Once There Were Trees: Impacts of Agricultural Policy on Climate Change in Uganda

by Eric Kashambuzi
INTRODUCTION
Since the 1970s, the international community has voiced concern over the
potential causes of and subsequent environmental destruction associated with
climate change. Two United Nations-sponsored conferences were held in Rio de
Janeiro in 1992 and 2012 to specifically address some of these issues.1 As a
participant in these conferences, Uganda has begun to assess its own agricultural and
environmental policies, which have had disturbing consequences for the landscape
and population within it. Two major documents have emerged from the assessments:
Agenda 21 and The Future We Want.
Following the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, the United Nations General
Assembly established an Open Working Group (OWG) of state and non-state
representatives to prepare proposals on goals and targets about sustainable
development as an integral part of post-2015 development agenda from 2016-2030.
At the end of its two and half years work, the OWG proposed 17 goals. The urgency
of addressing climate change was captured in Goal 13, which emphasized the need
to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” The OWG planned
to achieve this by designing three targets for the Goal, which are: 1) the need to
become adaptive to climate-related environmental disasters; 2) the importance of
incorporating climate change into government policy and planning efforts; and 3)
increasing education worldwide about the causes and effects of climate change.2
Despite widespread efforts to combat climate change, there are a number of
vocal critics actively preventing such policy and education efforts. John Whitney Hall
notes,
Eric Kashambuzi is currently a consultant on international issues in New York City and
previously worked with the United Nations Development Program as well as consulted on the
Millennium Development Goals.
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[Some question] whether the Earth’s climate is in fact warming to any significant degree.…
[and] whether it is human beings who are making this impact on the world’s climate, or if
this is some little ‘bounce’ in the long-term cycle of the world’s climate or whether this is a
more lasting phenomenon, something that humans have done nothing to cause and can do
nothing to effect. Most scientists do seem to agree that human activities are at least
aggravating global warming.3
In October 2007, Time Magazine published a piece titled, “Global Warming: The
Causes, the Perils, the Politics.” It was noted that:
It is too soon to tell whether unusual global warming has indeed begun…But if the climate
did begin to change…we [should] expect ‘dramatically altered weather patterns, major shifts
of deserts and fertile regions, intensification of tropical storms and a rise in sea level.4
This questioning of whether or not climate change is a natural phenomenon has
made pursuing official projects aimed at ameliorating its effects particularly difficult.
Securing funding for projects that many people may be unwilling to believe are
necessary or important considerably hampers efforts to slow climate change.
THE CASE OF UGANDA
In the case of Uganda, however, the evidence is overwhelming that humans are
principally responsible for climate change. Existing methods of extensive land
clearing and bush fires contribute largely to local warming. These practices include
de-vegetation of forests, woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands in order to grow food
and other agricultural produce not only for domestic consumption, but increasingly
for export and trade.
The effects of environmental damage in Uganda over the past century are
substantial. At the start of the 20thcentury, Winston Churchill wrote and talked
about what he witnessed in parts of East Africa, including Uganda. He confessed to
the National Liberal Club of London that he had never seen countries so fertile and
beautiful outside of Europe as those of East Africa. The description of Uganda he
provided a hundred years ago contrasts starkly with the Uganda we see today:
There are parts of the East African Protectorate which in their beauty, in the coolness of
the air, in the richness of the soil, in their verdure, in the abundance of running water, in
their fertility – parts which absolutely surpass any of the countries which I have mentioned,
and challenge comparison with the fairest regions of England, France, or Italy. I have seen
in Uganda a country which from end to end is a garden – inexhaustible, irrepressible, and
exuberant fertility upon every side, and I cannot doubt that the great system of lakes and
waterways, which you cannot fail to observe if you look at the large map of Africa, must
one day become the great center of the tropical production, and play a most important part
in the economic development of the whole world.5
At the start of colonial rule in 1894, Uganda was marked by tropical forests,
woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. Uganda experienced 8% more rainfall,
providing for more vegetation and a healthier agricultural landscape. The
temperatures were moderate, and in areas of higher elevation as in Kabale, it was
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so temperate that some disease vectors such as mosquitoes could not survive. In
1900, Uganda had a forest cover of 100,000 km2. Wetlands, forest, game reserves,
water catchment areas, and steep slopes were well conserved in this vegetative
cover until 1962. By the end of the 1970s, however, much of this vegetation had
been destroyed to such an extent that by 1990 the forest cover had shrunk to
16,188 km2, with adverse consequences for soil erosion, fertility, food production,
hydrological regimes, and thermal regimes.6
The genesis of rapid environmental degradation in Uganda and subsequent local
warming can be traced to the beginning of the 1970s during Idi Amin’s
administration. Deteriorating economic conditions—made worse by the decline in
manufacturing and commercial sectors—forced the Amin government to turn to
agriculture as the main economic activity and source of employment with serious
consequences for biodiversity. Additionally, the political insecurity of the military
regime resulted in urban to rural migration which put more pressure on natural
resources. Amin’s regime created policy which intended to double production,
rapidly develop rural areas, and accelerate agricultural practices in its third Five-Year
Development Plan, which was launched in 1972. Agricultural development within
this plan included:
5,000 acres of cocoa will be planted every year, and 30,000 acres of cashew nuts a year in
suitable areas. 5,000 acres of tea will be planted. The production of cotton, haricot beans
for export, vegetables for airfreight, fire-cured tobacco, will be doubled. The production of
