Many Ugandans are very unhappy about the deteriorating situation in our country. However, they are unable to react because they are afraid that if they don’t succeed in regime change or make fundamental changes within NRM the consequences might be severe. They are therefore prepared to wait until time solves the problem or someone else does it for them. That is why some Ugandans are praying virtually daily for donors to come to our rescue. In life there are few, if any, improvements that occur without human involvement and sometimes sacrifices. Intervention by others is more often than not to promote or fulfill parochial agendas that could lead to more hardship for the non-participants in the process. Therefore in order to solve a problem those affected need to participate. Second, success or failure depends upon the goal one sets. For example, those who had planned to unseat NRM regime in 2011 elections and didn’t obviously failed. Those who criticized NRM economic policy succeeded because the government dropped the devastating structural adjustment program in 2009 based on the invisible hand of market forces and replaced it with National Development Plan designed to introduce a public-private partnership model. Third, there are goals that are achieved in stages. You start with producing and disseminating information in the news papers, radios and the internet as Ugandans are doing now. The information is then debated and synthesized into policy and strategy in the second phase. In the third phase the strategy is implemented. Implementation may not achieve all the goals or none at all. The momentum may be slowed or the movement even destroyed completely. History provides lessons we can draw from so that when we do not succeed or do so partially the first time we should not despair and throw in the towel. In some of my publications, I have deliberately drawn on history lessons to show that those that persist and are optimistic win in the end. Below are some lessons that discourage pessimism and defeatism.
One of the reasons NRM was received warmly when it entered Kampala and immediately thereafter is because of its commitment to take ethnicity out of Uganda’s political and economic life. Previous regimes had been accused of practicing tribalism in political, economic and social spheres. To demonstrate that NRM was different in this regard, the first appointments to the cabinet and civil service were truly inclusive politically, ethnically, religiously and regionally. The anti-sectarian law was initially welcomed as NRM’s determination to stamp sectarianism out once and for all. Appointments, promotions, reassignments, scholarships etc would be awarded on individual merit.
As time passed, however, individual merit turned out to mean that individuals could be picked from one family or one tribe. A pattern developed and key and strategic positions began to go to one particular group whose members are scattered in all parts of the country. For example, look at key appointments in security forces, finance and foreign affairs. Look at who is getting scholarships. You cannot fail to see sectarianism at its highest level. What is painful is to see well qualified and experienced Ugandans from other tribes languishing in exile or marginalized at home.
The sketchy sad news reaching us through the New Vision report of a police officer killed in the nation’s capital Kampala, use of tear gas to disperse demonstrators and arrest of opposition leaders including the president of FDC and the Mayor of Kampala. Since 2009 demonstrations are increasingly becoming common especially since the fraudulent presidential and parliamentary elections of 2011. It is important to realize that demonstrations take place to register that something is wrong and needs to be corrected by the authorities elected to represent the interests of the people who are sovereign.
In Uganda many things have gone wrong led by corruption and the situation is getting worse. The public’s outcry and advice from other sources have been ignored by the government. The economic crisis and the attendant unemployment of youth, hunger, disease and poverty have reached intolerable levels. The emergence of rare diseases affecting children including the nodding disease and the one deforming children limbs is a cause of deep concern. Market forces and the private sector are not equipped to address all these mushrooming problems. The state has to step in and ease the suffering of the people of Uganda.
If the NRM government had done what it promised in its ten-point program, we would not be discussing the role of religion in Uganda’s development and politics. But since 1987 when it launched structural adjustment, the government left economic growth and distribution of benefits to market forces and trickle down mechanism and concentrated on building and consolidating security forces and engaging in regional and international ventures. By 2009 the government realized that the economy and society did not do well under structural adjustment and abandoned the model. Economies in success story countries like South Korea and Singapore grew at an average rate of ten percent for decades with state participation. And economic benefits were shared equitably. In Uganda, economic growth has fallen far short of ten percent. And the benefits have disproportionately gone to the few families that were already rich and are boasting in public, leaving the bulk of Ugandans trapped in absolute poverty, unemployment, sickness, functional illiteracy and hunger. Desperate Ugandans are flocking to their churches in search of relief. Therefore religious leaders have an obligation to act including calling on the government to take appropriate action. NRM government, instead of listening and collaborating with religious institutions to find a lasting solution, has begun accusing them of engaging in anti-government subversive activities thereby dragging them into confrontational politics.
From time immemorial when people as individuals or groups complain or demonstrate, it means that something has been wrong for a while and needs correcting by the authorities. Responsible governments would engage in a dialogue and find a solution. But more often than not this is never done. Instead brutal force is used to silence dissent.
Peasant revolts that engulfed France, Germany, Britain and Russia among others during and after the Middle Ages represented efforts to end their suffering. Instead of dialogue, they were killed in large numbers. Those who survived were told to endure suffering on earth in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Their children watched and listened and did not like what they saw and heard. They vowed their parents would not die in vain. They continued the struggle with better organization and leadership until feudalism was over. In Africa and Europe individuals like Machal, Mondlane, Tambo, Mandela, Neto, Pankhurst, Lenin and many others watched what was happening to their people or gender. They did not like it and dropped everything including their good careers and wonderful families and began the struggle to change the status quo and make life better for all.
