Characteristics of a tribe or nation

The circulation of Uganda’s fifteen nations as a basis for discussing the future governance direction of Uganda has raised some fundamental questions that the champions of 15 nations have not been able to answer. There are three principal characteristics that define a tribe or a nation:

1. Common ancestry;

2. Common language;

3. Common religion.

Applying these criteria raise questions about the fifteen nations. Take Buganda for example. We always hear those who refer to themselves as Bana ba Kintu and others are called Bana ba Kimera. These are two ancestries.

Then there is the question of language. There are different mother tongues in Buganda. While at Ntare School in the early 1960s we witnessed Baganda students teasing Bakooki students for not speaking proper Luganda. So Luganda is not a common/ancestral language. There are various religions and there is no one common religion in Buganda. Based on the above is Buganda a nation?

In Kigezi clans were just compressed into artificial tribes for colonial administrative convenience, hoping that ultimately we would metamorphose into a nation. But that didn’t happen. That is why after independence Kigezi split into three groups: Kabale, Bufumbira and Rukungiri. Within these three groups there are major differences.

Take Rukungiri. We have Nilotic/ Batutsi/Bahororo and Bantu/Bairu/Bahororo – two distinct ancestries. Ankole has same characteristics as Rukungiri. Toro is another case of different ancestries.

Knowing who we are does not mean we are not patriotic. And opponents should not use this civic education to score political points. All people in the world want to know their origin and DNA tests are helping in this regard. The Ugandans that were compressed into artificial classifications must be given a chance to find out who they are. That is legitimate.

The champions of the 15 Uganda nations need to come forward and explain how the grouping of these 15 nations came about.

Eric

Genesis and implications of Uganda’s fifteen nations

Every time there is discussion regarding federalism, the fifteen nations including their flags and anthems are mentioned. This is what happened at the London conference on federalism in October 2012 (flags were hoisted and some anthems sang) and at subsequent efforts to forge a common position on federalism. The fifteen nations have been widely publicized but none has explained what they mean including their genesis and implications, creating difficulties how to fit them into the federalism work we are doing.

Many Ugandans wish to know the genesis of the 15 nations. Did they evolve from the clan system into tribes and now nations? Were they imposed by colonial officials for administrative convenience and we now find them convenient for our purposes and should be maintained? What were the criteria used? What constitutes a nation? How were the boundaries drawn up and who did it? For example, are Kigezi, Ankole and Toro still nations? What was the position at the time of negotiating the independence constitution regarding these nations? If there is agreement on these fifteen nations can we use them as a basis for negotiating federalism or should we envisage some proposed changes? What would happen if there are some proposals of a complex nature and serious implications? Do we resolve this before moving on? The way Uganda should be governed post-NRM regime will be one of the first items on the agenda and federalism will be among the proposals.

There are some Ugandans who don’t want this matter discussed? We don’t know the rationale. Sooner or later it will come out. We might as well discuss it now. We are in a period where nothing can be hidden from the public anymore under whatever pretext. We are in a period where everything is up for discussion including areas that were previously taboo. Those who have been championing the fifteen nations’ project should come forward and explain to the public that is anxiously waiting.

Eric

Genesis and implications of Uganda’s fifteen nations

Every time there is discussion regarding federalism, the fifteen nations including their flags and anthems are mentioned. This is what happened at the London conference on federalism in October 2012 (flags were hoisted and some anthems sang) and at subsequent efforts to forge a common position on federalism. The fifteen nations have been widely publicized but none has explained what they mean including their genesis and implications, creating difficulties how to fit them into the federalism work we are doing.

Many Ugandans wish to know the genesis of the 15 nations. Did they evolve from the clan system into tribes and now nations? Were they imposed by colonial officials for administrative convenience and we now find them convenient for our purposes and should be maintained? What were the criteria used? What constitutes a nation? How were the boundaries drawn up and who did it? For example, are Kigezi, Ankole and Toro still nations? What was the position at the time of negotiating the independence constitution regarding these nations? If there is agreement on these fifteen nations can we use them as a basis for negotiating federalism or should we envisage some proposed changes? What would happen if there are some proposals of a complex nature and serious implications? Do we resolve this before moving on? The way Uganda should be governed post-NRM regime will be one of the first items on the agenda and federalism will be among the proposals.