wheat and rice will be increased so as to make Uganda self-sufficient.7
Efforts were also made to meet an increased demand for livestock, deforest areas
where the space could be used for agricultural production, and increase the
manufacture of various forms of fertilizers and fungicides. Ugandans were
instructed to clear vegetation in order to grow crops and graze animals to boost the
economy and compensate for the declines in the manufacturing and commercial
sectors. Anyone who did not fully utilize their land would lose the surplus to an active
neighbor. Massive de-vegetation ensued, including in areas that had previously been
conserved by the colonial administration. The development of desertification
conditions threatened peasant sources of livelihood and resulted in “environmental
migration” from rural to urban areas. Uganda has experienced an urban growth rate
of 5.7 percent per year, double the annual rural population growth of 2.6 percent.8
Needless to say, Amin policies of commercialized agriculture have had a
profoundly negative impact on Uganda rural and urban areas and the landscape is
now suffering the harsh effects of desertification conditions. Uganda is a prime
example of how governmental policies can seriously impact the local climate of an
area, and also serves as a case in point that much of the most serious effects of
climate change that we see in the world are a direct result of human activity.
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NATIONAL RESISTANCE MOVEMENT POLICIES HAVE MADE MATTERS
WORSE
When Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) government
came to power in 1986,it deplored the extent of vegetation clearance and made a
point to stress the importance of sustainable development. The political
commitment was translated into establishing a Ministry of Environmental
Protection, enactment of several environmental laws and the establishment of the
Environmental Management Authority.9
To understand fully the dilemma of efforts at environmental protection and
management translating into climatic changes, one needs to examine the NRM’s
policies that have been developed since May of 1987. The NRM government
dropped its ten-point program of a mixed economy (an economy consisting of both
private and planned economic aspects), and embraced a structural adjustment
program (SAP) administered by
the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund (IMF). The program
replaced a mixed economy doctrine with
the ideology of market forces, laissezfaire
policies, and trickle down
mechanisms coupled with a severe
reduction in state intervention in the
economy. Furthermore, the SAP
stressed rapid economic growth and
diversification of agricultural production for export to earn foreign currency with
which to repay external debt and generate surplus currency for the importation of
goods and services. The program resulted in an increase in the production of
traditional crops of cotton, coffee, tea, and tobacco, as well as expanded production
of the non-traditional exports of maize, simsim (sesame), beans, cut flowers, fruits
and vegetables, and meat.
Rapid urbanization accelerated environmental degradation, as did the expanded
and diversified agriculture which used inappropriate methods of clearing of
vegetation. The introduction of commercial goat herding will likely damage the
environment faster than cattle and sheep and accelerate de-vegetation because goats
eat leaves and strip the bark from trees.10 Massive vegetation clearance has
accelerated water runoff and corresponding decline in water seeping into the soil. As
a result water tables have dropped, many perennial rivers have either disappeared or
become seasonal, and lakes have shrunk. Conventional rainfall has declined
dramatically by draining wetlands and clearing woodlands, such as Miombo in
western Uganda. Consequently, thermal changes have taken place including rising
local temperatures with adverse impacts on the epidemiology of disease, food
security through reduction in agricultural production, and “environmental”
migration from rural to urban areas.
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CONVENTIONAL RAINFALL HAS
DECLINED DRAMATICALLY BY
DRAINING WETLANDS AND
CLEARING WOODLANDS, SUCH
AS MIOMBO IN WESTERN
UGANDA.
CLIMATE CHANGE IN UGANDA
Fall/Winter 2014
In the district of Kabale in southwest Uganda, rising temperatures have had
dramatic adverse effects. The clearing of vast wetlands to graze exotic cattle since the
1970s has resulted in rising local temperatures that attracted malaria-carrying
mosquitoes in an area where people had no immunity. The spread of malaria—
especially among children—was so catastrophic that the district was declared an
emergency area by the national government. Temperature changes will likely affect
the structure of agriculture and diet. When the temperatures were cooler, Kabale was
renowned for producing nutritious sorghum and vegetables. Warmer temperatures
may facilitate growing and eating less nourishing foodstuffs like bananas rather than
sorghum, resulting in serious nutritional deficits.
In many parts of Southern Uganda—where two rainy seasons typically enabled
two harvests per year—declining rainfall in amount, timing and duration has
seriously reduced crop production and virtual disappearance of two-growing season
into one harvest. in some areas grazing areas are dwindling because desertification
conditions have reduced pastures
and dwindling streams and bore
holes have dried up, adversely
affecting milk and meat
production as well as incomes and
diets.
In his 1992 State of the
Nation Address, President
Museveni touched on the issue of
environmental protection,
noting, inter alia, that a program
of reforestation should start
immediately with fast-growing species to put “hair” back on the bald heads of
Ugandan hills. This is the only way satisfactory levels of rainfall and protection of
topsoil can be assured, as well as serve to mitigate climate change.11 Internationally,
a number of organizations have also addressed Uganda’s environmental degradation.
At a 1997 conference jointly organized by the Ugandan government, United States
Agency for International Development (USAID), and the European Union (EU),
participants observed that Uganda’s economy depended entirely on agriculture and
natural resources exploitation, leading to bush fires and extensive farming practices
(i.e. extensive clearance of vegetation andovergrazing).12
An environmental policy was subsequently formulated, covering, methods for
improved land use and tenure systems, coordinated approaches to sustainable land
use, coordinated and integrated management of water resources, promotion of the
sustainable use of wetlands, new approaches for the sustainable use and management
of forest resources, and advocacy of sustainable rangelands. Despite these efforts,
