Ugandans are going through a hard time under Museveni dictatorship which his supporters interpret as bold leadership. But we should not lose hope. Contrary to what many believe, God hasn’t forgotten Uganda. We only happen to be passing through a rough phase. Those who fly between Europe and USA know there are turbulent sections across the Atlantic where passengers are advised to return to their seats and fasten seat belts. When the turbulent area is over the flight is smooth. That is where Uganda is now. In the end Ugandans will go through the stormy weather which is caused in large part by hanging onto traditional beliefs one of them being that we are created differently – some are born to lead and others to be led. Some are refusing to change their mindset.
In my home area of Rujumbura in southwest Uganda, Bairu (Batutsi slaves or servants) were conditioned to believe that Batutsi were more intelligent and born leaders. Bairu were born to labor for Batutsi. Men were conditioned never to cry or scream under whatever amount of torture by Batutsi (I understand in Rwanda this requirement applied to women as well). And we accepted it.
In the 1960s and 1970s, many Latin American countries were governed by military dictators. Although they had come to stay indefinitely as managers of rapid economic growth and poverty reduction, by the 1980s and 1990s they had handed over power to civilian governments. What caused this fundamental change?
Under a combination of external and domestic pressure caused by economic failures and human rights violations, military governments couldn’t cope with the management of national economies and civilian populations they were not equipped to handle. The information below has been extracted in part from the fifth edition of a 1995 publication by Europa Publications Limited titled “South America, Central America and the Caribbean”. Economic, social, political and human rights failures led to internal and external pressures that forced military governments to retire from politics. The church played a significant role in the transition from military to civilian rule.
The main purpose of armed forces is to defend the nation against external aggression and not run affairs of state. But in Latin America there were few foreign wars to explain the rise of military dictatorship that began in 1930. However, in the 1960s, Castro and Che Guevara revolutions necessitated military intervention with external assistance in training and funding. Some countries developed the so-called “National Security Doctrine” that enabled military officers to implement drastic measures to prevent or defeat subversion in their territories.
By way of introduction
Uganda has everything to make it a developed country. The British focused on agriculture but in the 1950s realized that Uganda needed industries to create jobs and transform the economic structure. Uganda also needed law and order or an enabling environment including capable leadership for rapid economic growth, equitable and sustainable development.
Under the UPC government in the 1960s an effort was made to employ Ugandans in areas of their competence. Medical doctors focused on healthcare, teachers taught and bricklayers constructed houses etc and were rewarded commensurately.
The struggle for control of political power by civilian politicians within UPC invited the military into Uganda politics when the army commander Opolot joined the Ibingira group and deputy commander Amin joined the Obote group. The Amin/Obote group moved faster and defeated the Opolot/Ibingira group leading to the 1966/67 constitutional and political crisis. From 1967 to 1970 Obote was kept in power by the military.
Eventually the army realized that it held power and decided to run the country instead of supporting politicians. UPC and Obote were removed in a military coup and Amin and mercenaries from Sudan and DRC ran the country from 1971 to 1979 and Museveni after defeating Okello has run Uganda from 1986 to the present with military backing.
The publication of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) in 2011 accessible at www.udugandans.org which presents a sharp contrast to what NRM is doing necessitated civic education on a wide range of issues. We have therefore dealt with some ‘hot’ topics that others have avoided so that Ugandans fully understand why with all the natural and human resources Uganda is retrogressing which is no longer a debatable issue. Even economic growth rates and per capita income which were used to present ‘rosy’ economic performance have declined precipitously. Economic growth has plummeted from 10 per cent in mid-1990s to around three percent currently while population is growing at 3.5 percent ahead of economic growth of 3 percent. This is not development. It is retrogression. Under these conditions Uganda cannot become a middle income country in a few years from now.
In our assessment of Uganda’s performance, we have separated processes from outcomes of development such as a higher standard of living. NRM government reports processes. For example, writing an excellent modernization of agriculture document per se won’t transform subsistence to commercial farming. Writing an impressive Poverty Eradication Action Plan with little or no implementation won’t reduce poverty. Programs have to be implemented which NRM has failed to do. Constructing schools and graduating students every year is necessary but not sufficient. Education makes sense only when graduates get jobs and earn good income to meet at least the basic needs of life.
I have defined the Great Lakes region to include southwest Uganda (former Ankole and Kigezi districts), Burundi, Eastern DRC (North and South Kivu) and Rwanda. Since interaction between the two ethnic groups of Bantu and Nilotic peoples, the region has been characterized by ethnic conflicts of so-called Bantu agriculturalists and Nilotic (Tutsi) pastoralists. Bantu designation of all people in southwest Uganda is a linguistic convenience because Bairu and Batutsi are ethnically very different. Tutsi are Nilotic people that originated in South Sudan (not Ethiopia as originally thought) home also of Nubians, Acholi and Dinka, etc. Bairu and Bahutu are Bantu people that originated in the Cameroon and Nigeria border.
