July 22, 2010
Rukungiri District Council
Dear Mr. Chairman
Controversy about Rukungiri municipality
As you know, I have complained to the President through the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament about the irregularities surrounding the upgrading of Rukungiri town to a municipality. I have also sent to you two correspondences on this subject. I have received a response from the Leader of the Opposition. My complaints which still stand include the following:
First, for Rukungiri unlike other towns the Minister of Local Government who has responsibility for towns and municipalities did not issue a notice in advance that Rukungiri town was being considered for upgrade to municipal status. Accordingly, there were no consultations whatsoever between district council representatives and their constituents especially those that are going to be affected directly.
Second, you, as chairman, convened an emergency session of the District Council when you knew that the people who would have sounded the alarm were attending a function in Kagunga sub-county which according to our culture you should have attended.
Yoweri Museveni who is a Nilotic-Muhororo was born in Ntungamo district, some forty miles from Mbarara town in southwest Uganda. Just before becoming president in 1986, Museveni was interviewed by John Nagenda. The interview was published in March 1986 in New African magazine. He articulated his philosophy and mission for Uganda. He has been president for over twenty years and he is running again for re-election to another five-year term starting in 2011.
Yoweri Museveni reported that his movement and army adopted a correct political line based on the philosophy that the people of Uganda are sovereign and anybody who is against the people is an enemy of Uganda. He added that the people of Uganda were united because they have common interests – same problems caused by natural barriers and backwardness due to lack of development hence their desire to act in concert than in conflict. Tribalism and religious conflicts were induced by leadership which pushed artificial interests rather than those of the population.
Uganda’s history since colonial days is characterized by forceful relations between the government and people – with the government applying instruments of force on the governed to get what it wants. Resistance to colonial rule ended through the use of force and foreign troops. Other examples of force used on Ugandans during colonial rule include the following:
1. Taxes in cash which were imposed to force Ugandans to become migrant laborers in areas growing export crops. 2. Uganda was forced to abandon industries and to grow cotton, coffee, tea and tobacco for export. 3. Labor reserve areas were forced to not grow export crops. 4. Different tribes with very little or nothing in common were forced into administrative units.
5. Indirect rule chiefs and advisers were imposed on the people. 6. Strict law and order was imposed through an elaborate system of police, prisons and the judiciary. 7. Ugandans were forced to abandon their gods and their traditions including medicine and culture. 8. Ugandans were forced to sell their raw produce cheaply to Asians who processed them and enjoyed the benefits of value addition and higher world market prices.
Since the 1950s when Third World people began to over-breed their European counterparts, the latter got scared. Europeans feared among other things that competition for developing countries raw materials would lower their standard of living. To avert this threat they recommended that Third World countries practice birth control through contraception. Researchers, commentators and policy makers at state and non-state levels painted a very bleak picture that needed to be addressed on an urgent basis. Statements likening population growth to a bomb by Paul Ehrlich and nuclear war by Robert McNamara occupied center stage in the development discourse. “Robert McNamara, president of the World Bank in the 1970s, compared the threat of unmanageable population pressures with the danger of nuclear war [McNamara had been secretary of defense before joining the World Bank]”(The Economist 2006). International conferences including those at the UN were held, expert reports were produced and institutions such as the Population Council and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) were set up. Developing country governments were advised or forced to undertake urgent measures of birth control or they would not get international assistance. In the rush to prevent this ‘catastrophe’, inappropriate or wrong assumptions, omissions and commissions were made and the prevailing circumstances particularly in Africa that was decolonizing were not properly assessed much less understood.
Many Ugandans and non-Ugandans alike still wrongly believe that Museveni and his Bahororo people led a guerrilla war starting in 1981 because of the so-called rigged elections of December 1980. The truth of the matter is that Bahororo have harbored the idea of dominating Uganda politics in order to restore Mpororo kingdom which was absorbed into the Ankole kingdom – hence the complications surrounding the restoration of Ankole kingdom.
Museveni and his very close advisers are Bahororo. Bahororo are Batutsi from Rwanda whose ancestors were Nilotic Luo-speaking people who moved into the great lakes region from Bahr el Ghazal of southern Sudan some 600 years ago. Under the leadership of Kahaya Rutindangyezi the Batutsi from Rwanda founded Mpororo kingdom in mid-17th century. The kingdom covered northern Rwanda and parts of southwest Ankole (Ntungamo district). The kingdom disintegrated within 100 years due to internal family feuds. Although they lost the kingdom (and many Bahororo returned to Rwanda while others moved to other parts of Uganda), Bahororo never lost the idea of restoring the kingdom, perhaps on a larger scale – hence the idea of creating the East African Federation or Tutsi Empire.