however, Uganda’s gross exploitation of natural resources for predominantly
agricultural purposes has continued at an accelerated rate and contributed to
egregious climatic changes and local warming. In this regard, Tarsis Kabwegyere
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PRESIDENT MUSEVENI TOUCHED
ON THE ISSUE OF ENVIRONMENTAL
PROTECTION, NOTING THAT A
PROGRAM OF REFORESTATION
SHOULD START IMMEDIATELY WITH
FAST-GROWING SPECIES TO
PUT “HAIR” BACK ON THE BALD
HEADS OF UGANDAN HILLS.
KASHAMBUZI
Seton Hall Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations
observed that, “Despite the above glaring political commitment to the question of
the environment, technical and bureaucratic officials charged with implementing the
environmental law have little to show on the ground.”13
The moderate climate that Churchill witnessed at the start of the 20th century
has since been replaced by warmer and longer dry periods. Droughts alternating with
floods have become frequent with devastating results foragricultural production and
food security. Although these thermal and hydrological changes are regarded by
some as “Acts of God” beyond human control, the overwhelming evidence is that
the principal factor is human activity. Regional trade within the East African
community has also put undue demand for deforestation in Uganda. According to
the 1997 report of a workshop referred to above, “The rate of extraction of forest
resources in Uganda in order to balance trade with Kenya may lead to environmental
degradation.”14
UGANDA’S PARTICIPATION IN ENVIRONMENT CONFERENCES
Uganda participated actively in preparations for Rio+20 in 2012 and subsequent
OWG meetings from March 2013 to July 2014, and paid particular attention to the
causes of climate change and impacts on the country and population. Besides Goal
13 proposed by the OWG, the Uganda delegation was active in Goal 12, which
focused on production and consumption patterns to reduce food losses along the
production and supply chains, including post-harvest food losses. By reducing food
loss and waste, more food will be available for domestic consumption and export
without increasing production and productivity through extensive or intensive
methods of cultivation that damage the environment and raise local
temperatures.15 Uganda also focused on Goal 15, with an objective to protect, restore
and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests,
combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity
loss through conservation. Needless to say, this is also intended to curb the
dangerous effects associated with climate change. Uganda’s increased interest in the
causes of climate change and its impacts is based largely on a report issued a few
years ago by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),
which warned that if drastic steps were not taken urgently to address environmental
challenges, some 80 percent of Uganda will turn to desert within 100 years—a
very short time by historical standards.16
To mitigate these challenges, agricultural clearing and associated bush fires that
lead to de-vegetation need to be reined in. Intensive agriculture using a combination
of organic and inorganic fertilizers might increase productivity of land per unit
without seriously damaging the environment. Zero grazing will need to be stepped
up to reduce land clearance for ranches. Eliminating food loss and waste at all levels
along the production and supply chains will increase food availability without
clearing bushes. Diversification of the economic structure into non-agricultural
activities, such as manufacturing and service industry, will help to ease pressure on
dwindling natural resources. This will require a new development paradigm based on
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Fall/Winter 2014
public and private partnerships, as well as a strong political commitment.
In summary, human causes of climate change in terms of adverse hydrological
and thermal regimes, including rising local temperatures and their impact are evident
in Uganda, despite the claims of some policy makers who seek to minimize
accountability by claiming they are “Acts of God.” In Uganda, as in many other parts
of Africa, widespread de-vegetation caused by crop cultivation and grazing has led
to rapid surface runoff as the vegetative cover that would facilitate rain water to sink
into the ground and raise water tables is cleared. Rivers are disappearing, lakes are
shrinking, and water tables are falling, and will continue to do so if Uganda doesn’t
adjust its agricultural policy to focus on preventing further environmental damage.
Policy makers globally would do well to observe the pitfalls that Uganda is currently
struggling with, and note that there are lessons to be learned regarding what happens
when environmental erosion is not a considered factor in governmental policy.
Notes
1 United Nations, Report of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development
Goals established pursuant to General Assembly resolution, General Assembly (66/288; Agenda Item 14). (New York
City, September 8, 2014).
2 United Nations Open Working Group, General Assembly, Open Working Group Proposal for Sustainable
Development Goals (A/68/970). (New York City: United Nations, 2014).
3 John Whitney Hall, History of the World: Earliest Times to the Present (East Bridgewater, MA: World
Publications Group, 2013), 896.
4 Editors of Time Magazine, Global Warming: The Causes, the Perils, the Politics (New York City: Time Magazine,
October, 2007).
5 Winston Churchill, Never Give In! (London: A&C Black, October 14, 2013), 22.
6 United Nations, Statistics Division, Uganda Environmental Statistics (New York: United Nations, 2013).
7 “Achievements of the Government of Uganda during the first year of the Second Republic,” Government of
the Republic of Uganda (Entebbe, Uganda: Government Printer, 1972), 17.
8 United Nations, Statistics Division, Uganda Social Indicators (New York: United Nations, 2013).
9 State House of Uganda, President of Uganda: H.E. Youweri K. Museveni (Uganda: The State House of Uganda,
1986).
10 Margaret Hathaway, Living with Goats (Guilford, Connecticut: Lyon Press, 2010).
11 Yoweri Museveni, State of the Nation Address (Kampala, Uganda: 1992).
12 U.S. Agency for International Development, Assessment of the Northern Uganda Manufacturer’s Association
(Washington, D.C.: USAID Uganda, 1997).
13 Tarsis B. Kabwegyere, People’s Choice, People’s Power: Challenges and Prospects of Democracy in Uganda. (Uganda:
Fountain Pub Ltd, 2000).
14 Ibid.
15 United Nations, Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: United
Nations, June 2012).
16 United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Economic Commission for Africa (ACSD-5). (New York City:
United Nations, October 2007).
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Common characteristics of Hitler and Musolin

