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Luwero War was Justified despite What Museveni has Become Today

By Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
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Dear people,
Whatever has become of president Museveni today, I still believe the Luwero Triangle war was justified and I support the initiative taken by Museveni and others to fight the Obote's government. To broaden this discussion a bit, I'm gonna mention the main principles of the justice of war which are: having just cause, being declared by a proper authority, possessing right intention, having a reasonable chance of success, and the end being proportional to the means used. Museveni and Group had a just cause: getting rid of a dictatorial government which had stolen the 1980 elections. The authority that declared war was a mixture of UPM and other registered parties in Uganda (forming something called NRM/NRA) and their intentions were good at the time and most Ugandans supported them particularly the Baganda. NRA/NRM fought a guerrilla war for only 5 years and that justifies the envisaged success. They knew that the population was behind them and that's why they chose the Buganda spot where Obote was openly hated.

What exactly happened during the course of fighting in Luwero like killing innocent civilians; using child soldiers; and so on, cannot make a war unjustifiable and we have got international bodies that deal with people who break rules of war fare. For instance international agreements such as the Geneva and Hague conventions are historical rules aimed at limiting certain kinds of warfare. The real Luwero war was justified and there is no question about this. If any crimes were commited by the Museveni soldiers while in Luwero, then some body should investigate this and hand it to over to the international bodies but it does not make a war unjustifiable.

Mr.Otunnu, the UPC president, is already asking for investigations in the Luwero war and it was very wrong for General Tinyenfunza to threaten him in response. By the way, these NRM guys don't make threats as Mr.Otunnu may think. Let him ask Besigye who has since been subjected to anything you can think of, to the extent that he had to shift the remainder of his close family abroad. He has to make tours to USA every now and then to see his wife and son. Ambassador Otuunu should be ready for the fire in the kitchen because it's gonna be very hot.

However, I must warn Ugandans that there are legal arguments in this area of what is considered moral and immoral when fighting a war. It is not an easy case of pointing fingers as some people are doing now. For example, to defeat Germany in World War II, it was deemed necessary to bomb civilian centres, or in the US Civil War, for General Sherman to burn Atlanta. Secondly, how do you morally justify the discovery and use of nuclear weapons in a war and end up killing more people than those that were killed in Luwero Triangle and bushes? The Soviets acquired nuclear and thermonuclear weapons in 1948 and 1953 respectively but an attack in 1948 was not seriously considered. An attack on the Soviet Union was quickly rejected by Eisenhower in 1953—although the main obstacle seems to have been the feasibility of removing permanently the threat in one attack. Similarly, would you consider the Israeli destruction in 1981 by F-15's and F-16's of a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in Iraq a just war or not—although the U.S. and U.N. at the time formally condemned the attack and the Israeli policy? There are several examples including the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

The problem with some UPC supporters is that they just take things at face value without critically analyzing issues. Now let us analyse the internal dynamics of the war before they start comparing the Joseph Kony war and the NRA war (1980-86) .First of all, there is a difference between the conventional war and an irregular war (guerrilla war). Conventional wars have clear front lines in which attacks take place mostly from barricades and stable positions. Violence against civilians and combatants takes place in clearly distinguished spaces. Civilians are generally isolated from the battlefield: while some may live close to the frontlines, or even go there to visit combatants, their life is somewhat independent from the events taking place in it. The American Civil war (1861-1865) was a typical example of a conventional civil war. We have not had that kind of war in Uganda history since independence.

In Guerrilla wars (like Luwero Triangle), such a clear spatial distinction between battlefield and non-battlefield areas is lacking, as the war takes place unevenly all over the territory. In consequence, there is a greater mingling of civilians and combatants. So despite the fact that it is called the Luwero Triangle war, civilians were killed in other parts of the country as well. The battle lines were not limited in Luwero.

Civilians are killed in a guerrilla war when, for example, civilians hide potential victims, they help them to flee to other places; they give false indications to the groups, remain silent, or even engage in violent confrontation with the group. Going by this explanation, it's so likely that the Obote men or UNLA would be the one to exert violence on the civilian population during the Luwero Triangle war. Several people were killed between 1980 and 1985 because they were thought to be 'Bayekela' (rebels) or helping the 'bayekela'. Obote had no support from Buganda where most of the killing took place. He had 'lost' an election in 1980 but he decided to impose himself on the people of Uganda. So the aggrieved party here was the people of Uganda.

In Kony's case, civilians in the north were most likely killed by the rebels because of non-cooperation with an enemy or occupier (NRMO government), civilian disobedience, and ideological opposition- “civilian defence”. Actually, the war in northern Uganda was one of the trickiest civil wars in the world because It's very difficult to know who was doing the more killing between LRA and UPDF.

The difference between the Joseph Kony war or LRA war and Luwero Triangle war was that Joseph Kony failed to mobilize majority of the population in the north to support his cause unlike museveni who convinced majority of the population in the south of Uganda to support his cause to get rid of Obote dictatorship. Where there is a high level of mobilization of the population, armed groups are prone to target civilians in order to sweep the rears of potentially challenging enemies.

Well the point am trying to make here is that wars are justifiable depending on what I have mentioned above. However, what happens during the war does not make a war unjustifiable. Therefore, Museveni's war against Obote's forces was justifiable and if he had not done it, probably some body else would have done it.

Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
United Kingdom