Duncan Kafero missed a golden opportunity to convince Ugandans

Uganda is at a critical juncture in its history since independence in 1962. To save it requires the quality of leadership exhibited by leaders that include Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer, Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Park, Narasimha Rao, Deng Xiaoping and Nelson Mandela.

I listened to Dr. Kafero on both the English and Luganda programs of radio munansi. While it is understandable that assessments of his performance will differ depending upon what each one of us was looking for, I think that he missed a golden opportunity to convince Ugandans that he was the man to lead Uganda after NRM has exited with all the problems that will be inherited. He should have articulated his policy and strategy views on all areas of human endeavor, if only in a condensed manner. His presentation and response to questions left a lot to be desired. I got the impression that either he didn’t want to answer or he didn’t know. I stand ready to hear from those who think my assessment isn’t fair. Below are some of my concerns.

1. Having appeared on the radio so soon after President Museveni delivered his state of the nation address and the budget, Kafero should have commented on the two addresses pointing out areas where more needs to be done. Uganda’s economy, society, environment and relations with neighbors are not functioning well. Kafero should have identified areas that would need priority attention during the 36 months he declared he would serve in office, if he got there.

2. Having appeared on the radio so soon after the English program anchor had been axed in unexplained circumstances and former listeners are demanding an answer, Kafero should have taken responsibility as leader of Ugandans to the Resque (UTR) and its affiliate radio munansi and explained why a decision was taken without consulting the individual concerned or informing him of the reasons for his ouster. This decision has left the radio station overwhelmingly in the hands of Baganda giving it a regional, rather than a national dimension. This decision has cast a shadow on Kafero’s approach to making decisions or his representatives.

3. While empirical evidence shows unambiguously that more than 70 percent of authoritarian regimes in the world have been removed from power by non-violent means, Kafero did not explain why he has taken an exception to this trend. He just made a statement that NRM regime will be removed by the gun. Uganda has used guns many times since 1966 to solve political problems but the outcomes have remained unsatisfactory. What makes Kafero think that this time the situation will be different during and after the war? The catastrophes of Luwero Triangle, Northern and Eastern Uganda are still fresh in our minds.

4. Kafero didn’t give a convincing answer in my view about the possibility of M23 members in his army. He admitted that there are ‘foreign mercenaries’ in his army that he referred to as Banyarwanda instead of Tutsi. If Kafero has Bahutu and Batutsi mercenaries he should clarify that point. He wasn’t also able to answer what he would do should he attack Uganda and the government calls on support from friends in Africa and beyond? In other words would he have the capacity to handle that combined force? African Union has agreed that a sitting government has a right to call for help when attacked by military means. The UN prefers settling disputes by peaceful means in the first instance and when that fails can apply other means in self-defense.

5. Kafero was particularly disturbed and lost control when he used the two words “total rubbish” three times when a reference was made that there might have been contacts between him and Sejusa directly or indirectly on forging a working relationship. What we know is that senior members of UTR warmly welcomed Sejusa when he arrived in Europe as though he was already a member of UTR. When Sejusa announced a few weeks later that he was working to become the next president, a member of UTR complained rather strongly that Sejusa spoke too soon. Shortly afterwards, Sejusa changed his position and it is believed he stated he would accept the posts of the minister for defense and commander of Uganda armed forces, implying he had accepted Kafero as the leader. That there have been contacts between FUF and UTR could be deduced from the fact that a senior member of UTR attended the meeting in London that created the FUF of which Sejusa is the sole founder. It would be surprising that such a thing could have happened without the knowledge of Kafero before or after the meeting.

6. Except his clear position against Buganda secession, Kafero’s grasp of national issues left doubts in the minds of many as read from the media. He avoided or was unable to answer a direct question about threats to westerners especially Banyankole including their expulsion from Buganda soil should he become the next leader. Calls have been made regularly on radio munansi that non-Baganda in particular Banyankole should go back to where they came from. This matter needs to be resolved or it will be difficult for those threatened to associate themselves with what Kafero is trying to achieve. Acholi people have also been mentioned as a group that would be targeted. Kafero needs to make a strong statement on these developments. The former anchor of the English program was trying to call for a solution to this problem and was axed possibly because of his insistence that these threats needed to be resolved once and for all.

7. On the 1995 constitution Kafero contradicted himself. He first said he would delete the sections that were unpopular without specifying them and later declared he would scrap the entire constitution. First of all it’s not Kafero who should do that. It is the people of Uganda through their representatives and direct consultations. One wonders whether he would even be able to do all that in three years, or failure to complete the task would compel him to seek an extension as Museveni did when his four year term ended in 1990 and he is still in power in 2014 and still counting.

8. Kafero avoided the burning issue of land grabbing. He said it was a big challenge but he would do what he can. Land grabbing is a political issue that can only be resolved by political means in a transparent and participatory manner. He should have made a strong statement along that line. I expected him to say something about the proposed New Landlord Tenant Bill and the Land Commission Bill. I don’t remember him addressing these issues, especially as they relate to Buganda following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which in practice has turned out to be a binding Agreement.

9. The other burning issue that Kafero avoided was unemployment especially of youth including university graduates. He said that that was a long term challenge that he would leave to political parties presumably after he has left office, implying that he would do nothing within three years in office.

10. The gender issue came up the second time and possibly by the same individual who was not satisfied with the answer given when Kafero appeared on radio munansi. Like before he didn’t give an answer to indicate he was aware of the magnitude of the challenges women face.

11. Kafero appreciated the good question about the challenge of environmental degradation in Uganda including flooding and slums but he did not specify what he would do as I listened to him.

12. Basically Kafero was not able to answer these and other questions put to him because UTR has given the impression that its priority is to defeat NRM first and prepare a development plan after capturing power which I think is a big mistake. His technical team if he has any should be developing a plan or should have one already. UDU was formed in July 2011. By October 2011 it had adopted a comprehensive National Recovery Plan that has been used as a basis for civic education. Thus, Ugandans know what we plan to do should we be honored with an opportunity to serve the people of Uganda.

13. On working with other military groups Kafero said he was trying to bring them under his wing, implying as junior partners. This is exactly what happened in Los Angeles in 2011 when UDU was formed. UTR participants wanted UTR to be the umbrella organization and when the suggestion was not endorsed, UTR decided to go its own way.

14. Unless I missed it, one would have expected to hear Kafero’s views about a transitional government that would bring all Ugandans together under a presidential team. This discussion has been in the news for a while and is gaining momentum. To avoid the possibility of instability and even a civil war, it makes sense to establish a collective participation in government after NRM has exited.

Let me end on a different note regarding Baganda. Some are not happy with what I have been writing and saying. I want those concerned to know that I care deeply about all the people of Uganda in present and future generations, seeing myself more as a statesman than a politician. I have maintained that we can’t solve our problems unless we identify the root causes from within and without. I feel very strongly that secession through self-determination of the people isn’t the answer.

Uganda has all the natural and human resources needed to make it as a whole a first world country and society. What we are missing is quality leadership – leadership that believes in equality of opportunity, justice for all, rule of law, respect for diversity, human rights and fundamental freedom and allowing people to decide how they want to be governed. So let’s identify that quality of leadership which is available and can be assessed by its contributions to the current debates.

My views should be analyzed within – not taken out of – the context I present them – in this connection the secession of Buganda which I don’t favor and have provided evidence to discourage it. I also wish to underscore that I come from a background that believes in truth, justice and dignity for all and cares especially for the voiceless and powerless members of society, sometimes leading to conflicts with those who want to stay on top at the expense of others ad infinitum.

Eric Kashambuzi