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.
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.
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”;
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.
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.
Here are the latest developments:
1. Military governments through military coups or guerrilla wars are over, witness developments in Mali, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso;
2. Winner-take-all or zero sum game is out of fashion. The mood is for inclusive and peaceful societies in political, economic and social engagement;
3. Concentration of power in the hands of one person in a centralized system of government is out of fashion. Devolution of power to lower levels, separation of powers and checks and balances or collective leadership are on the ascendancy;
4. Freedom and equality in rights and dignity, good governance (transparency, participation and accountability), rule of law and respect for human rights are receiving more attention than ever before.
Implications for Uganda
Since independence Uganda has experienced ‘strong man’ leadership and bad governance, leading to instability, insecurity, inequality, poverty and its offshoots of hunger, disease, illiteracy and environmental degradation. Uganda is characterized as a failed state subject to internal and external shocks. This sad situation needs to be stopped and reversed through the following steps.
1. The people of Uganda regardless of profession must combine efforts and embark on non-violent resistance to unseat the NRM regime. The Hague Process for Peace, Security and Development may serve as a basis;*