NUP Leaders Should Help Museveni Release Their Supporters In Prison

By Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba

When you want to bring back your supporters, especially those wrongfully arrested and where the rule of law and court system is not straightforward, it is better to negotiate a prisoner release. People like NUP’s Abed Bwanika do not wish the lives of ordinary human folk who have been caught up in a political fight to be adversely affected.

When it comes to negotiations, the people who scream and yell and make the biggest fuss about walking out on the deal, actually don’t mean it. They are just trying to appear relevant to the situation.

Negotiation is adversarial, the more you let the other guy know what you want, the more he's going to use it to his advantage and exploit you. Most of the NUP leaders have been on TV telling people that they want all those arrested during and after the 2020-21 elections to be released. The public agrees, and now Museveni is using it to his advantage. He has recently demanded a list of all those in prison from Nupian leaders such that he looks into it. Now that it looks like he’s the one that’s going to get the credit, NUP leaders are saying that they aren’t going to give him the list – and this makes them look bad in front of the public more than Museveni himself. Of course, Museveni knows those that were arrested and where they are located, but it doesn’t matter to those who want their relatives out. Believe me, if the NUP leaders don’t release that list soon, the relatives of prisoners will do it for them. Either way, Museveni will benefit from this situation.

So, I would advise the NUP leaders to focus on the outcome, not on their ego or on how they appear in public. Most people don't react well to distracting game playing and once you've been discovered, it's hard to regain your footing.

NUP have their back to the wall. It's so likely that Museveni will release some of the prisoners, and they will mainly thank him, not the NUP leaders. You can expect zero problems from most of the guys who meet the criteria for release. Others have suggested that some of the NUP leaders are afraid of losing funding that has been coming with some of their supporters in prison.

NUP leaders know they’ve lost faith amongst some of their supporters recently due to the Mpuunga Vs Bobi fights, and they have no strong card to play after this. The only card they can play is the one of blackmailing anybody who tries to negotiate with Museveni about prisoners release. Even Alhajji Latif Ssebagala can’t go against the playbook of the NUP. I saw him on one of the TV channels barking according to the text- He was saying that Councilor Katerega ‘ate’ because he stood with Balaam and publicly begged Museveni to release Nupians in prison. That is a big pile of lies that gets shovelled around to scare people that don’t support Bobi’s position in politics. Reality is much different and peaceful. People often extrapolate what they think about Bobi’s opponents, then present as fact that is happening.

I believe the prisoners themselves are just like most everyone else. They want to be free and take care of themselves and their families, not go out protesting for anybody again. Mike Mukula once said, after coming out of prison himself over GAVI funds, that anybody wishing the other person to remain in prison is evil.

Plus there is a long track record of such exchanges being done by the most powerful country in the world, USA. The USA negotiated to release its citizens in Iran, and some funds were also returned to Iran on certain conditions.

Israel, too, has been involved in prisoner negotiations several times. In Judaism, "the sanctification of life" is one of the most important concepts. In 1986, Pilot Ron Arad had been kidnapped and literally disappeared after a few years of Israel rejecting exchange deals. This event traumatized the Israeli society and fuelled future exchanges.

Benjamin Netanyahu said in his book, "Place under the Sun", he wrote: “Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists.....they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse.” But he has been himself involved in negotiating for prisoner releases because the relatives want their people free. They are even forcing him to do it now as I write this.

There are some people that argue that the Australian government should intervene to obtain the freedom of the Australian journalist Julian Assange. If the British justice is finished with him then his government should demand that he be repatriated to Australia rather than face any charges brought by the US.

The reasoning is that the pure effrontery of seeking to bring to trial a foreign national who broke no law in, or has not been brought to justice by the nation within which his actions took place entirely because the government seeking that did not uphold its duty to keep secrets secret where it classified them as such beggars belief. It cannot be accepted. Apparently, this is blame shifting and it is a vast over extension of any nation’s law. It is also a sign of miserable cruelty to any who were impacted by the loss of information.

Personally, I think it is a humanitarian gesture to release political prisoners. Credit should be given to all those that have been lobbying the governments to release them.

The NUP leaders should do the decent thing and call Museveni and agree to unconditional prisoners' release instead of politicising it.