There are some Ugandans who don’t want this matter discussed? We don’t know the rationale. Sooner or later it will come out. We might as well discuss it now. We are in a period where nothing can be hidden from the public anymore under whatever pretext. We are in a period where everything is up for discussion including areas that were previously taboo. Those who have been championing the fifteen nations’ project should come forward and explain to the public that is anxiously waiting.

Eric

In search of a suitable federal model for Uganda

At the 2012 London Conference on federalism attended by Ugandans from all walks of life, the concept meant different things to different participants. However, there was agreement in principle that it was better than the current centralized government. It was decided that studies, consultations and debates be conducted on varieties and contexts of federalism to enable Ugandans take an informed decision.

As reported elsewhere, federalism is increasingly becoming popular. It is also being tailored to suit different situations. Thus there isn’t one model that suits all situations in time and space. We have already examined the cases of Belgium, Indonesia, United Kingdom and Switzerland. In this article, we examine the case of Nigeria.

Nigeria is a diverse country. However, for colonial administrative convenience the northern and southern parts were joined in 1914 to form Nigeria although there were objections. Ethno-regional tensions led to the division of southern Nigeria into the Eastern and Western regions in 1939. In 1946, Nigeria was divided into Northern, Eastern and Western regions. In 1954 a constitution was adopted making Nigeria a federation while giving more powers to the regions to accommodate their demands, making the model sound more a confederation than a federation. The federal system was entrenched at independence in 1960 and hailed at home and abroad as a model for Africa.

Although federalism was originally designed to balance the three major ethnic groups, it instead aggravated the divisions because many demands were not addressed. A major divisive factor was the overwhelming demographic, territorial and political dominance of the Northern region with over 50 percent of the population and 70 percent of territory. The second factor was the demarcation of boundaries along ethnic lines which enhanced ethnic politics and separatism. The federal arrangement did not accommodate the interests of minority communities that constituted some 33 percent of the total population. These challenges constrained the smooth functioning of the federal system and set the stage for ethno-military fighting and the failed secession.

Since independence, the federal system has been adjusted several times to accommodate these and emerging needs. The country has been divided into 36 states. The intention of this undertaking was to reduce the capacity of local conflicts to destabilize the entire federal system. The new federal states also spread the population of the three major ethnic groups across them. The multi-state federation includes ethnically heterogeneous minority-based groups that had been marginalized under the original regional federal arrangements.

The flexible configuration adopted since independence has promoted intergovernmental relations cutting across fault-lines as states cooperate and compete on various issues ranging from states’ rights, constitutionalism to fiscal federalism.

The central government is still powerful by virtue of its revenue allocation to states and the constitutional empowerment to intervene in many public matters including police, land and natural resources as well as local government.

To minimize conflict, the executive presidential system and the promotion of the ‘federal character’ principle require that the composition and conduct of all government agencies must be undertaken mindful of diverse interests at the central, state and local levels. These arrangements have sought to balance, distribute and rotate political offices including the highest in the land thereby restraining potentially disintegrative forces. However, new challenges have emerged.

The central government still has enormous power arising mainly from redistribution of centrally collected oil revenue to states which has generated contradictions of Nigerian federalism in terms of absence of real sub-national autonomy and security, intense ethno-regional struggle to control the federal government to access federal revenue. This phenomenon has undermined the fulfillment of true Nigerian federal system.

The outcome of the power of central government is the intense competition for control of central government that is potentially explosive politically and ethnically. To feel secure, ethnic and regional groups feel they must control the presidency or central government. The power of the central government to distribute oil revenue to state and local governments has thus become a source of contention in the federation – a point to keep in mind as Ugandans debate federalism and the redistribution of oil revenue.

For a start the Swiss and Nigerian models should be read together because they exhibit wide differences.

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary General, United Democratic Ugandans (UDU).

Why did South Sudan drift from Sudan?

During the colonial days north and south Sudan were treated differently. The northern part was developed while the southern part was neglected in all areas of human endeavor.

As independence approached, it was decided that the two parts must be kept together. But these were two countries in one and problems emerged resulting in a mutiny in the south in 1955 on the eve of independence.

