Emergency that will see the security forces take full charge and the February 2021 general elections postponed. Museveni is itching to get any small excuse that will allow him to detain the leading opposition leaders. Covid-19 has given Museveni the opportunity.


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