Why the Ugandan opposition should use selective resistance
Today we could observe another missed opportunity of the Ugandan opposition. The extremely corrupt government was conducting a ‘walk against corruption’, which is quite ironic, as they are the most corrupt institution in the country. Logically, it would have provided one of those unique opportunities that could have united the majority of Ugandans in their defiance, achieving a victory building momentum.
Three phases of revolutions
All successful non-violent revolutions have three phases:
- The launch of the struggle, and survival of vanguards
- Creation of mass while weakening dictatorship
- Final push (mass walking, occupying square etc.)
You always start at the beginning, and have to complete the second phase before the final push can be initiated. If there is not yet enough mass, and the dictatorship is still powerful and efficient, a final push will result into a major defeat (sometimes even massacre).
How to gain trust
The most important goal of the opposition is to gain trust from the people in order to build momentum. Trust is only gained by victories, not promises, not failed actions, and definitely no defeats. It does not matter how big or small the defeats are, every (small) defeat is a major setback. People need to be prepared for the final push in small, successful steps.
Compare a non-violent revolution to a computer game. In order to complete the final stage of the game (leading to Game Over), you often need to defeat the most powerful character in the game. It would be madness to try fight this character at the beginning of the game without extra experience, bonuses and weapons. You would be utterly defeated. Instead, you start small by winning easy levels, and each level becomes a bit more difficult, until you are ready.
The same needs to be done in a non-violent revolution. Small winnable fights need to be picked to build momentum, the people need to lose her fear while becoming aware of it’s power. The dictatorship must lose its legitimacy and its power. It this is done correctly, and the opposition is focusing only on battles it can win, the dictatorship will be weakened to such extent, that it will fall to pieces when under pressure of the final push.
In Uganda the same pattern has repeated itself since the Walk to Work national uprising in 2011. An opposition leader declared that he/she would walk to a certain destination to show his defiance, inviting all Ugandans to join him and this take over the street (note: initiate final push). The days before, Facebook and WhatsApp are buzzing and full of activity and slogans of No Retreat! However, in the night before the march, the Ugandan (militarized) police besieges the house of the opposition leaders, who remain under house arrest. Without the leadership of their charismatic opposition leaders, the Ugandan people become confused and powerless, unable to conduct the planned march.
The problem is simple and clear: Uganda is not yet ready for the final push, and new cunning and vibrant tactics need to be created by the opposition to overcome this ‘House Arrest Deadlock’.
Fight when you can win
My advice to opposition: fight only battles you can win, as many small defeats will weaken the Ugandan dictatorship more than anything else. If this is achieved, the final push will follow soon.
Erik van der Zanden
Picture origin unknown