“My best friend is truth” – Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was born in England in 1642 almost 100 years after Galileo (Italian scientist) had written that the earth goes around the sun contradicting ancient Greek scientists including Aristotle and Ptolemy who had written that the sun went around the earth. Newton became very interested about how the world worked. He read every book he could lay his hands on.

Newton got admitted to Cambridge University to study science. There, he was told to study the ideas of ancient Greeks like Plato and Aristotle. However, Newton thought that the ideas of modern scientists like Copernicus and Galileo were closer to the truth than those of ancient Greeks, a radical move. He wrote in his notebook in Latin that “Amicus Plato amicus Aristoteles magis amica veritas” which in English translation reads “Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my best friend is truth”. He experimented with the ideas of modern scientists until he was able to determine the force that pulls on the apple. He called it gravity. In 1687 he published his ideas in a book titled Principia Mathematica, or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Because he told the truth, Newton occupies a proud position in the pantheon of scientific investigation and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

His ideas about the laws that govern the universe didn’t only apply to scientists but a whole range of other thinkers like philosophers (e.g. economists, political scientists). These philosophers began to think that if universal laws govern objects, they could also govern people. They used scientific methods to observe people behavior in order to discover these laws. It would be possible for example to understand and explain why there are rich and poor people anywhere in time and space.

Another Englishman named John Locke and born in 1632 spent time trying to determine these universal laws. Locke was admitted at Oxford University. There he was told, like Newton at Cambridge, to read the history of Greek philosophers. Like Newton, Locke found the ideas of ancient Greeks old fashioned. He decided to read the ideas of modern philosophers instead, a radical move. In 1690 Locke published a book titled Two Treaties of Government. He explained that he had discovered universal laws that could predict how people should act. In this regard, he wrote that every man and woman was equal. Every human being had by “natural right”, the right to “life, health, liberty and possession [property]”. He added that no king (or president) could claim that God had given him divine power to execute his subjects, throw them in jail, or take their property.

Locke added that when people gather together in towns or countries they need someone to make and enforce laws. So gathered in groups, people should draw up a contract, giving some of them power to rule over others. However, rulers can only have as much power as the people are willing to give them. As noted above, rulers can’t take away life, health, liberty and property of their subjects. If they “destroy, enslave, or … impoverish” their subjects, the people can announce that the contract isn’t valid any more, throw the rulers out of office, and appoint new ones. Every ruler (president) must obey the laws or he loses his throne (presidency).

To avoid abuse of power, Locke wrote that a government should have three parts: one to write the laws, another to enforce them, and the third to fight wars. Later these three parts were termed separation of powers with the legislature making laws, the executive implementing them and the judiciary interpreting them. Work continued in the eighteenth century by thinkers like Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Paine. Tolerance was another issue that received close attention championed by Voltaire. They became known as Enlightenment thinkers who reasoned, researched, observed and told and wrote the truth. What is the relevance of all this to the situation in Uganda?

President Museveni is ruling with absolute power and divine right of rulers from God like the Bourbon kings of France and the Romanov Czars of Russia. Like the Bourbons and Czars, Museveni believes he is accountable to God, not to Ugandans. Some Ugandans who are disproportionately benefiting from NRM regime are openly telling us that Museveni was sent by God to save Uganda. Some of these Ugandans are now in the cabinet. Museveni sees himself as God’s deputy on earth and deputies report to chiefs, not commoners. Thus, he does not govern according to universal laws. Ipso facto, the will of the people enshrined in a social contract between them and NRM government has been trashed even at election time, depriving Ugandans their natural rights and freedoms.

Those who oppose Museveni’s absolute rule have been labeled radical, sectarian or worse because they are telling the truth and want the contract with the people to be restored under a new leadership. The present leadership is old fashioned and needs to be replaced by universal laws that govern the relationship between rulers and ruled. The truth we ‘radicals’ are telling represents the demands of the people of Uganda which include term limits for rulers (president, cabinet and MPs), independent electoral commission, free and fair elections by Uganda citizens only. Ugandans demand that children be provided with school lunch because hungry children cannot learn (which the World Bank agreed to and even provided funds). They demand elimination of poverty because Uganda has the resources to do so. They want health and education systems that deliver quality services. They demand the end of corruption, sectarianism and cronyism. They demand scholarships to be awarded according to need and performance of students from poor families. They demand that the government launches stimulus program to ease youth unemployment with the money the World Bank has just released for poverty eradication. We call on the World Bank to monitor how this money is allocated and spent. Ugandans demand that their country is not dragged into the East African integration and federation blindly. For example, how much Uganda sovereignty and in which areas are Ugandans willing to trade for integration and federation. Ugandans demand that land should not be part of the East African negotiations because some 90 percent of Ugandans depend on it for livelihood (during ACP/EEC negotiations for Lome I Convention, Europeans told African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) negotiators that the Common Agricultural policy [CAP] was non-negotiable because it meant a lot to them). Ugandans demand that development priority should be accorded to agriculture and rural development based on small holder farmers that the international community has endorsed as more productive, efficient, environmentally and socially friendly than large scale farmers. Uganda is among the countries to benefit from resources for small scale farmers allocated by G8 governments meeting at Camp David (USA) in May 2012. Finally, the truth radicals are telling is that Uganda’s leadership is the problem, not the Acts of God, lack of resources or lazy and drunkard Ugandans as the government claims.

Now that the contract with the people has been breached, we call on Ugandans to retire the NRM government peacefully (don’t try military attack on the government because Museveni has been preparing for war for 26 years and is ready to finish us as terrorists if we attack first and he will be backed by African Union and the international community that do not believe in the use of force against any government. So strongly oppose those armchair activists who are forcing us blindly into war. We can use military force only in self defense for which Ugandans should acquire training and readiness and which African Union and the international community will support).

NRM government should be replaced by one genuinely determined to govern according to the will of the people. Leaders must be vigorously scrutinized by examining their record including their education, experience and above all character; what they have contributed to the public and their family trees. Demanding this information is not sectarianism. It is the right thing to do which is routinely done in truly democratic countries. Uganda has been governed by people largely unknown and least expected to rule. Frankly, army commanders have turned out to be very poor presidents. They did not get training in the art of governance and were unable to acquire one on the job. To them what matters is the power of the gun. Negotiations or win-win arrangements is not part of their vocabulary. Ugandans should avoid leaders who jump out of the ‘cornfield’ onto the political stage and become presidents before people have had time to know who they are and their background.

We call on the youth who are suffering unemployment and underemployment, children who don’t get lunch at school, peasants who are about to lose land (or have already lost it illegally) to large scale farmers or to immigrants from neighboring countries as a price for East African economic integration and political federation, the working class whose standard of living is declining and women who struggle daily to put food on the table while Uganda food is shipped out to neighboring countries and beyond to earn foreign exchange that benefits only a few. This is the right thing to do by any patriotic body anywhere faced with these challenges. It has nothing to do with sectarianism or worse.

Put another way, what the “radicals” are demanding is to pick leaders that are caring and patriotic with a determination to serve the people. Those who remain silent while others risk their lives should not suddenly jump out of their hiding places demanding to lead. Those serious and committed like some religious leaders should join together and demand regime change and govern in accordance with universal natural laws. We appeal to members of security forces to join with civilian patriotic voices for peaceful regime change.

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