Apartheid: Is Uganda a Victim?

Published on 15th February 2011

The author at Apartheid Museum
As my fellow Ugandans prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections this Friday, I am writing from Soweto, South Africa where I am attending an international conference on ‘The Use of Law as a Tool of Oppression in Africa.’

With deep respect to the millions of black South African men and women, young and old, who perished under the diabolical Apartheid system, or separate development, as its evil-minded proponents claimed; I can say without fear of contradiction that, symbolically and in reality, General Museveni is leading an Apartheid regime in disguise. Where is the evidence?

Consider the following Apartheid laws and their striking similarities with the prevailing situations in Uganda.

The law regarding the voter’s register

In 1951, the South African Apartheid regime introduced the ‘Separate Representation of Voters Act’ which removed blacks and coloured people who formed 96% of the population from the voters' register. Similarly, in Uganda during the 2011 and 2006 elections, General Museveni’s self-appointed Electoral Commission unilaterally removed millions of prospective opposition voters’ from the voter’s registry.  Do not ask me to substantiate this statement.  Ask the Commonwealth Election Observers who declared in their 2006 report under sub-title, "the mass removal of names from the registers."

“We were present at one polling station where the names of two hundred people had been removed by the Electoral Commission after the display period…Another international observer group identified further polling stations at which even greater number of names had been removed. Our observers saw for themselves that the people affected were deeply concerned when they arrived on polling day and found that they were no longer registered at that particular polling station.”

As the 2011 elections approach, there is irrefutable information that the Electoral Commission has included four million anonymous voters on the voters’ register who will vote without voter’s cards. Only a minority Apartheid regime would take these desperate but illegal steps to boost its votes!

The law regarding regional tier governments

In 1951, the South African Apartheid regime introduced the ‘Bantu Authorities Act’ which established black homelands and regional authorities in order to create a false self-government, controlled from Pretoria. Similarly in Uganda, General Museveni and his Movement-packed parliament is forcing through a law that will create the so-called Regional Tier system that will force different regions together into false self governing bodies, firmly and ruthlessly control from the Sate House.

The law on separate education systems

In 1953, the South African Apartheid regime introduced the ‘Bantu Education Act’ which established the development of a curriculum that suited the "nature and requirements of the black people." The curriculum was designed to provide blacks with skills to serve as House servants for whites, working in the mines and other degrading labouring jobs under white supervisors. In Uganda, Museveni's Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) are providing sub-standard education for the children of the rural peasants that constitute 85% of the population. As the appalling records employment in the service sectors show, these USE graduates are proceeding to local universities where they are getting questionable degrees which only qualify them to work as security guards, Petrol Station Attendants, Hotel Waiters.  Tens of thousand of graduates are walking in the streets, unemployed.

At the same time, the children in Museveni’s inner circle are receiving the best education money can buy at home and abroad. Armed with their superior degrees, they are walking from universities straight into prestigious and well-paying jobs in government, the private sectors and security services.

The laws regarding wealth creation for the poor

In 1959, the South African Apartheid regime introduced the ‘Bantu Investment Corporation Act’ which created financial, commercial, and industrial schemes in areas designated for black people.  Under the scheme, black people received token loans to start businesses, targeting their poor communities with next to zero incomes.  Many of them failed to repay the loans and were sent to jail! Similarly in Uganda, General Museveni has introduced the so-called Etandikwa or Prosperity-for-All scheme, which provides loans to poor rural farmers. In the vast majority of cases, Ugandans who participated in Museveni’s wealth-for-all scheme are today saddled with debts and therefore poorer than they had been before.

At the same time individuals connected to General Museveni are receiving billions of the taxpayers’ money, which is enabling them to dominate local import, export and construction business on which they pay little or no taxes at all.

The Sharpsville massacres and their equivalent in Uganda

On 21 March 1960, the South African Apartheid police short and killed 69 demonstrators.  Similarly on 17th September 2009, Ugandan security forced shot and killed 39 pro-Kabaka demonstrators. As in South Africa, no one was prosecuted for the mascaras.

Anti-terrorism law

In 1967, the South African Apartheid regime introduced the ‘Terrorism Act, which legalised indefinite detention without trial of black human rights activists, and created the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) which terrorised, brutalised and murdered black South Africans with Impunity. Similarly in Uganda, in 2002, General Museveni introduced the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), which defines terrorism as any political, religious, social or economic activities that may lead to violence against a person or serious damage to property.  Under the law, the dreaded Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) is authorised to detain and obtain evidence by any means.

It was under the South African Apartheid Terrorism Act that  Bureau of State Security detained and tortured to death student activist Steve Biko.In Uganda, innocent students Jimmy Higenyi (journalism) and Patrick Manenro were killed by the security forces. Mr Joseph Musasazi Kifefe and several People’s Redemption Army (PRA) suspects were detailed without trial until they died in custody.

Western support of Apartheid

Just as the Apartheid in South Africa was supported and sustained by Britain, the US and European Union countries who officially classified Nelson Mandela as an international terrorist; the same countries are today providing the critical life-line which keeps Museveni’s regime in power.

The bloody road to freedom

And just like the black South African had to fight, Ugandans, who have never had a peaceful change from one leader to another, may have to change their leaders yet again, with tragic consequences for their country and the region.

On 16th December 1961, having tried all peaceful methods to regain their basic human dignity, South African blacks launched the Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation.  This was the beginning of a mis-matched but sustained armed struggle that slowly sapped the live out of the Apartheid and finally delivered freedom for black South Africans in 1994. The heart-breaking details of the struggle are today recorded for posterity at the Apartheid Museum.

The introductory pamphlet to the Museum reads: “The basic principle behind Apartheid was simple. Apply self-serving laws and cut a clean line through the nation between the privileged minority rulers and the majority poor black people.”And it concludes, “The Apartheid Museum is a journey and lesson through tragedy and heroism, tyranny, freedom and peace.  It is the most important lesson you will ever learn.”

I highly recommend that Ugandan opposition leaders and anyone else who is trying to bring democracy and equality to Uganda should visit the Apartheid Museum.

By Sam Akaki
Writing from Freedom Square Hotel
Soweto, Johannesburg.

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