24 September 2001

Uganda: Fighting Terrorism in a Dependent State

press release

--Lt. Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni, president of Uganda, prescribes medicine for unjust violence Two weeks ago, September 11, 2001, I had just finished addressing Kabale leaders and had come into the White Horse Inn to wash my hands before proceeding to the public rally at Rwamucucu organised to denounce the treason and threatened terrorism of renegade elements such as Kyakabale and Mande.

I switched on the TV in the hotel room. On the BBC Channel, at about 1530 hours our time, the broadcaster said that about 30 minutes previously an accident had occurred with a plane crashing into a tall building in New York.

The plane had crashed into a tall building in New York because of "fog". She showed some pictures of one of the twin towers. I entered my vehicles, proceeded to Rwamucuucu, addressed the rally and flew to Rwakitura. It was at Rwakitura, at 1900 hours, that I learnt that more planes had been crashed into more buildings. The initial crash had not been an accident. It had been part of the terrorist attack on the USA.

Terrorism globally: What is terrorism? How is it different from freedom fighting? Before I answer these two questions, I should point out that, sometimes, there is need for what Mao Tse Tung termed as "just" wars. A just war is when you are fighting for the just interests of the broadest sections of the people. Fighting is justified as a means of last resort. It is criminal to resort to fighting when you have not exhausted other peaceful means of struggle - petitions, discussions, peaceful demonstrations, legal struggles in the courts, and political struggles through elective means if they are available. When one starts a war without exhausting the peaceful means, we term that war an "unjust" one.

Wars of conquest by imperialists and hegemonistic forces are also unjust wars. They are wars of aggression. Resisting aggression is part of the just wars. Therefore, all the anti-colonial wars in Africa were just wars.

What is terrorism and how is it different from fighting for emancipation? While fighting for justice, you use violence if there are no other means available to achieve emancipation. However, the violence you use must be organised, deliberate (as opposed to impulsive), targeted and disciplined. In other words, it must be discriminative. Terrorism is the exact opposite of this. It is indiscriminate; therefore, not targeted and not disciplined. Terrorist violence may be on behalf of a just cause such as independence from colonialism or for struggles against dictatorships. Nevertheless, it is erroneous to fight for even a just cause using terrorism. It is erroneous because it targets people who may not be enemies of the struggle e.g. passengers in a plane who may be even supporters of that very cause, neutral or indifferent.

Even if they are opponents, if they are not armed at that material time, then they are not enemies. Enemies are armed opponents in a just war.

In the 1950s and 1960s, through the Afro-Asian Solidarity Committee, the African anti-colonial fighters were always in solidarity with the Middle-Eastern, Asian and North African freedom fighters and nationalists such as Nasser. I cannot explain why the African liberation movements largely shunned terrorist methods and concentrated on executing revolutionary wars. Revolutionary wars are wars of justice and use disciplined means even when they are fighting. They do not attack non-combatants; they do not use assassination methods; they do not take sectarian lines in politics; they do not kill or mistreat prisoners; etc. etc.

African liberation movements largely used revolutionary warfare (rural or urban) and mass action (strikes, demonstrations, civil disobedience etc.). The Middle-Eastern groups, on the other hand, apart from the NLF of Yemen, preferred to use terrorism - hijacking planes; planting bombs on planes; throwing bombs in crowds of unarmed people, including women and children; assassinations; suicide bombings of mainly civilian targets etc, etc. These are definitely mistakes of strategy.

The strategy of terrorism is not likely to bring victory for two reasons: First, by attacking civilians or individuals (assassinations) you are not attacking the most important pillar of State - the Army.

As long as the army is intact or is viable, supported by the people, with a viable economy, the freedom fighter will never gain victory. By attacking civilians, therefore, the terrorist is attacking the wrong target.

Secondly, attacking civilians discredits the resistance group. They are seen as people that should not be trusted with leadership because they are likely to misuse that leadership. They are seen as killers that are incapable of good judgment.

