Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary (MFJ) in Britain sends greetings and solidarity to the youth of Uganda who are defying the police and troops of a corrupt dictator, and fighting for freedom and democracy. The courage and determination you have demonstrated, week after week, in the face of mass arrests, beatings, tear gas, live ammunition, kidnapping and murder is an inspiration to youth around the world who are demanding real change and hope for the future.
MFJ is an organisation that fights by any means necessary to defeat racism and racists and end the British government’s persecution of immigrants and refugees. Most of us are refugees from countries in Africa – many of us are from Uganda. We are building an integrated mass movement that is led by immigrants and youth, and fights for equal rights and the end of poverty for everyone who lives in Britain. We recognise that our struggles are international.
Your movement that is rising up in response to the election campaign of Kyagulanyi Robert and the National Unity Platform (NUP) is already changing Uganda. Your power is on the streets and it has transformed this election campaign. It is replacing cynicism with hope. The corrupt, 35-year old regime of President Yoweri Museveni is in crisis.
Your victory will resound across Africa, among other youthful populations that are impoverished by exploitation and living under corrupt, repressive governments. Like you, we long to see Africa become a continent that young people do not have to leave in order to find safety and build a better life. Your victory will inspire youth everywhere who are fighting racism, poverty and repression – in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Everywhere, youth are leading the struggle against rich and powerful rulers who want to suffocate our hopes and dreams.
Museveni’s defeat is assured, and whether or not he accepts defeat it will be the start of a new chapter in the history of Uganda. You must write that new chapter. An election can only be a starting point in the fight for a New Uganda. We are confident that you will recognise your own power and that, whatever happens on 14th January, you will continue to build your movement until you win.
The struggle is between the poor and the rich
Right now the police and military are trying to disrupt Kyagulanyi’s campaign and your rallies every single day. They are defending a corrupt system – not just defending the Museveni family and its shrinking circle of allies. Your movement is a threat to the interests of many rich, powerful and corrupt people in Uganda – and your victory will be seen as a threat by the foreign corporations and banks that are exploiting Uganda. They all fear People Power – your power.
Kyagulanyi and the NUP have an ambitious programme of reforms. They plan to eradicate corruption and the abuses of power that rob the poor and oppressed of their rights, their land and their livelihoods. They aim to revive the agricultural co-operatives that were destroyed by Museveni’s privatisation policies, retrieve stolen money and relieve Uganda from its mounting burden of foreign debt. However, they will face enormous resistance from individuals and corporations (Ugandan and foreign) who grew rich under Museveni and now control most of the state machine and a large part of the economy. They will use those positions to protect their wealth and privilege and put immense pressure on an NUP government.
Your power, as a mass movement on the streets and in your communities, is the only force that can defeat the rich and powerful. The land grabbers and the people who steal aid money have never bothered about the laws, and they are ready to ignore the will of the electorate. The only force that will defeat them is the united struggle of Uganda’s poor and oppressed against all their exploiters and oppressors. Defeating the sabotage by the rich, corrupt groups that have thrived under Museveni’s ‘National Resistance Movement’ (NRM) will inevitably mean extending the NUP’s present plans for reform.
Take back the stolen land
A key issue will be the land and the ‘land grabbing.’ 80% of Uganda’s people, including many of the poorest and most oppressed, live in the rural districts and depend on the land. This is about their rights and welfare. It is a national scandal that officials, generals, politicians and powerful figures in the NRM have been able to seize vast areas of farmland, forests, wetlands and fisheries and evict many thousands of small farmers. This stolen land and the diverted water courses must be taken back from the land grabbers and from their partners-in-crime – the international agribusiness corporations that have benefitted enormously from this theft. The land must be returned to the people – by mass occupations where necessary. There should be no question of compensating the thieves for the loss of stolen property.
