Museveni: a beacon of violent instability

Uganda under Museveni is praised as a ‘beacon of stability’ by most Western countries. Highly paid American lobbyists, World Bank officials, diplomats and politicians from donor countries that enlist his military have protected the reputation of Museveni. This ‘branding’ has been so effective that in 2004 Museveni was even praised by the Nobel Peace Prize committee for his efforts in resolving regional conflicts. Western journalists have, knowingly or not, tended to downplay his abuses or divert attention by criticizing opposition (Epstein 2021).

Dutch journalist Arne Doornebal, who has lived in Ugandan for many years (and thus should know better), titled his book ‘Uganda under Museveni’ with the sub-title: ‘He dethroned a dictator, is he now to become one himself?’ This was published in 2020, 34 years after bloodshed under the dictator. Most prominent references? ‘Sowing the Mustard Seed’ by Museveni (1997) himself, and several interviews with one of his most loyal ambassadors: Mirjam Sow-Blaak. Doornebal does not stand alone in his politeness towards the regime of Museveni. A telling experience with Dutch expat communities is their resistance against political activists & opposition, and adherance to the status quo of Museveni. Besides these journalists and expats, there is the embassy itself. The embassy of the Netherlands wrote the following in their Multi-Annual Country Strategy 2019-2022:

Uganda, being part of two unstable regions, the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa, enjoys relative political stability. Uganda is an important player in both regions. It contributes considerably to peacekeeping missions, and plays a mediating role in establishing political stability in South Sudan and Burundi. Moreover, Uganda is now the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, with a progressive open door for refugees mainly coming from South Sudan and DRC.

Great Lakes & Horn of Africa region

In this blog, I will illustrate how this narrative of Uganda as a positive force for peace, a ‘beacon of stability’, is pure state propaganda. It is time that the West take off their blindfolds about the blood on the hands of Museveni. In my earlier research on Uganda I found that there are two perspectives. The outside-in perspective is based on the narrative of the Ugandan government, that is reproduced by Western governments, diplomats, and journalists. In complete contrast to this outside-in narrative, stands the inside-out narrative of the local population, activists, and academics. These perspectives are often completely different, and this makes it difficult to know the truth. In this blog, we will focus on the inside-out perspective journalists and academics that try to unravel the state propaganda of Uganda and its donors.

A crucial person in this is Helen Epstein, an American professor of human rights and public health. In her book (2017) Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War of Terror she exposes how Museveni has been at the center of violent political instability in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa. Most references in this blog, are based on the book Another Fine Mess, which is again based on more than 200 journalist and academic sources. I recommend all to read the book of Epstein, which might be the most urgent and important book on Uganda at this moment, and which is available on: https://www.amazon.com/Another-Fine-Mess-America-Columbia/dp/0997722924

Instability in the region since 1981

After reading the book, you find out how Museveni has been a crucial (hidden) force in several of the most deadly civil wars in Africa for the past 40 years. An image occurs of a cunning African Bismarck that destabilizes whole nations for his own interests. In this blog we will delve into the unknown stories of Museveni in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, South Sudan, and Somalia.

Uganda Civil War (Bush War)

100.000 to 500.000 casualties

Bush War, 1981 to 1986

Museveni launched the guerrilla war, known as the ‘Bush War’ in 1981 after he claimed that Obote had rigged the elections. An estimated 100.000 to 500.000 civilians died, but it is likely that Museveni inflated the numbers to make the Obote regime look worse. The atrocities of the Obote government are undeniable and known, but it is important to note that the NRA also committed atrocities, although they were far less brutal and numerous than those committed by Obote’s army. Some killings were reprisals against traitors, other false flag attacks, attack made look like government attacks but in fact NRA attacks. Several NRA veterans told Helen Epstein that they burst into houses, dragged them in forest, and killed them. In 2011 memoir, NRA major John Kazoora describes NRA massacre:

‘They would dig a shallow grave, tie you up and lie you facing the ground and crack your skull using an old hoe.’

In 1983 Museveni ordered the NRA to target Westerners. A Canadian engineer, and four European aid workers, were killed. Museveni was a master of propaganda. When British journalist William Pike was invited to the NRA camps, he was shown five mass graves with thousands of skulls, list of 30 such sites, and Musevemi claimed that the army had killed 300.000 people. When a journalist of the Daily Telegraph visited one of the places, he could find nothing to support these claims.

North Uganda Civil War

100.000+ casualties

Northern Uganda Civil War, 1986 to 2008

Although the civil war was ended in South Uganda, it continued in Northern Uganda. Government forces attacked former strongholds of the Obote government, in Acholi and Teso. Epstein narrates how the NRA’s 35th battalion, in early august killed and used a torture method called three-piece on 80 villagers. Next morning many more were loaded in trucks and departed, and killed. When in october 1986 Museveni met with USA ambassador Robert Houdek, the ambassador asked about the three-piece torture. ‘Why should the three-piece-tie be America’s concern?’ Asked Museveni. ‘Because it is a form of torture and a violation of human rights.’ The ambassador replied.