Some years ago I attended a panel discussion on poverty in Geneva, Switzerland. One of the panelists argued that in any community in time and space you will find a group of poor and another of rich people living side by side. This happens, the panelist argued, because those who become rich exploit, marginalize and impoverish those who ultimately become poor. This argument has presented an analytic framework for understanding the co-existence of poverty and wealth in the great lakes region (Burundi, Rwanda and southwest Uganda).
By way of introduction, by and large, in colonial Africa the whites became rich while the Africans became poor because the whites occupied the best land, got the best education and the best jobs and received government assistance in their development efforts. On the other hand, Africans were pushed onto marginal land, prevented from growing export crops, became cheap laborers, lacked good education and could not get good jobs. In areas where Africans as in Uganda were allowed to own land and grow export crops, they obtained low prices and were heavily taxed.
Two principles are important for this article. First, prevention is better than cure. Nobody disagrees but in practice cure is more common than prevention. People wait until a catastrophe has hit and then react sometimes too little and too late. Second, former President Nelson Mandela is reported to have remarked that “If there is something bothering you, if you feel you have been treated unfairly [or someone else], you must say so” (Richard Stengel 2010).
To prevent a brewing catastrophe in Uganda politics, we need to address the issue of how Bahororo-led government has unfairly treated the majority of Ugandans in order for Bahororo to consolidate power in Uganda and beyond. The government distanced itself from the agreed agenda and promises made during the bush war and since then. The ten-point program later expanded to fifteen which was essentially based on human security concept: freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom to live in dignity was abandoned. The program had captured the main elements in the United Nations Charter and the Convention on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was a program based on consultations and compromise, on forgiving and moving forward to build a democratic, secure, peaceful, participatory and prosperous country in which all Ugandans would exercise all their rights without infringement whatsoever.
Recently I had a serious conversation with a fellow Ugandan who is a staunch supporter of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government under the leadership of President Museveni. I told him that I do not know who sets policy in Uganda since 1986 when the NRM government came to power. I asked him to help me understand the policy making process and the key players. He paused for a while, closed his eyes, ran fingers through his short hair and finally began to talk. He said that Ugandans since 1986 are like people who dance to music without knowing the composer and the meaning of the music until very late. He added that what he was saying was similar to the invisible hand which economists follow enthusiastically until later on when they realize that it did not delivering as expected. I asked him to elaborate on the respective roles of the presidency, cabinet and parliament in policy formulation and key players in each organ.
Following publication (New Vision July 8, 2010) of a statement delivered by national coordinator of security services, General David Tinyefuza when he made a courtesy call to the district administration on his way from Masindi Artillery headquarters, there have been consultations because this is a very strong and scary statement. But before we come to the substance of this article Ugandans need to understand two things.
The first observation is that this was not a courtesy call. This was a threat. According to the World Book Dictionary courtesy means polite behavior, thoughtfulness for others. Therefore a courtesy call means a short, formal visit paid by one government official or dignitary to another as an act of courtesy or etiquette. Etiquette means the customary or formal rules for behavior in polite society. The message conveyed by General David Tinyefuza, on his courtesy call did not reflect courtesy or politeness at all.
What John Maynard Keynes wrote is that when a country is experiencing serious economic difficulties including unemployment the state should step in and increase spending to stimulate the economy, reduce unemployment which in turn create effective demand for goods and services and ultimately pull the economy out of the recession. Keynes advice was well received by politicians because it helped them deal with economic and social challenges that would have created political problems for them at the next elections. Governments have used Keynesian advice and it contributed significantly in tackling the economic depression of the 1930s and after WWII. Since the recession that began in 2007, governments around the world have intervened in national economies with stimulus packages.
In view of the deteriorating economic, social and ecological conditions in Uganda one would have expected the NRM government to fully embrace the Keynesian model and actively intervene in the economy especially as the country is preparing for multi-party elections early in 2011. As noted in a separate article the introduction of the five year development plan in April 2010 did not signal government determination to intervene in the economy. It appears this was a political game to hoodwink voters after which the plan will gather dust in the ministry of finance, planning and economic development.