Hitler and Mussolini shared a lot. Both came to power in Germany and Russia respectively as outsiders – Hitler from Austria and Stalin (man of steel) from Georgia. Napoleon also who ruled France was of Italian descent.

Hitler and Stalin were virtually unknown and powerless. Hitler and Stalin had little education and had no experience in international affairs. Because of these shortcomings they were underestimated as they rearmed Germany and Russia. Both Hitler and Stalin told lies to their people and the rest of the world.

Hitler, Stalin and another dictator Mussolini of Italy shared a strong determination to rewrite the results of WWI and resume the war. World War II that began in 1939 and ended in 1945 was their tailor-made and long-awaited moment (Geoffrey Blainey A Short History of the World 2002).

Do you have examples of other leaders with similar characteristics that you can share with us?

Celebrating the Life and Achievements of Reverend/Canon Samwiri Kashambuzi

Thank you for being with us today – January 7, 2015.

We are here not to mourn the passing but to celebrate the life and achievements of Reverend/Canon Samwiri Kashambuzi.

He was not only my father but also my friend.

He was a highly principled and disciplined person, a family man, very intelligent with a sharp memory.

He cared for all people particularly those in need and vulnerable members of society.

Although he was a Protestant he respected other faiths.

He believed in freedom, equality and justice for all the people. He saw education as the means of attaining them. That is why he gave top priority to education.

Wherever he served, he built schools or expanded what was already there.

This is his legacy.

May his soul rest in eternal peace

Eric Kashambuzi

Intra versus inter-ethnic conflicts in Uganda politics

For quite some time, I have studied conflicts as a major deterrent in political, economic and social development focusing on Rwanda and Uganda.

Contrary to popular belief, my research has led me to conclude that the principle problem is basically within (intra) than between (inter) ethnic groups. This conclusion has led some people to consider me a highly controversial student of political economy, more divisive than uniting people and therefore unfit for public responsibility (recently FADDU that had contacted me to collaborate with them and I concurred changed its mind and dropped the idea).

We therefore need to understand this intra-ethnic dimension in Uganda politics to be able to make appropriate recommendations to break the current impasse. In the second part I will show that I am basically a uniter but you can’t unite people without articulating what has divided them. That is our challenge.

In Rwanda there has been a tendency to describe conflicts there as arising from inter-ethnic rivalry between Hutu and Tutsi. Closer and unbiased examination gives different results since independence in 1962.

The social revolution of 1959 excluded Tutsi from Rwanda politics until 1994. The Hutu from the north and south of the country formed the government between 1962 and 1994. Until 1973 the president, Gregorie Kayibanda, came from the southern region and favored Hutu from that region. The Hutu in the northern region complained that they were politically marginalized. In 1973 Juvenal Habyarimana from the northern region staged a successful military coup and became president. He in turn favored Hutu from his region.

A closer study of events since 1994 indicates that inter-ethnic conflict between Hutu and Tutsi might be less significant than intra-Tutsi conflict. We need more studies before a definitive conclusion can be drawn.

Writing a true story about Uganda politics since independence requires courage, risk and sacrifice because of its sensitivity. Uganda political conflicts since 1962 have been falsely reported as inter-ethnic between Bantu people in the southern region and Nilotic people in the northern region. They have also falsely been presented as inter-faith. Civic education is about truth telling. Thus, the true story about political conflict is intra-ethnic among members of one ethnic group whose people live in northern and southern parts of Uganda.

Until 1971 the politics of Uganda was dominated by UPC. After the election of Grace Ibingira as secretary-general of UPC at the 1964 Gulu delegates conference defeating Kakonge by two votes the struggle for power was between Ibingira a Nilotic (Tutsi/Hima) from Ankole and Obote a Nilotic from Lango. Until Ibingira was arrested and detained in 1966 UPC was divided into two camps. For example, the popular view was that in Buganda Lumu was pro-Ibingira while Binaisa was pro-Obote. In Ankole Kahigiriza was pro-Ibingira while Bananuka was pro-Obote. In Kigezi Bikangaga was pro-Ibingira while Lwamafwa was pro-Obote.

Following the detention of Ibingira in 1966 the struggle for political power was between Onama and Amin on the one side and Obote on the other side. The three men – non-Bantu – came from the northern region although not from the same ethnic group.

During the struggle to oust Amin from power the struggle was between Museveni a Nilotic (Tutsi/Muhororo) from Ankole and Obote a Nilotic from Lango. The guerrilla war mainly in the Luwero Triangle was led by Obote and his largely Nilotic commanders from the north against Museveni and his largely Nilotic (Tutsi) commanders from the south. The overthrow of Obote in 1985 was staged by the Okellos. The coup in 1986 against the Okellos was staged by Museveni a Nilotic.

The devastating war in the northern and Eastern regions was largely between Joseph Kony a Nilotic from the north and Museveni a Nilotic from the south.

If you look at the current leaders of the major political parties they are all Nilotic: Museveni (NRM), Muntu (FDC), Mao (DP) and Otunnu (UPC). This is a fact.

You can see that since independence we have not had inter-ethnic problems between Bantu and Nilotic peoples or inter-faith conflicts between Protestants and Catholics. It is purely an intra-ethnic problem.

At the risk of offending some people, I have deliberately presented this analysis as a guide as we prepare for 2016 elections. We must be pragmatic and include the missing elements in the political equation.

As a corrective measure, I have strenuously advocated since 2011 that the post-NRM government must be an all inclusive transitional one led by a presidential team to give a sense of shared responsibility at the highest political level in the land. There is complaint which is getting louder that presidents have come from two regions. During the transitional period every region must be represented at the presidential level. Then during the national convention debate Ugandans should decide how they want to be governed at the central, regional and local levels.

People who have criticized me as sectarian or worse when I express these views are those who want to maintain the status quo because it has disproportionately benefited them. Maintaining the status quo is simply unsustainable.

Let me say a few words about my role as a uniter and not a divider of people and those in doubt can check the record.

To be appointed a prefect reflected quality as a uniter of students. I was appointed a prefect at Butobere School (O Level) and at Ntare School (A Level). At Butobere I was also appointed a Scouts Troop Leader to unite the students in this extra curriculum activity.

While at Butobere School, I was elected president of Rujumbura students association at a time when the association was experiencing serious ethnic rivalries shortly after independence.

At the University of California, Berkeley campus, I was elected president of the African Students Association when members were divided over the Vietnam War.