The state violence used against the inhabitants led to two insurgency forces to grow, Alice Lakwena and her nephew Joseph Kony. The devastation that followed is well known. Although several months occurred that could have led to peace, Museveni hijacked all these efforts. In 1992 Kony was severely wounded, and was about to be picked up by general Sejusa, who was then ordered to stop the operation without explanation by Museveni. In 1994, Betty Bigombe started peace talks, when on February 6 Museveni suddenly gave an ultimatum, and Kony had to continue fighting. Bigombe has always insisted Kony wanted peace but whenever she tried to contact him, the army would track her phone or radio signals and attack Kony’s camp. In 2002, catholic priests arranged to meet with Kony commanders to arrange for peace. Suddenly attacked by the army, almost burning the priests alive. They were pressured by army to sign a confession. While most attention has been given to the atrocities of Kony, the atrocities of the government are often ignored.

Another element that is often ignored is the cattle raids. Officially cattle raids were blamed on Karamajong, By mid 1990’s, 300.000 animals lost by Acholi. But the inhabitants doubted this government (outside-in perspective).

After all, why were the rustlers wearing gumboots, rather than going barefoot or wearing Karamajong sandals? And why were the trucks with the animals heading south, towards Kampala, rather than north or east, where the Karamajong live? And since when did the Karamajong acquire helicopter gunships, which were reportedly seen during some of the raids? Why did the NRA disarm the Teso and Acholi, while allowing Karamajong to keep their weapons? To some, it seemed as though Museveni was punishing entire tribes, millions of people, for the crimes of the relatively modest number of soldiers responsible for the worst abuses in Luwero.

Political Murders in Uganda

500+ casualties

Political murders in Uganda, 1989 to present

Soon after the NRA takeover political opponents started to be arrested. Since 1989 and 1992 Amnesty International published reports, where NRA detained suspects without trial for months, ignored court cases. In secret prisons, suspects beaten with iron rods, had nails drilled in their heads, and their genitals electrocuted, stapled, and crushed with pliers. Most prevalent torture method was three-piece-tie, in which arms of victim are tied tightly behind back above the elbows so that the chest protrudes outward, producing searing pain. Sometimes the legs were also bound to the hands of the victim and the victim was hung from a tree or a rafter. Torture, and illegal detention, is nothing new in Uganda. It has been there for at least the past 32 years, confirmed by these Amnesty reports. In Kasese 2016, more than a hundred were killed. In Kampala during riots in November 2020, more than 50. Hundreds (if not thousands) of other cases are known of people that are killed in Uganda due to political reasons. Political stability in Uganda is an illusion.

Rwanda Civil War and Genocide

500.000 to 800.000 casualties

Rwandan Civil War, leading up to Genocide, 1990 to 1994

During the 1981-86 Bush War, Rwandese soldiers played a crucial role. Afterwards they formed themselves in Uganda, in the Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF. These were Tutsi rebels renown for brutality during the Ugandan wars (in Luwero and Northern Uganda), many top leadership functions in NRA were Rwandan. Kagame was chief of military intelligence, headquartered in one of the torture houses. In Corner Kilak in Northern Uganda, 600 unarmed men and women rounded up in cold blood by these Rwandese soldiers. In 1990, thousands of RPF fighters invaded Rwanda from Uganda. After an initial defeat by Rwandese army army, helped by French and Zairean commandos, they established bases in the Virunga mountains. Their food and weapons were supplied by Museveni. In 1992 the USA monitored weapon shipments from Uganda to Rwanda, but instead of stopping it, they doubled aid to defense spending of Museveni. The civil war led to an increasing radicalization of Hutu/Tutsi tension. Under immense international pressure, in August 1993 the Rwandan president agreed to grant the RPF seats in a transitional government and nearly half of all posts in the army. Hutu mayors and other local officials were already stockpiling rifles, and militias distributing machetes and kerosene.

In January 1994, the CIA predicted that if tensions were not somehow defused, hundreds of thousands of people might die in ethnic violence. There are several lines of evidence that is was RPF that shot down the plane of the president, which provided the spark for the genocide. The missiles were Russian made SAM-16’s which Rwandan did not have, but RPF did. The United Nation estimated that RPF killed some 10.000 civilians each month during the genocide. An Ugandan journalist that had also witnessed Bush war and North Uganda witnessed something strange: of dead bodies in RPF areas, he saw that many were tied three-piece, the infamous torture method used by NRA in Northern Uganda.

