Is Uganda likely to have a charismatic leader soon?

The nature of my career as an international civil servant prevented me from direct engagement in Uganda politics. Instead, I devoted much spare time studying it inter alia why Uganda has failed to produce a charismatic champion like Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere or Kwame Nkrumah etc. When time was ripe, I began writing about Uganda politics and economics. The outcome of this effort is ten books and a blog

Before I opened up, I discussed Uganda politics in the form of asking questions or seeking clarification on certain issues to avoid giving personal opinions. Those I engaged in this type of discussion can now understand why I adopted that strategy. In these discussions I found there was too much resistance to build national consciousness or patriotism. In an attempt to fill the gap, I co-founded Uganda Unity Group (UUG) in Lusaka, Zambia drawing members from all parts of Uganda but could not attend the Moshi conference in 1979 because of the constraints of my career. Thus I escaped accusations of direct engagement in Uganda politics although I had practiced politics largely indirectly for a long time going as far back as before independence when I co-founded UPC Youth Wing at Butobere School and interacted with Secretary General John Kakonge (RIP) when he visited Kabale.

Because I believe in ‘open book’ politics I have published my profile on political and leadership experience and my business in Uganda and service to the community experience. Hopefully other public or political aspirants will do the same to give Ugandans sufficient information to make informed decisions. Those who stay silent and only announce their candidature a few days or on nomination day should be disqualified. From now on Uganda should move into the phase of transparent politics that includes profiles of posts to be competed for. This approach will phase out politics based on sub-nationalism or religion.

Over the last seventeen months (since January 2011), I have participated in Uganda politics directly through Radio Munansi and conversations on the internet especially Ugandans at Heart Forum. My experience is that when you are honest and fair eventually people who may have doubts about your pronouncements will come to like you. Because of this I have increased the pool of friends from all parts of Uganda since my adulthood. Those who have kept distance are very few and virtually the same die herds who criticize without evidence. Here are a few illustrations of positive relations.

1. I served as best man to a friend from Northern Uganda.

2. Baganda organized my wedding party in Arusha, Tanzania including a free of charge vehicle during my absence on mission in Brussels, Belgium.

3. Uganda Ambassador to France and Belgium from Eastern Uganda recommended me from among many Uganda applicants for a job in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) secretariat negotiating a cooperation agreement (Lome Convention) with the European Economic Community (EEC).

4. I have also had close relationship with important Batutsi, Bahima and Bahororo people – lunching together and discussing a wide range of things related to Uganda. I have even corresponded directly with General Caleb Akandwanaho through Ugandans at Heart Forum and he has endorsed my ideas on agriculture, infrastructure and close collaboration of Ugandans in a win-win arrangement.

5. Some Bakiga have been my closest friends including one from Butobere to Nairobi to California in USA.

6. A Muganda and an Acholi invited me to co-host an English program on Radio Munansi.

7. A Mutoro has extended an invitation to me to join him on Lutoro/Lunyankole program on Radio Munansi but pressure of work has delayed collaboration.

Those of you who followed me on Radio Munansi and have read my work with open mind will have noticed a common element of impartiality and truth telling because of my religious background and parenting. Time and again my parents taught us to be honest, non-corrupt and tell the truth. When we told the truth we were forgiven, but when we lied and they discovered it the outcome was different.

Nobody is perfect but I have tried to be fair and nonpartisan. That is why those who criticize my work do so in vague terms either for lack of sufficient information, in frustration, emotions or obscure motives. My strong belief is that you can’t solve a problem by sweeping the causes under the carpet. You have got to get to the root causes. In exposing root causes of Uganda problems, my intention isn’t to hurt anyone’s feelings but to provide a basis for attempting lasting solutions. In my research and comments I have avoided covering private issues, only public matters of national interests, leading me to criticize Museveni as president of Uganda and not as a person. I hope he understands and appreciates that because in so doing I am trying to help him make corrections like supporting school lunch for primary school children.

Life is short on this planet. So let’s try to be happy while it lasts. I announced at the Los Angeles conference in 2011 where UDU was born that I had decided to devote the balance of my earthly life preaching the need for reconciliation based on full understanding of our history.

What I have learned in the process is that there isn’t any issue where there can be agreement among all Ugandans except when Kabaka Mutesa II was exiled. What I have also learned is that Ugandans don’t want to know the truth or praise one particular group. Therefore anyone who ventures to be honest or act on conscience is likely to run into difficulties. That may explain why Ugandans intending to enter politics keep their mouths shut or don’t tell what they stand for and get elected over those who are genuinely honest and freely express their opinions with a view to finding lasting solutions for all Ugandans.

Museveni hoodwinked Ugandans with the ten point program when he knew he had another agenda. And Ugandans didn’t know him long enough to study him dialectically because with time the truth always surfaces in one way or another. To drive the point home here are some examples of what I have said and written that have ruffled feathers, albeit things are getting better as more discussions progress and more information becomes available.