Thirdly, they keep narrowing the base of their support. The people who bombed the World Trade Centre killed people from many countries including Muslims. The relatives of all these people are now hostile to the terrorists.

It is not the first time terrorism and anarchism have emerged on the political scene. There were terrorist anarchists in Russia. Some were influenced by Bakunin. They even killed Tsar Alexander in 1881. That, however, did not change the oppressive imperial system in Russia. Lenin who, instead, relied on organising the masses, at least sections of those who formed the Soviets, eventually, brought about changes in 1917.

Eventually, the Communists made their own mistakes by espousing an elitist, paternalistic strategy in terms of political organisations that marginalised the masses in whose name the revolution was carried out in the first place.

In Africa, in the last 55 years, since the Pan-Africanist Congress of Manchester of 1945, we have been able to defeat colonialism completely by relying on mass action and revolutionary warfare.

In Vietnam they used revolutionary warfare to defeat the French imperialism and American quest for hegemony in South East Asia. It is amazing how the resistance movement in Palestine and the Middle East has generally been cretenised by a wrong strategy - relying on terrorism. The effective struggle the Palestinians have waged has been on the diplomatic front -- getting support from all of us. At one time PLO had an embassy here when we had shut Israelis out diplomatically. We now have diplomatic relations with both Israel and Palestine. The intifada - mass action without guns - had a lot of effect. Israel was very much isolated by the pictures of children throwing stones while Israeli soldiers were responding with guns.

However, suicide bombing and now these actions in the US have reversed the gains of intifada and diplomacy. As one can see from the TV, the US citizens have never been more united on a foreign policy issue than they are today, on account of a wrong strategy pursued by those who think they are fighting for freedom.

Today, we shall not go into the content of the demands of the different freedom struggles in the Middle East and Asia. What are the demands? Are they just demands? Are they just demands or unjust ones? Or are they a mixture of just and unjust demands? I will only concentrate on the methods even if one assumed that the demands were also just. Before I leave the question of the methods of struggle, it is important to remind everybody that India gained independence by mass actions in 1947.

The freedom fighters - Gandhi, Nehru, etc. - never used terrorism. The Iranian Islamic Revolution was also by mass action, not by terrorism. The Chinese Revolution in 1949 was by revolutionary warfare, not by terrorism. The victory of the people of South Africa against apartheid recently was by combining mass action and revolutionary warfare. The example of Iran shows that even in the Middle East mass action can triumph.

Terrorism in Uganda:

I need to point out that Uganda has been facing terrorism for the last fifteen years, organised against us by Sudan, Mobutu's Congo and other elements.

You all have seen what terrorist acts can do, not only to human lives of mostly non-combatants, but also, to the economy of a country. By the terrorists guiding planes into the three buildings in the US, thereby killing thousands of non-combatants, they have also caused a lot of problems to the Airlines industry the world over. Many airlines, on account of cancelled bookings, have laid off tens of thousands of workers.

The insurance companies that, I presumed, had insured lives and properties have had to pay out a lot of money. This is exactly what Uganda has been going through for the last 15 years. Our economy has been growing at the rate of 6.5% of GDP, on the average, per annum for the last 15 years. Poverty has been reduced, nationwide, from 56% to 35%. What would be the situation if we did not have the sustained campaign of terrorism for all these years? From tourism alone, we could earn forex equal to the combined loans and grants from donors as well as the earnings from low value exports like coffee. Terrorism kills tourism first and foremost. Yet tourism is one area where we have the best advantage. Terrorism can be defeated if there is enough spending on defence and security. However, there has been misguided thinking in the West, especially, that spending on defence is a "wastage" of money. In fact, defence and security are the most fundamental infrastructure, only competing, probably, with roads.