Congo Civil War

250.000 to 800.000 casualties

Congo Civil War, 1996 to present

After the Rwandan genocide, more than a million Hutu refugees, also about 30.000 genocidaires, government officials, ex-Rwandan army soldiers, members of the vicious Interahamwe, fled to Eastern Congo. Between 1995-1996 attacks were made from these camps, after which RPF responded in kind, with thousands of deaths. Hutu militants saw Museveni as the mastermind behind of the RPF conquest of their country. In 1996 a joint invasion of Ugandan and Rwanda started with rebel leader Joseph Kabila to overthrow Mobutu. In the take over of Eastern Congo, massive pillaging started. In 2005, Congo sued Uganda for 10 billion in reparations, Uganda continues to back rebel groups like M23. UN has accused this group of mass rape, looting, summary execution, and other crimes. An UN report in 2012 exposed that the Ugandan regime had provided logistical and military support to the M23 rebel group in Eastern Congo. Then Museveni threatened to pull out of the Somali mission, and the donors remained silent about the report in further debates.

South Sudan Civil War

400.000 + casualties

South Sudan Civil War, 2013 to present

USA officials met Garang (South Sudanese rebel leader of SPLA) already in 1990, and Ugandan officials were arrested when they tried to smuggle 400 anti-tank missiles out of US, alongside 34 launcher. A year later the case was quietly dropped, as an US judge determined that the US has approved this mysterious deal. Throughout 1990s, SPLA troops were training in Uganda, and receiving military hardware such as heat-seeking chaparral missiles, hawk ground-to-air-missiles, howitzers, TOW anti-tank missiles, Vulcan cannons. Although western donors deny assistance, the military assistance to Uganda soared around this period. The Sudanese military responded again by arming the LRA of Joseph Kony and so gravely destabilizing both the Sudanese and Ugandan civil wars.

As the Acholi population was known to be anti-government, Museveni forced them into internment camps, for own protection. This was about 2 million. So the refugee camps in Northern Uganda are not the result to help local in habitations, but the results of state campaigns of dislocation and involvement in civil war.

Somalia Civil War

300.000 to 500.000 casualties

Somalia Civil War, 2006 to present

In contrast to violence in the Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, and South Sudan civil wars, Ugandan forces or support in AMISOM do not destabilize the conflict in Somalia, but act as a stabilizing peacekeeping force instead.

In 2006 Somali Islamists, Islamic Courts Union (ICU) took over Mogadishu. On Christmas eve Ethiopian tanks flattened entire neighborhoods in the city after their USA backed invasion, a month later the UN security council allowed AU peacekeeping mission, few supported the unprovoked assault on Somalia, but US and European allies had been preparing Museveni troops for months. The AMISOM mission, continues to earn the Museveni regime around 20 million dollars a year up to today. Meanwhile, many Ugandan AMISOM troops complain that they live in miserable conditions and sometimes aren’t paid for months at a time. In 2013, Museveni son and head of Special Forces Command Muhoozi visited Somalia and asked AMISOM troops to share their concerns. When a soldier questioned why members of some tribes seldom received promotions, whereas members of the Presidents clan moved rapidly through the ranks, he was arrested. In 2017, a soldier accused of stealing ammunition was tortured by having a 15 kilogram sack of weights tied to his penis.

Conclusion

Uganda under Museveni has never been a ‘beacon of stability’. Instead, it has been the center of violent instability in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions. It is terrible to realize that Museveni is praised by the European Union for hosting the largest refugee population in Africa. As showed in this blog, it was Museveni himself who created all those displacements and human misery in North Uganda, Congo, and South Sudan. This complete hypocrisy is telling for the actual deeds of Museveni compared to state/donor narratives. Museveni is adept in the use of force for political gains, an African Bismarck with Machiavellian practices. However, Museveni is also a true master of propaganda and manipulation. He has been able to maintain his ‘outside-in’ perspectives and fool the Western donors for the past 40 years. But we should also not give these Western donors and their journalists too much credit in being ignorant. It is almost impossible to remain blind for the bloodshed of Museveni. Dozens of scholars have written about the corruption, oppression, torture, and massacres at the hands of Museveni. All the evidence is there in plain sight. It is high time we do not accept the continued propaganda and branding of Museveni any longer, and call out any who downplay the bloodshed in and around Uganda. There is a compelling reason to believe that these ambassadors simply do not want to change their support. Last Thursday, 19 February 2021, European diplomats posed with Museveni after a private meeting.

The blood of millions of innocent Africans in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and South Sudan, is on the hands of Museveni and his soldiers. Indirectly, this blood is caused by the continued donor support of maintaining Museveni in power. With their financial and diplomatic support, and the many billions of dollars to the Ugandan government, they have allowed Museveni to act as a ‘beacon of instability’. If the donors want to support the African populations, and ensure real peace in the region, they should distance themselves from Museveni as soon as possible.