To the economic and social marginalization was added the policy of Islamizing and Arabizing the south. Christian and political activities were restricted and outlawed respectively. Educated Southerners fled to Uganda and Congo. In 1963 a resistance movement was launched under the name of Sudan National Union (SANU). The armed wing – the Anya-nya was formed as well and a devastating civil war began.

Through the auspices of the Ethiopian government an agreement between the Sudan government and the southern movement was reached in 1972 in which the south was accorded a significant measure of autonomy within a unitary state. The three southern provinces formed one region with legislature and executive branches of government. While Arabic remained the official language of Sudan, southern Sudan would use English as the principal language. Religious freedom and control of education in the south provided safeguards against enforced Arabization. Most of the Anya-nya fighters were integrated into the national army. A special plan would be launched to promote accelerated development in the south. While peace returned to South Sudan following the Agreement, development did not take place.

The Addis Ababa agreement allowed state president to exercise considerable influence in the south in many areas including political affairs, boundary changes and eventual abrogation of the Addis Ababa Agreement as a result of presidential promulgation of Republican Order Number One of June 5, 1983. The president in effect seized control of the south. Arabic replaced English as the official language. The September 1983 laws imposed Sharia law on all the people of Sudan. The redeployment of southern troops in the north led to a mutiny in the south in 1982 that initiated the second civil war between the Sudan government and Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) that ended in 2005 after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

The Agreement was to make the idea of unity (keeping Sudan one nation) attractive. However, as time passed, the desire for independence or secession of South Sudan gained momentum and South Sudanese voted to secede from Sudan. Whether there were compelling reasons or not South Sudanese got what they wanted. What remains to be seen is whether it will bring sustainable peace, security and development for all the people of South Sudan.

Eric

What do we know about Somaliland?

Somaliland was a British colony that was basically left untouched culturally and economically. Its main economic activity was cattle herding and export of beef. Ishaq is the dominant clan.

On July 1, 1960 British Somaliland joined Italian Somalia to form an independent state of Somalia as a Republic.

Somaliland is a poor area with livestock herding as its main economic activity. The colonial administration introduced few changes and independence did not improve the area as development activities were concentrated in the south especially in the area around the capital of Mogadishu. Somaliland was also politically marginalized because the Ishaq clan had its nationalistic organization and did not join the Somali Youth League that played a major role in independent Somalia. Ibrahim Egal, the first prominent politician from the north became prime minister in 1967 only to be overthrown in 1969. After that the relations between the north and the south deteriorated.

A combination of economic and political challenges led to mobilization along clan lines. The Ishaq of Somaliland formed the Somali National Movement (SNM). The SNM sought and received support from the military regime in Ethiopia. It established bases in Ethiopia, obtained arms and military training and broadcasting facilities. It began guerrilla activities against the Somali government from Ethiopia. Intense fighting with the Somali troops reduced the northern towns of Hargeisa and Berbera to rubble. The Somali government used mercenaries to fly the bombing raids that destroyed the northern towns. Many were killed and many others fled the region into Ethiopia where they became refugees.

By the end of the 1980s civil war dissolved Somalia into clan conflicts. As the Siad Barre regime crumbled in January 1991 every clan mobilized to capture state power. The dominant clan of Hawiye in the Mogadishu area succeeded and formed the next government without consulting other clans. The Hawiye clan pretensions that it represented the Somali nation were rejected by other clans.

In these circumstances, public opinion in Somaliland favored secession. On May 18, 1991, the SNM declared Somaliland independent and revoked the Union. Secession was justified on grounds of neglect and brutal treatment culminating in mass executions in Hargeisa by the Siad Barre regime in the late 1980s.

What is significant to note is that the SNM received substantial external support and did not act alone as some people have argued. Another point is that Somaliland is still isolated and operating outside the AU and the UN systems.

The information is provided as part of civic education.

Eric

Background to the Eritrean independence

Eritrea was an Italian colony for fifty years. Italy was defeated in World War II and lost Eritrea. By the UN resolution Eritrea was joined to Ethiopia in 1952 under federal arrangement despite opposition from Muslim Eritreans who wanted independence (Christians wanted unification with Ethiopia). Ethiopia was responsible for foreign affairs, defense, finance, commerce and ports. Eritrea was allowed to form its own government and assembly to take care of local affairs. Eritrea had its own flag, official languages of Arabic and Tigrinya.