At UNDP in Lusaka, Zambia I was elected chairperson of UN Staff Association when there were problems between internationally recruited and locally recruited staff.

In Lusaka I was a cofounder of Uganda Unity Group (UUG) of members from all regions of Uganda and we were admitted at the Moshi conference of 1979.

At UNDP in New York, I was a cofounder of Amicale to smoothen relations of African staff members from different regions.

Clearly this is not the profile of a divider of people. In carrying out my uniting responsibilities I have always – without favor or fear – pointed out the real cause of the problem. And this is exactly what I am trying to do as we struggle to unseat a failed NRM government through non-violent resistance in the first instance.

To sum up, we need a balance in the politics of Uganda and leadership that understands the root cause of the problem and how to fix it and then unite the people of Uganda on a sustained basis. Sweeping problems under the carpet for short-term gains isn’t a solution in the long-term. The intra-ethnic politics we have had since independence is unacceptable and has to be addressed without further delay in the interest of all the people of Uganda, not just a few.

Many proposals about post-NRM government

With pressure mounting against Museveni regime, groups are coming up with scenarios about a successor government. Here are some of them for consideration.

1. Regarding leadership: there are those who argue that any leader is better than Museveni. But this group seems to have forgotten or conveniently neglected that we have gone through this without improving the political, economic and social conditions. When a group of Ugandans didn’t like Obote, they said anybody was better than him. We got Amin. A larger group said anybody was better than Amin. In quick succession we got Lule, then Binaisa and ultimately Obote. A group of Ugandans swore to unseat Obote and argued that anybody was better than Obote. We got Okello and within six months a section of Uganda didn’t like him and we got Museveni. Now many are saying anybody is better than Museveni. Given this history what makes this group insist anybody is better than Museveni? To look for a better alternative we need to establish a profile of the next leader (I prefer a presidential team rather than one leader who concentrates power and becomes a dictator) first and then embark on a search.

2. There are those led by Niringiye and implicitly supported by Sejusa and others in the wings arguing that there is no NRM as such. It is Museveni and once Museveni is gone, Ugandans can pick anybody to lead. However, if NRM does not exist, then why is Amama Mbabazi arguing that he is still the Secretary General of NRM? NRM has just concluded its convention in preparation for 2016 elections. How do we describe those who participated in the convention beyond Museveni and his family? This school of thought is probably made up of a group of people in the NRM scattered at home and abroad bent on continuing to govern Uganda and are quietly without trace of record working together to continue with the 50 year master plan.

3. There are Ugandans especially with a military record insisting that military force is the only viable alternative to unseat the NRM government because Uganda is not ready for People Power as we witnessed in the Philippines against Marcos regime; in Iran against the Shah regime; in Tunisia against Ali regime and most recently in Burkina Faso against Compaore. They feel that for Uganda an exception should be made to overthrow the government by military means and form a transitional government led by a current soldier or one with military background. They have ruled out the alternative scenario of soldiers joining hands with civilian population to change the regime by non-violent methods.

4. There are Ugandans who are arguing that we should not waste valuable time discussing a program of action for post-NRM regime. Instead we should focus on changing the regime first and then begin discussion about the next government. The group also insists that it should take on board anybody without bothering to investigate their history and character because for them what is common is regime change. But history has shown unambiguously that when groups with opposed views come together for the sole purpose of removing the regime, once that task is accomplished, the different groups turn against one another to form the next government and a civil war is the result. We have seen that in the French, Mexican, Russian and Ethiopian Revolutions to mention a few. Closer to home we witnessed this in Uganda following the formation of the post-Amin regime in 1979. When Ugandans from home and in the Diaspora met in The Hague in November 2013, it was decided that plans for regime change must be discussed together with plans for governing the country the morning after the regime is removed by non-violent methods. The Hague Process for Peace, Security and Development in Uganda has presented the roadmap to regime change and what to do the morning after. It has been widely circulated.

All of us have ambitions and elements of individualism and selfishness but when we carry them too far ahead of the nation and community we risk destroying the country and her people. Uganda has been like that since independence. Winner-take-all and concentration of power in the hands of one leader since 1966 have proven disastrous. If we don’t change course we shall continue to sink deeper into darkness politically, economically and socially. We should recast short-term goals and the urge to revenge because this path is unsustainable. We must instead embrace tolerance, equitable sharing, reconciliation and liberty with justice.

All Ugandans have a duty to participate in this debate. If you sit on the fence waiting to jump into the winning camp you may end up at the bottom of the pyramid – if you are lucky. Chances are you may end up in exile or worse if you remain passive especially the youth.

Why Uganda is endemically divided and unstable

In my posting of December 31, 2014, I called on Ugandans at home and abroad to exercise tolerance, compromise, sharing and reconciliation. A divided society like Uganda can’t achieve this goal, however much we talk about it. We have to change our mind set and act responsibly.

Since colonial days Uganda has been divided between the rich and the poor; masters and servants; military and civilian populations; growth poles and labor reserves. This dichotomy and the associated inequality has remained basically the same to this day in 2015.

In 1959/60 Baganda who constituted 16 percent of the total population had 46 percent of the total students at Makerere. Bateso, Banyankole and Basoga who constituted 8 percent, 8 percent and 8 percent of the total population respectively had 6 percent, 6 percent and 6 percent students at Makerere University respectively. Kigezi district got senior one in 1957, five years before independence!

In 1961 Baganda constituted 47 percent in higher civil service while Bateso, Banyankole and Basoga constituted 2 percent, 4 percent and 4 percent respectively.

In 1967, 75,000 Baganda were employed in private industry and 34,000 in public sector. The respective figures for Easterners were 34,000 and 25,000; for westerners the respective figures were 32,000 and 22,000. For Northerners the respective numbers were 9,000 and 11,000 (V.A. Olurunsola 1972)..