1. When I said and wrote something good about Baganda, some Banyoro criticized me for being biased and others complained that I am driven by ‘sheer opportunism’ without elaborating;

2. When I wrote and said something in defense of Banyoro on land grabbing, some Bakiga and/or Banyarwanda called me a tribal hater;

3. When I said and wrote that Bahima, Batutsi, Bahororo and Banyamulenge are of Nilotic Luo-speaking ancestry and identity and men don’t marry from other ethnic groups, I got a barrage of accusations of hatred, bigotry and ignorance;

4. When I wrote and said that Museveni and his Batutsi are pursuing the dream of creating a Tutsi empire in the Great Lakes region, I was dubbed ignorant and theoretician and ordered to go back to the drawing board;

5. When I wrote and said that Uganda has been ruled by Nilotic presidents (Obote, Amin and Museveni) since independence regardless of where they are residing, I was accused of being sectarian and a divider;

6. When I said and wrote that post-independence political conflicts have been caused mostly by Nilotics between Obote and Ibingira; Obote and Museveni and Museveni and Kony some Ugandans dismissed me as insane because as one commentator put it I have eaten too many grasshoppers;

7. When I wrote and said that Museveni was put into power not by westerners but by Tutsi mercenaries who constituted some 25 percent of guerrilla strength and Baganda and DP supporters who happen to be Catholics, some Ugandans whom I have respected in the past used unrestrained language to object;

8. When I said and wrote that Museveni’s motive was to colonize Uganda, impoverish Ugandans and then use our territory as a spring board to founding a Tutsi Empire, many opposed vehemently even after his April 1997 statement declaring that his mission is to create a federation covering countries in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region into one nation. I could go on.

The point being made here is that because of Uganda’s history characterized more by conflict than peaceful collaboration Ugandans find it difficult to agree on what is even obvious. Consequently we have failed to come together to pursue national interests. For example, Ugandans should have come together to resist Museveni dishing out Uganda land to foreigners at the expense of Ugandans. But we can’t do it because of our historical differences. And we are all going to end up losers. In short, sub-nationalism has triumphed over patriotism. Consequently, we focus on tribal trees and forget the national forest.

That explains in large part why Uganda has been ruled by people without experience or didn’t study well enough.

1. Obote entered Uganda politics in 1958 when he was elected to the Legislative Council (LEGCO) and was executive prime minister three years later in 1962 over Kiwanuka who had been around and who had explained his views so that Ugandans knew him better than Obote. If Kiwanuka had had continued as prime minister into independence, Buganda would probably have fared better than with Obote whom Baganda preferred over Kiwanuka for religious reasons (ideologically Obote and Kiwanuka were close and of a commoner origin). As they say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush;

2. Baganda were among the first to welcome Amin who had stormed Mengo using unauthorized excessive force. Obote who married a Muganda woman would probably have treated Baganda better than Amin knowing that his children have Baganda blood in them;

3. Museveni who was unknown and had been rejected by his people in his home constituency in 1980 elections should not have easily won the confidence and trust of Baganda as leader of a devastating guerrilla war if his background and family tree had been checked. Obote, if he had stayed would probably have stopped short of the destruction that Buganda and the rest of Uganda has experienced since Museveni came to power (the respective contribution of Obote and Museveni forces in the Luwero Triangle will be become clearer when Museveni exits the political stage. Is there a reason why Obote would kill UPC leaders in the Luwero Triangle?);

4. It also appears that instead of agreeing on one Uganda leader from any of the four regions, Ugandans would rather have foreigners to rule us as a compromise. Amin ruled Uganda for more than eight years with mercenaries from Sudan and DRC and Museveni has ruled with Batutsi mercenaries for 26 years and still counting and is now kicking Ugandans off their land and dividing the country into so many districts that foreigners will soon control district councils and parliament while we are busy fighting each other over parochial issues (have you heard about loss of land in Karamoja where Janet Museveni is minister and in Ntungamo where Janet Museveni is MP?);

5. Time has come to bury our differences, select leadership on merit, not on sub-nationalism or religion, leadership that has told its story to the public so that where there are misunderstandings they can be resolved. People who jump on the political stage out of nowhere are double edged as we have seen in our post-independence experience;

6. Experience has also taught that a civilian leader should be given a chance because military rule has been disastrous;

7. The more we remain divided the more opportunities we give to Museveni to choose his son or wife or brother as his successor.

Before concluding let us highlight major issues that have contributed to conflicts with lasting impact.

1. Conflicts between Buganda and Bunyoro over territorial expansion;

2. Slave trade during which the strong in collaboration with Arab and Swahili slave hunters defeated the weak, captured the survivors and sold them into slavery;

3. Fights between pastoralists and agriculturalists in south west Uganda that resulted in the former dominating and exploiting the latter;

4. Colonial history in which some Ugandans collaborated with British in wars of so-called ‘pacification’ in Bunyoro and Eastern region and collaborators were rewarded at the expense of the ‘pacified’ groups;

5. Demarcation of Buganda and Busoga as economic growth poles while other areas were designated labor reserve to provide cheap labor with all advantages to the former and disadvantages to the latter till today;

6. Batutsi domination of Uganda political economy since 1986;

7. Military suppression of civilian population.

To conclude, the information given above is factual and therefore true. To deny it will only delay the time to bring the matter to a closure and move on. It is important to know our history only in terms of drawing lessons to do things better for all Ugandans in present and future generations. While we should not forget this sad history, let us forgive one another (I have already extended an olive branch to my opponent in Rujumbura politics so that together we can move forward).

To avoid further political deterioration Uganda needs a civilian transitional government that is inclusive of all Ugandans including NRM progressive supporters to prepare for free and fair multi-party elections underpinned by an independent electoral commission and standardization of campaign finance to level the playing field.

UDU offers its well received and home grown National Recovery Plan (NRP) as the blue print for the transitional government. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The Plan was prepared by Ugandans from all regions and has received overwhelming endorsement including by some key development partners whom we need in the transitional period and beyond.

We should avoid engaging Museveni in a military confrontation in the first instance because that is where he is strongest. That is an opportunity he is looking for so he destroys opposition once and for all and consolidates colonization of the country and its citizens. We shall apply military tools in self-defense only. If there are Ugandans under military training they should continue to do so for plan B which is self-defense.

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