Haile Selassie who claimed that Eritrea or parts of it had once belonged to the Ethiopian empire interpreted the federal compromise as a step towards unification. Ethiopia gradually eroded what Eritrea had gained – political rights, trade unions, independent press.

In 1958 the Eritrean flag was discarded. In 1959 the Ethiopian code was extended to Eritrea and political parties were banned, trade union was eliminated, press censorship was introduced and Amharic language replaced Arabic and Tigrinya.

In 1962 Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia as a province under centralized authority. The Muslims that numbered fifty percent of the population objected and initiated a long and devastating war of liberation.

Beginning in 1961, Muslims began small raids that gathered momentum and after thirty years of destructive war Eritrea became independent in 1991 was recognized and joined the African Union and the United Nations among other organizations.

Eric

What we have learned from the Swiss federal experience

As we prepare to replace the failed NRM government that has rejected federalism, Ugandans have been discussing the benefits of federalism by examining theory and practice. We have examined the experiences in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Indonesia.

The purpose of the debate is to see what is suitable for Uganda because federalism comes in many varieties and contexts. What is pleasantly clear is that federalism is increasing. As of 2008, there were 28 federal states – five of them from Africa. What does the Swiss federalism tell us?

In 1291 three cantons (a canton is a state of the Swiss confederation) formed a league – a kind of constitution – initially for defense purposes. The three cantons were regarded as a unit. Between 1332 and 1352 four cantons were added to that unit. It was controlled by a federal diet (legislative assembly) while retaining much autonomy for the cantons. Political and security considerations drew the cantons closer together.

By the 16th century, the confederation was still very loose but the number of cantons had increased to thirteen. Each canton sent two representatives to the federal diet. Through diplomatic efforts the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia that ended the thirty years’ war recognized Swiss independence.

Swiss neutrality during the war attracted many refugees. However, neutrality required a strong army that strengthened canton bonds. Because of this migration, Swiss society is characterized by diversity divided broadly by religion and geography as in Uganda.

The Swiss loose confederation accorded each canton a large measure of autonomy including choosing its form of government. The 1655 proposals to establish a more centralized state were rejected. During the 1797/98 session, the diet renewed the oath to maintain Swiss unity and autonomy within Europe.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna established the principle of perpetual Swiss neutrality following which a constitutional convention drew up a new federal pact, establishing a diet with restricted powers and required a vote of two-thirds of the cantons to ratify any act by the diet. The new arrangements consolidated the autonomy of cantons within the Swiss confederation.

In 1848, the new Swiss constitution which was modeled on that of the United States of America replaced the 1815 pact, recognizing Switzerland as a federal union. The new constitution preserved the local government of cantons. The federal legislative authority resided in two chambers: the Council of State with two members from each canton and the National Council members of which were elected in numbers proportional to the population size of each canton. The executive branch of government was a Federal Council made up of seven members elected by the two legislative chambers. The Council’s chairperson for one year was given the title of president of the confederation without enjoying more powers than the colleagues.

In economic matters, the Swiss federal government sought to standardize the currency, weights and measures, expand and regulate postal and communication services, encourage technological development. However, greater federal economic control was constrained because cantons retained significant autonomy underpinned by their respective constitutions.

In 1874, a new constitution gave more powers to the federal government to reorganize the federal militia. It introduced a system of referendum and initiative that gave the Swiss people to vote on legislation. For example, in 1953, the voters rejected the constitutional amendment for a federal direct tax. The constitution provided compulsory education for boys and girls and freedom of religion. The 1892 constitution extended civil rights. Between 1890 and 1898 the federal government was empowered to enact social insurance, purchase privately owned railways and unify and enforce civil and penal codes.

Between 1970 and 1985 immigration restrictions were enacted limiting the number of foreign workers. The rules governing political asylum were also revised requiring refugees to prove they were not economic migrants. In 1999, a national referendum restricted further the influx of refugees.

What we have learned is that Swiss federalism has been a gradual process principally to retain and protect wide powers for the cantons. The Federal Council is run by a team, not one person as in Uganda. The federalism that UDU has been recommending is basically in line with the Swiss experience.

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary General, UDU