European ambassadors pose with Museveni

References

Epstein, H. (2021). The Truth about Museveni’s Crimes. Review of How Insurgency Begins: Rebel Group Formation in Uganda and Beyond. The New York Review of Books.

Why the Ugandan protest turned violent, and how it can be prevented.

After the arrests of opposition leaders Patrick Oboi Amuriat and Bobi Wine on 18th November 2020, widespread protests erupted all over in Uganda for 3 days. Furthermore, Ugandan diaspora protested in other countries such as Canada, Netherlands, Kenya as well, while #freebobiwine was shared by leaders such as Barack Obama and Joe Biden. But the strongest protest took place in central Kampala, which became the scene of frustrated and increasingly angry youth. These youth expressed their anger with burning tires on the streets, and tearing down symbols of the military NRM regime. The state quickly responded with brute force.

This was done through heavy deployment of the Uganda Police Force (UPF), and by unleashing non-uniformed local defense units (LDU’s) who have become increasingly violent during the corona epidemic in the last months. These LDU’s are heavily armed, seemingly uncontrolled, and claiming to be licenced to kill. Through a hail of bullets, killing protesters and innocent bystanders indiscriminately, the marginalized youth saw no other choice than to response with limited acts violence of their own, such as throwing stones and destruction.

Within some incidents, a simmering Buganda ethnic tension resurfaced, who started to rob and intimidate non-Buganda civilians. Although only few incidents, this increased fear among many other elements within society and expats, and played into the hands of the regime, who branded the protesters as ‘NUP hooligans’, even though 90% of the protest did not use violence themselves. This article will delve into why these protests, in particular in Kampala, turned violent, and how it can be prevented.

Patrick Oboi Amuriat arrested

Although Ugandan opposition parties have consistently preached nonviolence, the regime have consistently responded to peaceful actions with extreme violence. Therefore, there is a real danger for explosions of violence among marginalized youth both in urban and rural settings when the status quo remains. In order to understand why the protests became so widespread among youth, and why it turned violent, two concepts are crucial are understand. The first is ‘identification’, and the second is ‘political society’.

Identification

Bobi Wine is just one person. But throughout the lives of youth in Uganda, who form 78% of the population, he has been a present factor using his platform as a musician to speak out against social injustice. His own roots within the marginalized youth, the so-called ‘outcasts’, led to his rise as the ‘Ghetto President’. A leader of those in the ghetto. When he contested for Member of Parliament in Kyadondo East, this campaign led to the ‘People Power movement’. For the first time, youth saw one of their own stand up, facing oppression, hopelessness, and their desperate cry for change. In this process, Bobi Wine became more than a person. He became the personification of Ugandan youth itself.

Therefore, his identity turned into a symbol. His continued defiance to the regime, who turned unable to stop his rise, made him a living legend among many of those who live in the ghetto. Therefore, when he is arrested, for them, it feels as if they themselves are arrested. For them, Bobi Wine became their voice of the voiceless.

They do not care about his academic or intellectual excellence. They have no problem with less articulated messages, as he speaks their language. As no other before him, they feel united by him as their symbol. He drafted political messages preached by other legends such as Dr. Kizza Besigye and Patrick Oboi Amuriat towards what his audience understand and identifies with best: through music. In this process of communication to the youth, simple symbolic messaging and acts are most important.

Bobi Wine arrested

Political society

In most contemporary African countries there are four groups in society: national elite, civil society, rural society, and political society. In contrast to the well-known concept of civil society, organized in groups such as student associations, labour unions, religious communities, and many other NGOs groups, political society live at the most marginalized edge of society. In order words, political society are the urban lower class.

They are the ones facing extreme unemployment, poverty, and their focus is on daily survival. They have only two relations to the state: complete neglect, or extreme violence. Often they are neglected, increasing their marginalization. In contrast to civil society, who might be critical or in communication with the state in favour of reforms, the political society demands are always only met with brute violence.

Because of their extreme poverty short-term thinking within a survival mindset guides their actions. This makes NRM bribery of votes for small things like food or 5.000 ugs effective, a thing called ‘kitu-kidogo’, something small, something the NRM regime has effectively used to corrupt their political engagement.

On their own, political society can be easily oppressed through a combination of brute force and short-term economic benefits. As the constant language they have received from the state when they demand for change is brutal violence, the only method they know in their interaction with the state is violence of their own (Branch & Mampilly 2015). This is a strong difference from civil society protesting in Western countries, to which this sort of police brutality would be unthinkable.

Ugandan protests, 18-20 November

So when Bobi Wine and Patrick Oboi Amuriat were, they felt they themselves were arrested. They went to the streets and demanded change through the only language they know in relation to the state: acts of sabotage, burning fires, tearing down NRM symbols, throwing stones, and occupying public spaces through protest and occupation. As they are not organized by experienced protest veterans trained in nonviolent protest (such as those of FDC), they did what they could. As they stand isolated from the rest of Ugandan society, their own grievances were the main focus. Unfortunately, by protesting in this form, they played directly in the hands of a military regime.

