The security forces of U.S.-backed dictator Gen. Museveni stripped female opposition leader naked while arresting her
[Global: Africa Commentary]
Ugandans were treated to a shameful spectacle when the police manhandled a female opposition party leader stripping her naked, dragging her on the tarmac, then hauling her onto a waiting police pickup truck where she was tied with a rope like an animal, last Saturday.
Ms. Zaina Fatuma is a senior member of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), one of the leading opposition parties.
What was her crime? She, together with other party members were going to attend a rally in Southwest Uganda. The police decided to block them even after they were notified about the meeting a few days before according to the law. Her crime was that she dared exercise her political rights that most people in democratic societies take for granted.
This horrible nightmare follows a long history of brutality against civilians from the Ugandan police. It stems from the complete merger of the Ugandan government and the Ugandan ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) under the president, Gen. Yoweri Museveni.
Whereas the constitution clearly states that power belongs to the people and it defines the responsibility of the police being that of protecting the lives and property of people, one man, Gen. Museveni, has usurped that power for the last 30 years.
On a number of occasions, President Museveni revealed his relationship to power. In a glib moment, he once proclaimed that as president, he guards his power as a village hunter guards his kill from marauding wolves. On another occasion, he called his political opponents “wolves” to whom he swore never to cede power; regardless of what voters want.
How does Gen. Museveni, the village hunter, guard his kill?
President Obama has on many occasions addressed this question by warning African leaders against holding on to power through corruption, coercion, and suppression of dissent.
In 30 years in power, President Museveni is the poster child of the kind of African leaders President Obama warned against most recently when he addressed the African Union (AU) in July. Gen. Museveni simply uses all the national security organizations: intelligence services; the police; the army and prison services as tools to sustain himself in power.
In the day-to-day operations, the President uses the police as a handy tool to curtail the political activities of the opposition parties.
Early this year, he proclaimed that he “owns” the wealth of the country. With the unlimited access to the national treasury, Gen. Museveni has developed an elaborate political patronage system equal to none on the African continent.
Observers of Uganda may remember how the police sprayed opposition demonstrators with potentially carcinogenic pink chemicals during the “Walk-to-Work” demonstrations in May 2011. Also Dr. Kizza Besigye, President Musevenis bush war physician, and now most determined political opponent, was almost blinded when pepper-sprayed in his car. He was then
arrested, followed by a long period of house detention.
Last weekend, Dr. Besigye was an apparent victim of an assassination attempt when the police suddenly threw spiked road belts in front of his convoy resulting in a chain reaction of car crashes; several vehicles sustained serious damage but fortunately no life was lost.
Since 2011, the police regularly now assault women in Uganda; in the past attacks were mostly against men. For example, one of the FDC opposition women leaders, Ingrid Turinawe, had her breast manhandled in broad-daylight by officers while being arrested.
Last Saturday it was Ms. Fatuma’s turn; undressed and manhandled in the most despicable manner.
As the 2016 election date approaches, Gen. Museveni must be sensing defeat if the election were free and fair. As always, to win, he is pulling out all the stops to ensure that he remains in power.
He is increasingly using political intimidation, legal restrictions, administrative manipulation of the election process, corruption and brute force. Last Saturdays incident was just one of the examples of police violence directed at prohibiting opposition leaders from addressing political rallies whereas he himself and his ruling NRM party does as he pleases.
This week, the police continued to curtail the rights of citizens to exercise their political rights. On Tuesday, police in riot gear prevented peaceful women from presenting their petition to the Speaker of Parliament about the police sexual assault on women.
The chief of police also gave a stern warning to journalists not to cover political activities of the opposition. Yesterday, police arrested Dr. Besigye and others to stop them from engaging in any political activities. The police also blocked journalists and supporters from accessing the detainees. It took the intervention of the United Nations for the detainees to be fed.
In spite of all the injustices and police brutality, none of the culprits have ever been arrested, let alone been tried for their violation of the right of citizens to exercise their political rights.
The youth in particular, are now actively resisting police brutality.
During his Addis Ababa speech at the AU headquarters President Obama mused that he could not understand how some leaders wanted to stay in power for so long especially given the wealth they had accumulated. President Obama should also wonder how they stay in power for so long; in the case of Uganda the security forces are also trained by the U.S.
It is certain that U.S. diplomats in Uganda are witnesses to the continuing violence against members of the opposition including women.
Gen. Museveni has always made the case that he is an asset to the U.S. because Ugandan soldiers are allies with the Washington in fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia. But the Ugandan military belongs to the citizens not to Museveni and cooperation would continue under a representative leader and government.
How can the international community, including the U.S. remain silent when Gen. Museveni’s security forces attack women in public? Since when has it been alright to molest women, including in broad daylight?
Editor’s Note: Please sign the Petition demanding for the Ugandan dictator to resign