Even if we do not have piped water but we have security, it will be easier to have piped water sooner than later. If we get money for piped water but we under-spend on defence and security, we shall end up by having neither security nor piped water. This has always been clear to us. However, being a dependent country, depending on begging, we do not have freedom of action as much as we would like.

It is true, there is always dialogue between the donors, and us, which, sometimes, produces a balanced compromise. However, this is always a very protracted process. Meanwhile, a lot of mistakes occur. President Bush and the Congress have had to authorise US$ 40 billion to fight the impending war with terrorism and the countries that support terrorism. They have also authorised several billions to support the Airline Industry that has been shaken by the terrorist acts.

I remember Vohra, the entrepreneur that built the beautiful lodge at Paraa, crying in vain for support from our dependent Government (dependent on donors). Our Government is, moreover, awash with indifference of the officials vis-a-vis investors who are hurt by terrorism or other factors that are not of their own making.

Medicine for terrorism:

Let us use the tragic happenings in the USA recently to correct mistakes that have caused unnecessary deaths of civilians and the ruining of economic opportunities on account of inadequate and inappropriate responses to terrorism.

There are two types of medicines to terrorism: l Either adequate, appropriate and prompt response from the whole international community; or, l at least, understanding for, and minimum interference from outsiders, with the country fighting terrorism on its own except if they are violating human rights by killing prisoners. We have complained to the UN about the horrendous terrorist actions committed against us by Sudan and other forces in the region, to no avail. On top of that, our own efforts to defeat this terrorism on our own have not been understood. This is part of the reason terrorism has lingered on for so long. We can defeat this terrorism if our response is adequate.

Internationally, terrorism can be and will be defeated. The US should not be tempted into using "dirty" methods at all. They cause unnecessary tension in the world and, actually, justify, counter-terrorism. If you use dirty methods against me, then I can also apply dirty methods against you. The democratic forces should not be provoked into those mistakes. It is, moreover, not necessary. Provided you resolve the issue of spending, you can use straight methods of attacking and destroying those who are armed and capturing and prosecuting those who are not armed (the ones using concealment in the form of false identities, etc). The US will defeat the terrorists based in Afghanistan. There are those who make false parallels with Vietnam. The Talibans are saying that they defeated the British in the 1800s; they defeated the Soviets in 1980s; they will, therefore, defeat the US. I think they are wrong.

First of all, the balance of technology has changed beyond recognition since the 1800s. Technology has changed since the Vietnam War. More advanced knowledge of Science has greatly neutralised the advantages of the 1800s and even the 1970s (the Vietnam War), enjoyed by insurgents. The new techniques of using guided ammunition (as opposed to brainless ammunition), laser beams, thermo-imaging etc have minimised the advantages of concealment. However, the complication is that some of that hi-tech weaponry slows down movement and, sometimes, is sensitive in difficult climatic conditions. Some of this "Smart" weaponry is controlled by command centres in space, completely out of reach of the Taliban anti-air-craft guns and missiles, which are themselves, of course, vulnerable to ECM (Electronic Counter-measures).

The balance of power between hi-tech weapons on the one hand and an insurgent fighter relying on the terrain (concealment) on the other hand has somewhat changed. The insurgent is more at a disadvantage.

Moreover, the Talibans, on account of their repressive style, may have a sizeable fifth column that may cooperate with the attackers. Above all, the fact that the Super-powers will now be united against the Talibans, puts them at a great disadvantage. The Americans in Vietnam were not defeated by just the Vietnamese; but the Russians and the Chinese were behind them. Even the African freedom fighters benefited from that polarisation. The Soviet Union and China supported the freedom struggles in Africa and, therefore, empowered them. The Russians were not defeated just by the Afghans. The Americans and the whole West were behind them. Mrs. Thatcher went as far as visiting the refugee camps at Pashawar if I remember correctly. The narrow approach of the Talibans has now alienated quite a number of these forces. Even Pakistan which supported them is now on the other side.