Oppression of political society

Military regimes excel in using force, this is where most focus and resources are allocated to. So when political society uses violent elements in their protest, such as throwing stones, burning tires, and other forms of sabotage, they make it difficult to perceive who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys. Weaker parts of society, or foreign expats, become terrified for instability, and seek for safety and stability.

By using violent acts as peaceful demonstrators, the image becomes blurred, and when the image becomes blurred military regimes will directly exploit it in their propaganda. This can worsened by simmering ethnic sentiments, which also came to the surface in the violent Buganda riots of 2009. In 2009, non-Buganda Ugandans were halted and those that spoke Luganda with a dialect were robbed or beaten. This short eposide of ethnic violence created extreme fear among all other elements of society, which is still present. Any sign of Buganda violence therefore directly distances civil society, NGO’s, and the international community. When acts of violence are used by political society, all others become afraid, and instead of uniting society, it divided society.

A similar thing could be observed in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the United States. When the protests were peaceful, all of society, old people, parents with children, civil society, women, joined the protests in signs of defiance. However, when elements within political society used acts of violence and sabotage, fear spread, and they distanced the other elements of society. This is a shame, as all are united in that they agree on the reason for protest, but the method, acts of throwing stones and burning tires & buildings, is what then divides and eventually stalls a protest. Therefore, in the moment of protest that acts of violence were used, it resulted into the stagnation of the protests and can lead to eventual failure.

Of course, it is of extreme importance to have understanding for why they use violence. Almost always, it is the state, not the people, who start using violence. As a result, decades of oppression, fear, anger, loss of the oppressed, all explode into these moments of action. But it is instructive to not perceive youth as ‘hooligans’, as the regime narrative is now trying to do, but as political society who have only known the language of violence because of their brutal oppression. But successful protest can be done a different way.

Way forward

Fortunately, the Ugandan opposition under leadership of FDC and NUP have never preached violence, or ethnic division. Their messages where of a constant focus on the liberation and empowerment of all Ugandans, not only certain ethnicities. They have called for nonviolence in all their actions. The several incidents of Buganda discriminating other ethnic groups during the instability have been condemned, and should be perceived as isolated incidents of a lurking danger when violent instability comes.

However, the opposition leaders understand the realities of the Ugandan political society, and the extreme desperation and anger that live among them. They try to prevent violence at all cost, but they are aware of why political society uses violence.

Therefore, there is a strong demand to maintain non-violence in opposition activities. In this, they are confronted by a military regime that uses extreme force, especially in the form of the illegal LDU units. Often, the regime uses incognito agents to provoke violence in protests, so they can use their own violence to most effect. When it are only state security forces who are using violence, the people can use their own suffering to most effect.

Using your own suffering as your main weapon will need training, but there is nothing more powerful than a defiant people, suffering injustice with dignity and continued defiance, and let the world see what is happening.

When they only use violence, while the people optimize only use their suffering, it becomes extremely clear who the bad guys and good guys are. This is the essence of peaceful revolution. This also what Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dr. Besigye, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, and Bobi Wine have constantly showed.

LDU killing unarmed citizens in Kampala

Alliances between political society and activists, students, and civil society

The answer to prevent political society using acts of violence again in protest, lies in forming alliances between the political society, and other elements of society. In particular, the experienced nonviolent activists of FDC, who have become used to optimizing their own suffering against violence, students, and civil society should connect and unite with political society in the ghettos. In this alliance, they nurture the importance of nonviolence, and training in how to show defiance without throwing stones and burning tires.

Successful peaceful protest

An effective form of peaceful protest can be marches and vigils, using chants, music instruments, and singing, in showing desperation and demand change. This was also effectively used in the successful protests of Sudan in 2019. The Sudanese were also met with extreme violence, but they maintained their nonviolent nonetheless, and achieved victory within a matter of time. The following video’s illustrate their protests.

Although the regime now tries to create a narrative of protesters as ‘hooligans’, as this benefits them in portraying the peaceful opposition groups as ‘terrorists’ to the international community and civil society, this is incorrect. In contrast to the incidents of violence and sabotage, Ugandans also protested in very effective ways.

Walking together massively, chanting freedom, using singing and music, they became an inviting sight. It inspires those that see it, create a feeling of joy instead of fear. As you can see in these video’s you see children, elderly, and parents joining these inspirational marches. It creates in the two most important goals of peaceful protest: uniting society against injustice, and nurture joy & hope instead of fear.

https://www.facebook.com/100054213758211/videos/162215428928915/

This form of protest should be used in all following moments of mass action in Uganda. This can be achieved by efficient organization of activists in their relation to political society, and the inclusion of students and civil society in community works and charity.