At the economic level Buganda and to a certain extent Busoga were designated growth poles. Export or cash crops mostly cotton and coffee and later sugar and tea and the associated industries and services were concentrated in this area with all the benefits.

Clearly Buganda was overrepresented in the economy, education and labor market.

The northern and eastern regions dominated the security forces (military, police and prisons). For example in 1961, 15 percent of the police force came from Teso, 16 percent from Acholi and 5 percent were Lugbara(V.A. Olurunsola 1972). Clearly the eastern and northern regions were overrepresented in the security forces.

The western region and West Nile were overrepresented in the supply of cheap and unskilled labor as they were designated labor reserves for Buganda and Busoga. That is why education was slow in coming.

Sadly, the situation has remained the same. Buganda still leads in education, economy and labor market. For example, over 80 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) is generated in Kampala and its vicinity with a total population of less than two million while the rest of the country with 32 million people generates a mere 20 percent of GNI.

Whereas the strength of the security forces has shifted from the northern region to the western region since NRM came to power in 1986, the Nilotic dominance has remained the same because Batutsi (Bahororo and Bahima) are also Nilotic like their cousins in the north – a fact that many people don’t understand.

This situation is unsustainable in the long-term, explaining why Uganda is endemically unstable and insecure. Unless it is corrected, Uganda will remain unstable, insecure, underdeveloped and unequal and engulfed in conflict.

To overcome this impasse we must accept that all Ugandans are born free and equal in rights and dignity. They will not rest until they feel everyone is given space to utilize the God-given potential.

I have resolved to continue with civic education so that Ugandans and our developed partners understand why Uganda with all its endowments is unable to lift millions of its citizens out of poverty which has led to endemic instability and conflict.

Happy New Year

We can make Uganda a better place in 2015

As 2014 draws to a close and 2015 unfolds, let us all Ugandans – the young and the old and those in between, at home and abroad – take a moment to reflect on what happened this year and the likely impact in the new year. The year 2014 produced mixed results, benefitting some and disadvantaging others. It also generated hope. In the interest of time and space, I will focus on developments that hold promise for a better 2015 and beyond.

The Hague conference that took place in November 2013 brought together Ugandans from home and in the Diaspora, from all the four regions, all the major religions, all demographics and many professions. The conference agenda was structured in such a manner that it allowed open and interactive debate about the future of Uganda in 2014 and beyond.

Recalling Uganda’s experience of conflict and wars since 1966, there was a general consensus that wars should be ruled out as a means of regime change. Additionally, empirical evidence was presented that war begets war and makes matters worse and more dictatorial regimes have been removed by non-violent methods than through the barrel of the gun.

Participants at the conference decided that a roadmap and methods of non-violent resistance against the failed NRM regime be drawn up and shared as widely as possible to offer Ugandans a choice that is location specific rather than resorting to demonstrations that have not produced the desired results so far. The task was completed in June, 2014 and the roadmap is now available on the internet including at www.udugandans.org.

It is worth recognizing that throughout his two-year stay in Europe David Sejusa preached that war was the only strategy to remove the failed NRM regime, a strategy that was vigorously opposed by those who favor peaceful means. Sejusa took everyone by surprise when he renounced, shortly upon return to Uganda, the use of violence to unseat the NRM government. Hopefully others who shared his approach to regime change will drop that strategy and join with those calling for non-violent resistance that is gathering momentum.

The second promising development that dominated the debate in 2014 is the call to embrace the political economy of inclusion and renounce the politics and economics of exclusion and the attendant concentration of power and wealth in fewer hands at the expense of the majority that spreads and deepens poverty and vulnerability and breeds inequality and conflict; undermines tolerance, compromise and reconciliation.

The politics of inclusion has also been given more prominence than ever before in the deliberations at the United Nations in New York. The post-2015 development agenda to 2030 has included a goal on peaceful and inclusive societies embracing the rule of law, good governance and human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

To accomplish this goal, Ugandans at home and abroad are actively engaged in discussions about setting up an all inclusive transitional government led by a presidential team to give a sense of regional balance at the highest political level in the land. There is unhappiness that the presidency has been concentrated in two regions at the expense of the other two.

Besides managing the daily affairs of state under a special charter to avoid the complexities of applying the 1962, 1967 or 1995 constitutions, the transitional government will conduct a comprehensive population census largely for development purposes, organize a national convention so that Ugandans from all walks of life debate and decide how they want to be governed, followed by organizing free and fair multiparty elections.

Thus, in 2015 every effort should be made to spread the debate about the transitional government to all communities in Uganda and abroad so that no one is left behind. The debate should be constructive to help forge a common path on the way forward.

The third development that gathered momentum in 2014 and should be expanded in 2015 is the use of social media. This facility has brought together Ugandans in all corners of the globe in a cost effective manner to debate national and international developments affecting Uganda. Not only are we able to interact regularly but are doing so in real time that has helped to provide solutions and avoid unhappy outcomes in many instances.

In 2015 Ugandans will be engaged in preparations for elections in 2016. All parties involved should recast how campaigns have been conducted in the past and devise means to do better. Campaigns based on force, intimidation and money to buy voters may produce short-term benefits for the winners but deepen resistance among the losers with serious adverse consequences that will spare no one in the future. Ipso facto, such campaigns should be avoided.