The Nilotic pastoralists or Batutsi entered the region around the 15th or 16th century poorer and less civilized than the Bantu people they found there. They adopted Bantu language, names and culture (the Tutsi title of mwami or king was originally Hutu’s). Batutsi resisted intermarriage with Bantu people: occasionally a prominent Mwiru or Muhutu man would be given a Tutsi woman to marry and then the man would be tutsified and join the social Batutsi club as a junior partner and abandon his ancestral people thus depriving Bantu of capable leaders. This was a tool of Tutsi dominating non-Tutsi people. These were politically-induced and arranged marriages, not through love. Batutsi have many distinct characteristics.
I worked in a UN organization that treats all staff with a high degree of fairness. There is an ombudsman office where complaints of injustice are presented for a solution. You can also make recourse when you feel you missed a promotion unfairly.
I grew up in a Christian family where our parents exercised fairness. We sat together at meal times and we shared domestic chores proportionately. When it was about time to go back to school, our parents brought us together and gave us allowances (pocket money) according to our needs in a transparent atmosphere. And there was no favoritism.
In the Great Lakes region injustice has reigned supreme. Since John Speke racial theories popularized by Seligman that Nilotic Batutsi people are superior, more intelligent and born to rule over Bantu Bahutu and Bantu Bairu people who are inferior, unintelligent and born to be ruled the latter has suffered crushing humiliation.
As Yoweri Museveni prepares to handover state house keys to his son and turn Uganda into a Tutsi dynasty, we need to know the extent to which Museveni learned from Oliver Cromwell in his rise to power and creation of conditions for his son’s hereditary succession.
James I and Charles I the Stuart kings of England believed and practiced absolute rule (absolutism) and divine-right of kings. They ignored Parliament, imposed taxes and dismissed it when it suited them. Parliament and the English people resented the Stuart kings first because they were foreigners from Scotland and second they ignored English traditions.
In 1642, while in session, Charles attempted to arrest some leading members of Parliament, touching off the civil war (1642-49). Those who fought for the king were called Cavaliers and for Parliament against the dictator king led by Oliver Cromwell Roundheads. The Roundheads won. Absolutism and the monarchy came to an end.
Uganda was born and grew up in a divisive atmosphere. The religious wars at the start of colonial rule divided Uganda. Colonial wars in which some Ugandans collaborated with colonial armies to defeat and dismember defeated groups divided Uganda. Indirect rule that favored chiefs that were used to tax, punish, imprison and force commoners to do public work for free divided Uganda. The colonial policy that designated some areas economic growth poles and others labor reserve poles divided Uganda. The colonial policy of recruiting soldiers and police from the northern region by setting the height requirement that discriminated against shorter Ugandans in the south divided Uganda. The colonial administration based largely on districts staffed with officials from the same districts and a relatively detached central government divided Uganda. And the deliberate colonial policy of divide and rule deprived Uganda of national consciousness during the colonial period from 1894 to 1962.
Preparations for independence didn’t help. Uganda National Congress (UNC) which started off as a national party split along regional lines between Buganda and the rest of Uganda. Uganda Peoples Union (UPU) was formed by members of Legislative Council (LEGCO) outside Buganda to challenge Buganda. The non-Baganda UNC and UPU groups formed Uganda People’s Congress (UPC). UPC was overwhelmingly a Protestant party. Catholics formed their own party, the Democratic Party. So Uganda was divided along religious lines as we prepared for independence.
In every society, people make mistakes. Those who recognize them early and correct them get back on the right track and move on. Those who don’t correct the mistakes suffer the consequences.
In England, King Charles I was defeated in a civil war, absolutism and the monarchy were abolished and England became a republic (Commonwealth) under Oliver Cromwell, a military commander. Cromwell governed with an iron hand and his son who succeeded him was very weak. The people of England through their Parliament decided to restore the monarchy under King Charles II with restrictions. The mistake was corrected and England moved forward.
Since the Lancaster House constitutional conference for independence, we Ugandans have made mistakes. In a rush to meet the deadline of October 9, 1962 for independence, we postponed and overlooked major issues which should have been resolved with Britain in the chair. The daunting issues of Lost Counties, Head of State, Batutsi refugees and the fate of Amin were postponed. We abandoned Ben Kiwanuka whom we knew better and welcomed Milton Obote who had just returned from Kenya who didn’t know Uganda and Uganda didn’t know him. When Uganda became independent, it was neither a monarchy nor a republic. It was simply called “The Sovereign State of Uganda” with the Queen as Head of State.
There are many reasons why people join politics. There are those who join for fame. There are those who join because they have nothing else to do. There are those who join to make money. There are those who join to bring certain issues to public attention. And there are those who join to solve problems.
I joined politics very early in life. I joined student politics at Butobere School because I wanted to bring all students together to celebrate independence as one united group, not supporters of DP or UPC. I became president of Rujumbura Students Association to bring harmony among sectarian groups. I involuntarily joined Rukungiri UPC politics of meat eaters and vegetarians because I wanted to defend a civil servant who had been unfairly treated by the vegetarian group. I became president of African Students Association at the University of California at Berkeley because I wanted African students to have a common position on the Vietnam War. I became chairman of UNDP staff association in Zambia because I wanted harmony between locally and internationally recruited staff. I co-founded Uganda Unity Group in Zambia to bring Ugandans together and end sectarian politics against the Amin regime and I joined Amicale at the United Nations in New York so that Africans have a common position on matters that affected their welfare.