Uganda is one of the most fertile countries in Africa, focus opposition resources on providing a lunch of posho & beans for political society by these groups of FDC activists, students, and civil society. With a full belly, this gives an excellent opportunity to create understanding for nonviolent action, and the training for protest. United, where students, activists, and civil society provide ideology and training, and political society provide strength and mass, protests will become so huge that it will be impossible to counter.

Female Commando’s

It is a good idea to prevent police confrontation during demonstrations. In this a barrier of attractive (and brave) Ugandan women between the police and the angry young men can be used. These are the Female Commando’s. As the young men are most eager to clash with the police, and police will earlier use force when they are afraid, it can be effective to provide a ‘wall’ between both groups. Let these women fraternize with the police officers, let them hand over short leaflets of opposition goal directly targeted towards police officers, give them food, easy tensions. Police officers who are not afraid that they will be attacked by violent protesters, will be more hesitant in using force themselves.

Female Commando’s

Protest Police

Huge crowds often attract criminal elements that love the opportunities to create chaos and anarchy. These are indeed the real ‘hooligans’. For every planned protest, appoint a team of strong and calm activists that function as the ‘protest police’. Train them to locate potential individuals or groups of hooligans and how to neutralize them, and move away from the crowd of genuine peaceful protesters. As a regime often sends officers without uniform into protest crowds to try to provoke violence (for example by starting with throwing stones), this Protest Police can be instrumental to allocate and remove them before they can do harm.

Good luck

Get creative in finding ways for building alliances between political society and the rest of Ugandan society, and devise ways for how to maintain nonviolent discipline in the face of extreme oppression. When the Ugandan democratic forces succeed in uniting the whole population by building alliances, and transforming their abilities for continued peaceful protest, they will be free within a matter of time.

References

Branch, A. & Mampilly, Z. (2015). Africa Uprising: Popular Protest and Political Change. London.

De Bruijn, M. & Both, J. (2017). Youth between State and Rebel (Dis)Orders: Contesting Legitimacy from below in Sub-Sahara Africa. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 28:4-5.       779-798.

Di Nunzio, M. (2012). “We are good at surviving”: Street Hustling in Addis Ababa’s Inner City. Urban Forum (2012) 23:433-447.

Honwana, A. (2012). The Time of Youth, work, social change and politics in Africa.          Kumarian Press. Sterling.

Katebalirwe Amooti Wa Irumba. (1985). The Role of the Educated Youth in Rural            Development. Mawazo Vol. 6 No. 2 December 1985.

Sharp, G. (2002). From Dictatorship to Democracy. Serpent’s Tail.

Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (https://canvasopedia.org/)

Our image of the world is wrong

Images are powerful. They can alter unconscious beliefs. In the last 400 years, one image in particular has greatly influenced the beliefs of both Africans and the rest of the world population about Africa.

Let me first use an example of the destructive power of images. It is in the interest of western aid organizations that their populations start to feel pity for poor people. As a result, they share lot of images and videos to generate that feeling of pity. Especially the image of black African baby’s with flies around their faces seems to have been effective. By constantly showing this image, this has instilled the unconscious belief that Africans are poor, helpless, sick, and in short: desperate to be saved.

By constantly seeing this image of Africans as victims, a sense of victimhood was developed. This image of a victim led to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The aid that is sent from outside is not used for long-term solutions of empowerment, but for a cycle of dependency. Even worse, both African governments and major aid organizations benefit most from this situation, and most of this aid ends up into their pockets.

That is why many initiatives (often of young Africans) in the last years have tried to create a different picture of Africa. A positive image where Africa is not depicted as this miserable place full of disease and starvation, but full of beautiful lands and cultures like any other place on earth. What they try to do, is to change the image. Because when the image changes, the unconscious belief will follow.

The world as you know it, is an illusion.

In this blog I will focus on a different image of Africa. This image has greatly distorted the reality. The world as you know it, is an illusion.

The Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator created a map of the world in 1569, which is known as the Mercator Projection. The focus of this map was on naval navigation, which was of particular importance for trading routes from Europe. Due to the central position of Europe, the Northern Hemisphere was greatly expanded, while the Southern Hemisphere was projected much smaller than it actually is. This image Is still the most widely used image of the world.

The Mercator Projection

There are some things that stand out. One element is the enormous size of Northern America versus Southern America, or the size of Greenland versus that of Africa. Also Europe is quite large in size compared to Africa. It is important for us to realize that this map is a projection, and in this case, a projection that has greatly distorted the actual sizes of the different continents on the world.

For many hundreds of years, this projection was used as the universal standard. It has implanted an image of the world and its continents in our brains. This has created a false belief about both the size and central position of what is we often call the Western world, the First world, or the Northern Hemisphere.