Happy New Year to you all

Reflections on Sejusa and Niringiye mysterious missions

The mission of United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) which was established in July 2011 at the Los Angeles conference and its action program approved at the Boston conference in October 2011 is inclusiveness in Uganda efforts to unseat the failed NRM government by non-violent methods. We chose a non-violent strategy for three main reasons:

1. Change of regimes by violent means in Uganda has failed to produce the desired results in terms of peace, stability and human security (freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity);

2. Violence begets violence as has been demonstrated in Uganda and makes matters worse. This conclusion is in line with John Horgan (2014) observation that “… violence even in a just cause often causes more problems than it solves, leading to greater injustice and suffering. Hence the best way to oppose an unjust regime … is through nonviolent action. Nonviolent movements are also more likely than violent ones to garner internal and international support and to lead to democratic and non-militarized regimes”;

3. There is sufficient empirical evidence that “… nonviolent struggles are steadily increasing in numbers whereas violent movements are decreasing [because Africa and the entire international community have discouraged them as a means of changing unjust regimes witness the cases of Mali, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso where the military was prevented from forming a government], and in recent decades nonviolent movements have outnumbered violent ones. Moreover, nonviolence is about twice as likely to be successful as violence” (John Horgan 2014).

Accordingly, against this backdrop UDU called upon Ugandans including especially those in the security forces and closer to NRM strategic institutions like the presidency to join hands with the civilian population as was done for example in The Philippines in 1986 to remove by nonviolent means the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

Thus, when David Sejusa and Zac Niringiye announced they had joined Uganda political dissenters against the regime they were warmly welcome. The articles written by Sejusa against the regime and the interviews on BBC and VOA and the demonstration undertaken by Niringiye and subsequent brief detention gave prima facie evidence that they were serious about regime change.

However, what raised suspicions is that Sejusa did not say anything new neither did he give names of who had directly or indirectly contributed to the suffering of Ugandans. An invitation to have him on Radio Munansi was not accepted. Efforts to talk with him on the telephone were equally unsuccessful. As a last resort I wrote an article raising issues that remained unanswered. The article was published in the New York-based Black Star News.

Upon receipt of the article The London Evening Post contacted Sejusa for his reaction before it was published. His unsatisfactory response was published and is available for easy reference. Subsequently we were advised to contact Amii Omara-Otunnu then chair of Freedom and Unity Front (FUF) on matters related to the organization. Otunnu shared Sejusa views about the use of violence to unseat the NRM regime under the leadership of Sejusa whom he presented as a game changer. The FUF strategy of regime change by violent means posed a problem for UDU that is non-violent in the first instance. However, in a subsequent conversation, Amii and I agreed to work together on areas that did not involve violence such as issuing a joint communiqué about the anti-gay legislation. We didn’t issue the communiqué apparently because Amii did not get clearance.

There was also a disturbing story that heightened suspicion. Apparently, Sejusa had asked some members of his group to contact Joseph Kony and his terrorist group to mount a joint invasion of Uganda and unseat the NRM government. Whispering spread that Sejusa was possibly on duty to dismantle the opposition in the Diaspora that was getting stronger and worrying the NRM regime.

Because of these developments we tried to ascertain that Sejusa was truly in exile and had severed relations with Museveni government. Sejusa declined to provide information that he had applied for and was granted asylum status and who was supporting him in the Diaspora. He also refused to answer questions relating to the allegation that he had received on his Swiss bank account $1 million from Museveni.

Relations between him and other Ugandans in the Freedom and Unity Front (FUF) deteriorated apparently on strategy issues and six months after FUF inauguration in London the organization disintegrated as announced by Sejusa himself. Subsequently, Sejusa was deserted en masse, remaining with two friends.

Sejusa’s abrupt return home has given rise to many interpretations. Some are reasoning that his mission failed; others it was completed successfully and yet others he was broke and winter was too much for him forcing his return to Uganda.

However, his arrival at Entebbe airport in the middle of the night might signal that the authorities didn’t want him to talk. Or his return could signal a political calculation by NRM that it is tolerant of political dissent and is therefore democratic and respectful of individual freedoms and rights, all intended for the consumption of the international community as 2016 elections approach and Museveni may be under some pressure not to seek re-election in 2016.

A few days upon arrival in Uganda Sejusa renounced violence against the regime. This could mean that if he had entered into a deal with some Ugandans in the Diaspora to unseat Museveni government by force he was sending a signal that he had netted them and they should abandon the project or face the consequences.

The case of Zac Niringiye is equally intriguing. There are rumors subject to confirmation that Zac is still doing business with the NRM regime. That he still travels on a diplomatic pass port may confirm the connection. Another observation that raises suspicion is that while on mission abroad Zac resists to be interviewed or photographed. And his exact mission has been difficult to understand except that he is against Musevenism which he has declined to elaborate.

At The Hague conference of November 2013 participants from Uganda and in the Diaspora agreed to block the 2016 elections through nonviolent actions. To that effect it was agreed that a road map be prepared together with methods to conduct non-violent resistance. However, upon return to Uganda instead of embarking on blocking elections Zac began to mobilize for electoral reforms in preparation for the 2016 elections contrary to The Hague decision.

To cap it all, the emerging consensus is that Sejusa and Niringiye are helping the NRM to address the mounting challenges against the regime at home and abroad. The mobilization for electoral reform is seen as an attempt to divert the attention of the opposition from preparing for the 2016 elections. Sejusa and Niringiye missions abroad are seen as efforts to dismantle the opposition that is exerting influence thanks in part to social media and diplomatic networking.

Sejusa and Niringiye disappointed many and devalued themselves

Whether he succeeded or failed in his two-year secret mission in the Diaspora, Sejusa will never be the same in the minds of many people. He gave hope especially to those like Ugandans to the Rescue (UTR) under the command of Duncan Kafero that want to change NRM regime by violent means. He made it clear that military violence was the only language Museveni understands. Some members of UTR welcomed him as their man although they cautioned him about his statement that he would be the next president of Uganda, a position reserved for Kafero. It is possible subject to confirmation that UTR and Sejusa may have entered into a compact to fight together.