Land that is used for agriculture or pasture should be returned to the evicted small farmers or, where appropriate, developed as state farms under the democratic control of farm workers. Decisions about the recovery, redistribution and use of land should be made and carried out democratically, by mass assemblies and locally elected committees of small farmers, landless farmers and farm workers.
That will be a powerful blow against the small minority that grew rich under Museveni. It will assure the poor and oppressed in rural areas that the promise of change is real. It will be a strong basis for restoring the farmers’ co-operatives, expanding education in the countryside, improving conditions for the majority of women in Uganda and feeding a growing population. It will lift up the whole of Ugandan society and advance Uganda’s real independence from the world’s richest and most powerful countries.
The fight for equality and democracy
The NUP has extensive plans to attack discrimination in order to create greater equality. This ambition reflects the growing thirst for social change in Uganda. It runs through the NUP’s election manifesto, dealing with the rights of children and youth, ending child marriage, establishing first-language education in primary schools for all Uganda’s communities, and especially in the extensive plans to combat gender inequality and improve the position of Uganda’s women. A radical, democratic solution to the land question that reduces rural poverty will be the material basis for the success of these plans.
However, these plans do not challenge the discrimination and persecution of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals & transexuals (LGBT) that has become the biggest political weapon of Museveni and his allies. The NRM relies on anti-gay prejudice in the same way that Donald Trump and the British government rely on racism. All those rulers are making life harder for the mass of the people who they exploit and oppress. They need to put the blame for the problems they create onto some minority group, persecute that group, and try to keep poor people divided.
In Uganda and across Africa, youth are the growing and increasingly rebellious majority of society. The old rulers like Museveni have nothing to offer them. Anti-gay campaigns that condemn different ways of expressing love and sexuality, along with policies that impose a conservative view of the position of women (like the Pornography Act) are designed to restrict and control the rebelliousness and dynamism of youth.
Many of us in MFJ had to leave Uganda and other countries because we suffered torture and threats to our lives as LGBT people. That experience is a big part of what makes us the most determined fighters against racism in Britain – and it is why we passionately support the fight for democracy by Uganda’s youth, why we weep as we watch the persecution of Kyagulanyi and the murder of his supporters.
Museveni will continue to use the weapon of anti-gay prejudice to cling to power and undermine the fight for democracy. We call on the youth of Uganda to challenge the anti-gay policies and recognise your country’s brave fighters for LGBT equality. Demand the abolition of all anti-gay laws.
Youth are the key to progress & real independence in Uganda & Africa
We are confident that a challenge to this prejudice will be successful because Uganda has one of the most youthful populations in the world, and around the world young people are the driving force for change, ready to reject old prejudices and embrace freedom for themselves and for others. And because youth are so important to Uganda’s future, we believe the voting age should be reduced to 16. That will ensure that the majority of the population is able to vote.
The collective power of Uganda’s youth, YOUR movement, will be central to the success of the struggles ahead: protecting the election; driving the dictator and his allies from their positions of power; reclaiming the looted land, property and money; establishing quality education and health care for every Ugandan. Your battles will and MUST inspire millions of young, poor and oppressed people across Africa and beyond, because every country in Africa faces similar problems and the same enemies. This will be vital in the battle to throw off the cruel burden of foreign debt that is such a huge obstacle to progress and equality in all the world’s poorest countries. In order to win, your movement must become international.
We stand with you in this fight. To quote from the conclusion of MFJ’s “Pledge for young leaders of the new integrated, independent, civil & immigrant rights movement:”
“We Pledge to the millions of oppressed people around the world, most of whom we will never know but all of whom we regard as our brothers and sisters, that we will fight for freedom, equality and the right of all of us to democratically decide the future of each of our own nations…. Your blood is our blood. Your struggle for freedom is our struggle for freedom. Your dreams and hopes echo in our hearts and minds. The borders that separate us will not divide us…. We can, if we act, create a new society in which the needs of humanity come before the enrichment of a few and… human beings can finally think, love and socialise as equals while protecting and realising the great potential of both human beings and all that inhabit this earth.”