A more recent projection was developed by German cartographer Oswald Winkel in 1921, which is currently overtaking the Mercator projection. It is the official map of National Geographic, which adopted it in 1998. Most educational institutes and textbooks have also started to adopt the projection. However, a more recent projection shows the real sizes of continents relative to each other.

The Winkel Tripel Projection

This critical approach is the Gall-Peters projection. The projection became a point of debate in the early 1970’s by German historian Arno Peters, who brought the design of Scottish clergyman James Gall of 1855 to a larger audience. In this projection all areas have the correct sizes relative to each other. Especially Africa stands out, as it far larger than most people realize.

The Gall-Peters Projection

In order to achieve the projection of correct sizes relative to others the actual shapes of the continents are a bit distorted, so the image is not yet perfect.

However, it creates a more realistic image of the size of the continents compared to each other than the Mercator’s projection, or even the Winkel’s Projections. That is why UNESCO has started to use this projection, and since 2017 some schools in the United States are replacing their maps with this projection.

The single most important problem of African youth are their beliefs and mindsets.

Why is this so important? The single most important problem of African youth are their beliefs and mindsets.

Many young Africans constantly see the colonial projection of Mercator as the map of the world in their classrooms. This has created the belief that Africa is a marginalized southern continent, less wealthy and powerful than the great, exemplary western world of Europe and USA.

Besides this wrong image in their geography lessons, they also receive wrong images in their history classes. As a legacy from colonialism, Western history still takes a prominent place in most African education textbooks. Many learn about Cicero, Shakespeare, or Napoleon. What they don’t learn, is their own glorious history of Ancient Africa. Of Egypt, Carthage, wealthy Mali, and the trans-Saharan trade routes full of gold. Or the sophisticated libraries of Alexandra and Timbuktu. For most of human history, Africa was a center of science and wealth. There are many thousands of inspirational stories about African history before it was colonized. As an Africanist reading about this inspiring history of Africa, I have realized how distorted the image of Africa in the last 300 years has become.

This lack of images of their own correct history and geography, has greatly influenced their self-worth as Africans, and has had a destructive influence on their identity. Many young Africans look up to the Western nations as role models. Many brilliant students try to leave Africa as soon as they have the network, scholarship, or job to do so. Sometimes, they are even ashamed for their black skins. A worrying phenomenon is the increasing amount of African women who are bleaching their skin in an attempt to chemically ‘alter’ their outlook.

In contrast to this majority, there is a growing group of Africans that are fully aware of their real history and their real geography. They have become confident, critical and inspiring leaders as a result. They realize that black is beautiful, and nothing to be ashamed of. They have connected to and accepted their identity as Africans, and are proud of it. I expect that these enlightened role models will increase in number in the coming years.

I firmly believe that when African youth will start to replace the old images with the real images, this will greatly influence their beliefs. No longer shall they want to be pitied, and be dependent on ‘saviors’ either white or any other color.

African youth must be enlightened, and made aware about their own glorious history, extremely vast and rich lands, inspiring culture full of art and science. This is what is called the African Renaissance, and with this blog I aim to share what I have learned from inspirational African scholars about African history.

Only when African youth will escape from their current mind-sets and beliefs, will it become possible for them to start become independent, confident, and proud Africans, who need no one to solve their challenges besides themselves.

As all journeys start with a single step, so should the first step in this journey be that all primary, secondary, and tertiary schools in Africa replace the Mercator Projection with the Gall-Peters projection. I would even suggest that all schools in the world should consider to start using the Gall-Peters projection.

A comparison shows how large Africa really is

This is not only important for young Africans. It is important that all citizens in the world become aware about our distorted images of the world, and Africa in particular. Too often, people that have not visited Africa yet, have been faced with incorrect images by aid commercials, negative news stories, or Hollywood stereotypes. As a result, they have gained an unconscious belief that Africa is full of misery and need to be saved. I hope that with this blog I have enlightened the minds of both Africans and non-Africans. Africa does not need to be saved, it only needs to be awakened. As soon as Africans become aware about their glorious history, geography, culture, and opportunities, peace and prosperity will follow.

References

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=258516312255215

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2018/11/all-over-the-map-mental-mapping-misconceptions/

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/world-map-wrong-mercator-peters-projection-boston/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2596783/Why-world-map-youre-looking-WRONG-Africa-China-Mexico-distorted-despite-access-accurate-satellite-data.html

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6381437/Our-maps-WRONG-Graphic-shows-just-touch-common-world-map-really-is.html

https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/travel/2017/04/16/the-world-map-is-wrong-heres-how-it-really-looks/

Is your research based on outside-in perspectives?

The perspectives that establish the situation of a foreign country are often determined by the government and news agencies. These are informed by the intelligence of defence, government, NGO’s, and local correspondents. The perspectives shared with the Dutch or European population at large are often informed by these ‘outside-in’ perspectives, not necessarily creating a realistic view on what is happening underground. This is interesting, as my personal experience has been showing a different perspective while doing research in Uganda for my thesis of the master African Studies.