Although I have written a lot about Uganda’s economy, I continue to get requests from readers to write more and elaborate on issues that remain unclear to some. In doing so there is a risk of repetition. As I have observed before, I am not writing for professional economists but the general public that wish to understand some economic concepts and how they impact on their quality of life. This brings me to the notion of economic growth. In any economy economic growth is necessary but it can have meaning only if it contributes to tackling poverty and improving the standard of living of the population. Thus, economic growth in Uganda or elsewhere is not an end in itself although NRM has treated it as such. As a minimum, growth must meet the basic needs of education, healthcare, food, clothing and housing. So are sound economic fundamentals.
The article has been written upon request to provide an easy-to-read account of what caused the French Revolution and its consequences focusing on those areas of relevance to today’s Uganda. Because of this narrow scope, the coverage will be selective. The revolution was a manifestation of what had been going on for many years dating back to the death of Louis XIV in 1715. He left the country saddled with financial difficulties because of expensive wars and extravagant lifestyle at his royal court. Louis XV and Louis XVI made the situation worse, undermining and ultimately causing the Old Regime to be abolished during the French Revolution of 1789-99. The enlightenment thinkers’ ideas and American Revolution influenced and enhanced the course of events.
In Europe the 18th century was characterized in large part by radical intellectual thinkers known as philosophers who challenged the way people thought about government and society dominated by tyranny, injustice, superstition and intolerance. They wanted a world based on reason, tolerance and equality and in which people knew their rights and freedoms. They railed against moral decadence and inequality. They pointed out that man had been born free but was in chains everywhere. The philosophers examined the shortcomings of royal absolutism and called for limited monarchy, separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary as well as representative government. They underscored that if the contract between the people and the government had been breached the people had the right to remove that government from power. These ideas contributed to the American Revolution which, in turn, had a direct influence on the French Revolution.
I know that change is coming to Uganda. But what kind of change: peaceful or bloody change; change from below or from above? Although some readers have distorted my message for whatever reason, I have consistently pleaded orally and in writing for peaceful change – to the discomfort of those who want war – so that every Ugandan lives in peace, security, equality, prosperity and happiness. I have encouraged mixing at all levels – political, economic, social and cultural – to minimize conflicts. But to make appropriate changes we need to know what is happening in our society first. It is reporting the findings of what is happening that has caused discomfort in some quarters. And from these quarters we are getting name calling, intimidation and distorted messages. But the impartial analyst has to report research findings. And that is what we have been doing in the great lakes region. Hopefully we shall all end up on the same page.
Dear Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho
I have read the final draft dated December 31, 2011 prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. You sent this document to me among others for comment through Ugandans at Heart Forum. I will make comments of a general nature at this stage. At a later stage I will make comments paragraph by paragraph. Let me start with the good news.
First, there is a wealth of information on this sector prepared since NRM came to power in 1986. The information is contained among other documents in publications by the World Bank; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO); Modernization of agriculture; Jossy Bibangambah; Eric Kashambuzi; and UDU’s National Recovery Plan (NRP) which was transmitted to the government through the ministry of Foreign affairs and numerous articles including one by Kashambuzi which was published in the New Vision in August 2011. These publications have adequately identified successes, challenges, processes and expected outcomes.
Winds of trouble are gathering speed and are about to blow like a tornado across central Uganda over who Bachwezi are and who constructed the earthen works including those at Ntusi and Bigo in central Uganda. This quarrel would not have arisen if Europeans had not created the confusion. Through European race theories, blacks (Negroes) were described as people without civilizations. And as uncivilized, blacks had no history and darkness in which they lived was not a subject of history. So when Europeans visited what later became Uganda and found magnificent civilizations, they manufactured an explanation. They decided that these civilizations including earthen works in central Uganda must have been the work of Europeans. They looked at the physical features of Africans and found that Bahima had similar facial resemblance like them especially long and thin noses. They quickly concluded that Bahima were white people who created civilizations including earthen works. Europeans went further and explained that Bahima turned black because of strong tropical sum but were still lighter skinned than Negroes. From that time on Bahima and later their Batutsi cousins in Rwanda and Burundi and Batutsi/Bahororo in short lived Mpororo kingdom assumed that they were more intelligent and born leaders. Negroes were judged mentally inferior, physically unattractive and born to scratch the soil to earn a living and work for born leaders in return for protection. As uncivilized people blacks were reduced to crop cultivation. And Bahima were strictly cattle keepers, a symbol of civilization. Through indirect rule, colonialism enhanced the power of control of Bahima and Bahororo over Bantu people in southwest Uganda, a position they lost at the time of independence. They fought a guerrilla war to restore their dominance which has been extended to the entire country. Then came research findings that turned everything upside down or inside out whichever expression you prefer.