The Observer (Kampala)

31 January 2013

Uganda: Stand Warned, the World Has Changed

editorial

As 2012 neared its end, M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo had taken control of Goma city and were threatening to capture more territory, and possibly move on Kinshasa.

Meanwhile, Seleka rebels in Central African Republic were within 150 kilometres of the capital, Bangui, and President Francois Bozize was pleading for help from whoever cared to listen. Further north of the continent, insurgents who had already taken control of more than half of Mali, were now in charge of a town only 400km away from the capital, Bamako.

However, the tables have since turned. The M23 rebels were forced, under regional and international pressure, to retreat from Goma and cease their offensive, and are now locked in seemingly unending negotiations with the Kabila government, in Kampala. The Seleka rebels, under pressure from regional armies, entered negotiations with the government and ended their offensive too. A ceasefire agreement was signed on January 11, and on January 17 a new Prime Minister was appointed as part of the settlement.

In Mali, French and Malian forces have over the last two weeks pushed the rebel fighters out of all the major cities they previously held. It is not in doubt that these retrogressive conflicts fuelled instability, disrupted political and economic activity, and resulted in humanitarian catastrophes. But if there's any positive we can take from them, it is that they have not been allowed to succeed.

And that is, thankfully, the consensus in Africa, and the world, today. Whether through intervention by regional forces [as in DR Congo and CAR] or by foreign powers [as in Mali, where the African Union was, regrettably, too slow to react], grabbing state power by force of arms is not only unfashionable, but also unacceptable today.

Perhaps those who spoke of the possibility of a coup d'etat in Uganda need to wake up from their slumber and take note of the changed world we live in. The public response itself, to the rather insensitive and irresponsible remarks, indicates how much such an act would be out of step with, not only the aspirations of Ugandans but also the changed times. Stand warned, stand advised!

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