There are others who vouched to support Sejusa and even die for him because they saw him as the only game changer through violence and the undisputed Uganda’s next head of state and government. They were sure of getting good jobs in his government. Some had already been appointed ministers as we heard. Sejusa’s abrupt return to Uganda, renunciation of the use of violence and warm welcome by Museveni government conveyed very disturbing messages to those who had rallied behind him especially those who apparently had been instructed to contact Joseph Kony for a possible agreement to work together to unseat NRM regime through violence. There is much fear and bitterness.

Zac Niringiye who initially appeared to be anti-NRM regime – especially after what is now considered a fake demonstration and brief detention to hoodwink the people of Uganda and friends and well-wishers abroad – and a non-violent crusader has disappointed many people at home and abroad. Zac has remained silent on this point of fake demonstration and imprisonment.

For some of us the first disappointment came at The Hague Conference of Ugandans at home and in the Diaspora that took place in November 2013. He declined to make a statement as planned. He exhibited disinterest in the three day proceedings by for instance conducting side discussions. Instead of summarizing the debate as we were later told Zac chose to talk about Musevenism as the root cause of the problem in Uganda. He recommended that Musevenism must be rejected and ejected. He then disappeared before a discussion took place on this new concept. Subsequent requests for a detailed definition of the concept were not entertained.

At The Hague conference there was a unanimous decision that we should work hard through non-violent resistance to prevent the 2016 elections taking place. He was together with two other members directed to champion this cause using a roadmap and methods that were completed in June and circulated to The Hague members in early July, 2014. Zac immediately turned his back on this decision and instead began a mobilization exercise on electoral reforms necessary for the 2016 elections.

He visited Europe and USA twice soon after The Hague conference but his mission was never disclosed at least to some of us. He avoided being interviewed and photographed and would not disclose the balance of his schedule. We later learned from a separate source that Zac was an activist and not a member of the opposition. Is he an activist within the NRM? Suspicions skyrocketed and we tried to find out. His travelling on a diplomatic passport sent signals that we were probably dealing with a wrong man. When Sejusa was invited to the conference on electoral reforms and none from USA that had received him twice, some Ugandans began to draw some conclusions that he should be avoided.

To repeat what has remained unclear is his mission. As a former assistant bishop, does he want to play a political role of becoming head of state of Uganda as Archbishop Makarios, a Greek Orthodox clergyman did by becoming the first president of Cyprus in 1959 or Bishop Abel Muzorewa who became president of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia to block the guerrilla fighters from overthrowing the independence that was unilaterally declared by Ian Smith in 1965? Does he want to play the role of Cardinal Jaime Sin of the Philippines who mobilized Filipinos and ousted Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986 and sought no office in the new government or of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa who fought apartheid and sought no office in the next government?

What is clear is that Zac and Sejusa share the same sentiment that it is Musevenism or Museveni and his family alone that has crippled the nation and must be removed. But if they are serious how come Museveni – a man who is known for not compromising or losing a fight unless under extreme pressure as in the case of the anti-gay bill – has tolerated these two men? That is a question that remains to be answered. You are all invited to play your part.

Happy New Year to you all

Proposals for Uganda’s post-NRM transitional government

The politics of exclusion and winner-take-all (zero sum-game) has not worked well in Uganda since independence in 1962 and in many other developing countries. Political exclusion has constrained access to economic resources and social services by those in the opposition leading to inequalities and consequent conflicts.

This matter of political exclusion has been taken up at the United Nations negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda. Goal 16 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It will form an integral part of the development agenda from 2016 to 2030.

In Uganda there is general consensus that the politics of exclusion should be replaced by an appropriate arrangement in the post-NRM period. The current model also has concentrated power in the presidency and at the center at the expense of regions which has come under severe scrutiny because it has undermined the principles of separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government and the associated checks and balances and federalism respectively. During consultations for the 1995 constitution, the majority of Ugandans called for a federal system of government but was excluded from the constitution.

The idea of an all inclusive transitional government as a replacement of the politics of exclusion was discussed by Ugandans at the July 2011 Los Angeles conference that created United Democratic Ugandans (UDU). Mubiru Musoke was elected chairperson to cover principally constitutional matters. Eric Kashambuzi was elected Secretary-General with mandate that included diplomatic networking and civic education and matters related to transitional government and proportional representation. The transitional government that has the following proposed characteristics and functions has enjoyed considerable support among Ugandans at home and abroad.

1. The transitional government should be inclusive of all stakeholders including NRM so that no one is left behind;

2. It should be led by a presidential team so that each region is represented. Currently some regions are complaining that they have been excluded from the highest office in the land. Members of the team should be selected on the basis of agreed upon criteria which must include impeccable character, sufficient knowledge and experience to understand the intricacies of domestic and international politics and economics. They must not participate in the next elections as they would have the advantage of incumbency over other candidates. (Following the death of Stalin of the Soviet Union, a three-person team was appointed to run the affairs of state at that difficult moment and subsequently replaced by Khruschev, a non-member of the team). The chair of the team should rotate among the members;

3. During the transitional period whose duration should be based on the tasks to be undertaken should not make major changes in the civil service (civil service which is apolitical serves every government in power).

4. Besides the day-to-day management of state affairs, the transitional government should strengthen the capacity of institutions. To avoid sectarianism which has plagued the civil service, a team of public service commissioners should be appointed with each region represented. Furthermore, security forces should be managed by the chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff instead of one military official;

5. It should conduct a comprehensive population census to know exactly who we are and how many not only for political but more significantly for development purposes;

6. It should organize a national convention of all stakeholders to debate and make recommendations about how Ugandans want to be governed.

7. The transitional government should then organize free and fair multi-party elections.

8. To avoid protracted debate over which constitution – 1962, 1967 or 1995 – to use, the government should be governed by a charter.

We call upon all Ugandans at home and in the Diaspora to comment on these proposals – in line with the principles of transparency, participation, ownership and accountability.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all

Eric Kashambuzi

December 25, 2014