Thanks America for the visa bans on Ugandans who abuse our rights


The author, Musaazi Namiti.


By Musaazi Namiti


Uganda is for all Ugandans even if they were not born in Uganda. All that matters is that they have citizenship. Uganda does not belong to politicians in power; it does not belong to their relatives, henchmen, sycophants, apologists, propagandists. We are born and bred here (most of us, at least), and when time comes for us to leave this planet, we leave Uganda behind for other Ugandans to live in.


Article 1(Clause 1) of our Constitution says: “All power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution.” It goes on (Clause 2): “Without limiting the effect of Clause (1) of this Article, all authority in the State emanates from the people of Uganda, and the people shall be governed through their will and consent.”


Regrettably, Ugandans who wield power gained fraudulently, mainly from elections that are often disputed, have literally turned Uganda into their personal fiefdom and are riding roughshod over Ugandans who do not have power. In a country where systems, including the justice one, are ineffectual, it is next to impossible to seek and get redress.


Ugandans who want to be governed through their will and consent have had their rights flagrantly violated, but they are completely helpless. The government cannot account for those whose disappearance it has caused. Internal Affairs minister Jeje Odongo came out recently to confirm the disappearance of some Ugandans, much to the consternation of the public.


We have orphans and widows who have lost parents and husbands because those parents and husbands openly campaigned for a presidential candidate of their choice.

Meanwhile, members of security forces responsible for abducting Ugandans who want to be governed through their will and consent remain as free as birds in the air — or fish in water.


In the evening, they go home, watch TV with their children — while other people’s children are in detention — eat slap-up dinners and crawl into their beds. So when, on April 16, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions on Ugandans “responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda”, some of us simply said: “Serves them right! They are getting their comeuppance.”


The US is sometimes blamed for ignoring autocratic rule, such as the one we have in Uganda. For example, days after President Museveni’s inauguration in May 2016, D. Bruce Wharton, who was serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs, told this newspaper in an interview:


“The US does not recognise governments. We recognise countries, so the internal events that choose governments are less important to us than the country.”

But countries, like individuals, nearly always prioritise their interests. It is the height of naivety to expect the US to prioritise Uganda’s democratisation. The US is never going to remove tyrants from power for Ugandans, unless the tyrants threaten US national security. That task has to be performed by Ugandans even if it takes a whole century.


Having said that, Western countries’ occasional punitive actions against Ugandans who want to personalise Uganda, and violate the inalienable rights of Ugandans, should always be commended. Targeted individuals will try publicly to shrug off pronouncements such as the one made by Mr Blinken, but we do know that they are pretenders.

No one wants to have their movement restricted. But it is not too late for them to mend their ways. Let them treat Ugandans the way they want to be treated.


Mr Namiti is a journalist and former Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk.


This article was published by the Daily Monitor.