From the outside-in perspective, Uganda is considered as a reliable, stable, and safe partner of the Netherlands. It is praised by the Dutch government as a regional policeman, contributing to security in the region, with a steady macro-economic development. Dutch citizens can safely visit and do business in Uganda, which is receiving millions of development aid. But the inside-out perspective says otherwise.

Inside-out perspectives

After interviewing youths in Uganda, from students, professionals, activists, to slum dwellers about their current social-political and economic situation, I got a completely different description of the Ugandan government. It was described as an oppressive dictatorship by all persons interviewed. There are critical internal voices about a sophisticated veil of intelligence in order to maintain control of the government, based on external legitimism like in colonial times. Several hundreds of thousands motorcycle-taxi drivers were enlisted as informers, to ensure that there was no freedom after speech, even though it seems the Ugandan population have freedom of speech to the outside world. The population has been forced into dependency of the government; a situation described in the academic debate as waithood. Civil society organizations or opposition groups were actively neutralized to ensure control of the government. Semi-structured interviews helped me to discover that the ‘outside-in’ image of international donors on security and governance can be quite the opposite from the ‘inside-out’ perspective of the Ugandans themselves.

This painful contrast between the outside-in perspective which describes Uganda as a safe country, and the inside-out perspective which instead describes Uganda as a sophisticated dictatorship actively oppressing any opposition and free behaviour, contribute to instability instead. It makes me wonder if this is the case in more African countries. What if our approaches has been built mainly on outside-in perspectives, and less on the real situations, based on inside-out perspectives?

Day 9: Energy

Some people seem to have energy the moment they wake until they go to bed. Others are tired all day long, watching the clock continuously, hoping that they can go home again soon to watch their favourite TV programme.

I did a course about how to optimize your energy some time back, at SoChicken made by Jelle Hermus. I found his comparison to a rechargable battery and a bucket of water interesting.

The common convention is that we are batteries, that start at 100% and get to 0% as the day progresses. Over time, we need evenings, weekend and holidays to recover. He argued that there are so many leaks these batteries often get broken, especially when there is too much pressure with not enough recharging moments. When these batteries are using their emergency ratio’s consistantly without time to recharge, this often leads to a battery who is not able to recharge well anymore. The same happens with people that get a burn-out. After a burn-out, they need a much longer time to repair their battery again.

The leaks he mentioned were multi-tasking, bad sleep, lots of caffeine, sugar and alcohol, television, social media, constant use of mobile phone, distractions by news and apps, overthinking, procrastination and sad or angry emotions. All of these leaks made the battery lose energy.

However, he also argued that when these leaks would be taken away, preventing energy to leak and thus remain usable, we could become overflowing buckets of water. Instead of starting the day with 100% energy and having 0% at the end of the day, we get energy from specific inputs: sleep, food, sports, relaxing time, travelling, energizing work, interesting conversations etc. If we can prevent the leaks as much as possible, combined with having as much energy inputs as possible, we start to gain more energy instead of lose it, becoming an overflowing bucket of water.

I definitely liked this philosophy behind energy and try to minimize my energy leaks while optimizing my energy inputs as much as possible, with more fulfilling, productive and enjoyable days as the result.

Day 8: Morning Ritual – Productivity

A third benefit of waking earlier to have a morning ritual is to plan your day. By making a plan for the day, visualizing yourself achieving it, you create focus and order.

This can be done by creating a to do list for the day, plan how much time you want to allocate per task (the larger ones), how you will take breaks and how you enjoy your free time.

By better planning and focus you upprade your productivity, and it will eventually be how productive you become, how much income you will earn.

Day 7: Morning Ritual – Gratitude

One of the most powerful realizations in my life has been that you can not be afraid, or sad when you feel grateful. Compared to most people I know, I am generally calm and in control of my emotions and optimistic.

This has an effect on a lot of things, as I am extremely grateful for a lot of things. When something bad happens, I am often the first who looks for things to be grateful for which alters my emotions completely.

By being grateful for what you already have in your life: life itself, health, a house, family, friends, a partner, a pet, a job, financial income etc. at the first moment of the day, this influences the rest of the day and life in general. You make your choices based on your hopes instead of your fears.

Day 6: Morning Ritual – Sports

The idea behind doing exercises in the morning is that you activate your body and metabolism so it will process food more effectively.

The exercises could be anything, personally I like to do push-ups to build my core and as you can do them practically everywhere, I could eventually add or completely replace this with sit-ups. I do 2 sets of 50 push-ups.

You could also make the whole ritual based around sports as you are running, cycling or swimming anyways. At the moment I cucle 2-3 times per week to my work in the Hague which is 22K back and forth. I want to either run or swim the days that I am not cycling.