The USA, therefore, has got a good opportunity to, this time, resolutely oppose and defeat terrorism. They must, however, be careful of one factor. They must avoid arrogance and behaving as bullies. The current advantage the Americans enjoy is in hi-tech. Hi-tech is science. Science means understanding and utilising the laws of nature for good or for evil. This is not anybody's monopoly. Over the next 10 years or so, there will be a surge in the knowledge of science. The one who is ahead now should not misuse his advantage. The Americans this time are fighting a just cause against terrorism, which is a strategy of the confused. Nevertheless, the US, as it fights terrorism, should also work to equitably solve the Palestinian question, work for democracy all over the world using appropriate approaches (here I will deliberately not go into details), contribute to the solving of the problem of the Sudan.

With justice, we are more likely to have a safer world. Remember, however, there are still those who fight justice or practice intolerance. The struggle may be a bit longer. It is, however, winnable by measured steps.

As I said in Durban recently, both the Palestinians and Israelis belong to that area. The Bible, which I have read from cover to cover, says so. Scholars of Islam have also told me that of 114 chapters of the Quran, some are dedicated to talking about Ibrahim, Musa, Jesus (Issa), etc. They mutually agree by record that they both belong there historically. The NRM was very pleased that after many years of not accepting each other, they finally agreed to talk, I think it was, in Oslo. Everybody should encourage them to continue talking. All violence should stop because none can exclude the other from that area. However long it takes, whatever atrocities are committed, the end will be the same: Jews and Arabs will live together in Palestine because that is where they belong.

In my tribe we say: "Nyakazaana ayerinza ogwarakore". As is usual with our rich African languages, I cannot explain this in English without using many words. Nevertheless, I will attempt and it goes like this: In the olden days there were housemaids (abazaana). It was their duty to collect water from the well (okutaha amaizi) and to collect firewood (okushenya enku). Other household members had other jobs: grazing cows (okuriisa ente), cultivating (okuhinga), growing and preparing tobacco (okuhonda etaabe), fighting (okurwana), etc.

Since it was a job of the maid to collect water, she would have to do it. Whether she went to the well at 9:00 a.m. in the morning, at midday or at 9:00 p.m. at night, she would have to go there anyway. Therefore, the message was that since she had to do the job, why wait and do it at night when it is dark? The earlier, in other words, the better. The earlier the better for the Jews and Arabs in Palestine to accept each other. In 1991 we reduced our army to 40,000 from 100,000 Officers and Men. We wanted a small but better-trained, better equipped army. We have never achieved this, ten years after the reduction in size of the army on account of under-budgeting. This paralysis undermines our security and, consequently, our economy.

We are now engaged with donors on reaching a consensus. Terrorism in Northern Uganda can be defeated with adequate spending on defence. We have completely defeated the ADF in the Rwenzori Mountains under spending on defence notwithstanding.

Finally, I wish to remind our readers of the misguided positions of certain elements in Uganda over the Presidential jet. The arrogance is unimaginable. Imagine Museveni getting lectures from all and sundry about whether we need a Presidential jet or not, implying that Museveni is after luxury that is why he needs a Presidential jet!! Luxury for Museveni!!! It was not luxury that I was after. After all, that small and crumpled plane offers no luxury. However, it offers security to a large measure. They are still other risks but it is not as vulnerable as a commercial jet liner. I hope my lectures in frugality have also learnt a lesson in security for people who are exposed in a special way on account of politics depending on the atmosphere of the country or region. When I was a freedom fighter, I used to travel in commercial airlines; but I would do so incognito. Even as President, I have used commercial airlines occasionally. I, however, would do it by surprise, without prior warning. To do so as a routine would have been to donate Museveni to the terrorists of the Sudan, Bin Laden and others.

"Nyabwengye n'obwengye bwe" meaning "Everybody has unique wisdom". This is a riddle. You solve the riddle by saying: "Ne enkoko kuchutsya etaine mabere" - "The hen weaning her chicks without milk".

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