“The culture of capturing and retaining power by the gun is militarism which undermines the culture of democracy.” Former minister Daniel Omara Atubo
Daniel Omara Atubo, a former minister in the ruling NRM government, has said in his new book that his former boss, President Museveni, has kept a firm grip on power through abuse of the military, Constitution and treasury.
In the book titled “Calming The Storm”, Atubo claims that since Museveni took power by the gun in 1986, “the army has been the bedrock of his government, but coated with civilian participation and periodic elections.”
“The culture of capturing and retaining power by the gun is militarism which undermines the culture of democracy.”
Atubo, under Museveni’s regime, served in several capacities, as minister of state and cabinet minister for 10 years, in ministries such as Foreign Affairs, Defence, Lands, Housing and Urban Development and at one time acted as the attorney general. He says the military has aided Museveni’s retention of power.
“The internal rebellion and regional wars allowed Museveni to consolidate his militarism, to amass wealth for elections and to weaken any form of opposition to his regime…if Uganda does not get rid of militarism, we shall continue to pay dearly. Militarism is being promoted and consolidated in our politics, economy, culture, religion, education and social life,” he says, adding that the military is the very antithesis of democracy and competitive multiparty politics.
“Militarism is not only confined to the army but also extends to the intelligence organs, police, prisons and even civilian operatives. The civil police are headed by army generals, thereby imparting military leadership, training and attitudes.”
Atubo’s book comes at a time when there is a heated public debate about the army’s role in politics and its continued representation in Parliament.
Atubo’s book, dotted with his speeches, contributions to parliamentary debates and official documents he wrote while in government, attempts to show that Museveni’s obsession with power started to manifest itself as early as 1986. In chapter One of the book, he discusses leadership through his personal experience.
He says that during debate on the Legal Notice, which extended the NRA leadership for four years from 1989, he vehemently opposed the move.
“My advice was vigorously opposed and outrightly rejected. I believe NRM missed a great opportunity to lay a foundation to democratise a new Uganda…I realised that the NRM/A was more interested in raw state power than in promoting democracy and promoting institutions.”
Whereas the 1995 Constitution was promulgated to reflect people’s aspirations, Atubo says that no sooner had this Constitution been written than some of its provisions regarding political party activities and presidential two term limits became very contentious. During the Constituency Assembly, Atubo belonged to a group of political activists opposed to the banning of political parties. Although Uganda restored political party politics, he says political parties continued to be weak due to years of confinement and problems relating to leadership, internal democracy, funding and militarism.
“As of now, the Movement is the dominant party, with all resources at its disposal and supported by the state and the military.”
On term limits, he writes that Article 105(2) was a great innovation which limited the president to two five-year terms.
“It was a great tragedy that this provision was removed using corrupt means and amidst strong opposition from me and many others. Ugandans were never consulted as they were during the Odoki Constitutional Commission.”
Atubo joins his cabinet colleagues; Eriya Kategaya and Jaberi Bidandi Ssali to criticise Museveni for removing presidential term limits.
“In his book entitled ‘Impassioned for Freedom’, the late Eriya Kategaya, the former first deputy Prime Minister and Museveni’s childhood friend, wrote on pages 131-132, ‘Of late, I have been told that politicians are people without a sense of shame. All along I trusted President Museveni whenever we agreed on what to do but the kisanja project (deletion of two term limits) has shaken my faith in him. It is not only President Museveni who has shaken my faith and trust in leaders but some of my colleagues in cabinet are equally guilty. It seems the survival instinct overrides everything else’.”
In their autobiographies, Bidandi Ssali and Sam Kalega Njuba, all former ministers, harshly criticised the president for lifting presidential term limits. Although Atubo’s reversal to Museveni’s government in 2007 was publicly criticised as political opportunism, he writes that the politics of opportunism reigns high in today’s politics.
“Principles are sacrificed for survival. Whoever has the money calls the tune. In order to eat, some leaders abandon principles. Buying a leader is high corruption and both the seller and buyer are morally and spiritually dead… What they care about are material things and power,” he writes.
Atubo also says that bad leaders make a country ungovernable after their departure due to failure to build strong institutions.
“While in power, bad leaders survived on patronage, division, creating many small units and personal loyalty within the army and other security organs,” he writes, and asks whether Uganda will be governable after Museveni.
“For 42 years, Gaddafi ruled Libya with an iron fist. Living by his own words, he had to be chased out of power and killed. Gaddafi left the then proud and prosperous Libya in shambles.”
While launching the book yesterday, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga hailed Atubo for appealing to public lamentation.
“You have addressed this concern… whenever a public figure dies there is lamentation that they have not put down their record,”Kadaga said, adding that the book would be read by members. The foreword by Prof Joe Oloka-Onyango, a lecturer of constitutional law at Makerere University, says Atubo’s book is married to a biography and memoir, because it records important “historical events in which the author was himself involved.”
Who is Atubo?
Born 67 years ago at Ngetta Catholic Mission in Lira, Atubo went to Ngetta primary school, Aloi-Ongom Junior Secondary School and St Mary’s College Kisubi before joining Makerere University to read law in 1969.
He was in the second pioneer class of the Bachelor of Laws at Makerere University and he belonged to the first intake at Law Development Centre for the then newly- instituted bar course of post graduate diploma in legal practice.
After enrolment as an advocate, Atubo worked with the ministry of Justice, rising to the rank of Senior State Attorney and was later seconded to the then Kampala City Council as its first city advocate in 1976. During Amin’s regime, he went to exile and taught law in Tanzania, before getting involved with the Uganda National Liberation Front that was established to oversee the removal Amin.
He was a member of the National Consultative Council, a delegate in the Constituency Assembly, representing Otuke. He was a Member of Parliament for Otuke for three terms, secretary to Bank of Uganda and served as a minister for 10 years. He is married with children.