The popularity of NRM among Ugandans at home and abroad including many in NRM itself has sunk to the lowest level. The uncaring attitude of NRM to the suffering of Ugandans particularly women and children especially during the current economic hard times so soon after NRM was re-elected for another five-year term has driven the point home that Museveni – who is the de facto government of Uganda – does not care about Ugandans. He only uses them in pursuit of his imperial ambitions including changing the demographic composition of Uganda by increasing immigrants, ultimately turning indigenous population into a minority in their own country.
Shortage of government revenue is not the reason why Museveni is not easing the suffering of Ugandans. There is enough government revenue but Museveni has chosen to use it for patronage – to corrupt key Ugandans and strengthen security forces to intimidate, spy, arrest, torture, imprison and worse so he stays in power for life. If he can find money for MPs high salaries and for purchasing very expensive vehicles why can’t he find token money to subsidize school lunch as agreed by African Unity so that children stay at school and complete their studies? He has chosen to shower MPs with good salaries, vehicles etc because he wants to use them to pass unpopular bills. Museveni thinks that giving Ugandans education or helping them develop their land will improve their economic and social welfare, leading to demands for political freedom. To prevent that from happening Museveni has chosen to keep Ugandans illiterate, landless, unemployed, hungry and sick so they remain voiceless and powerless politically. But if Museveni has studied history carefully – which he claims he has – and understood its lessons, he must surely have learned that when hungry people become angry as well they can be dangerous and do anything including toppling a government that is unpopular however well supported by MPs and security forces. The Shah and Marcos had both but were swept out of power through civil resistance. The people of Uganda are angry and NRM is deeply divided. So the conditions for unseating the NRM system are in place. What is required to finish the job is to fulfill the following four simple conditions if there is sufficient will which were fulfilled by opposition groups in Iran, Philippines, Soviet Union and South Africa before unseating unpopular governments in their respective countries.
First, Uganda opposition groups need one leader – capable, disciplined, charismatic and with a proven and impeccable record of patriotism. The opposition in Iran unseated the Shah government in 1979 because it had one popular leader – the Ayatollah Khomeini. The opposition in the Philippines unseated the Marcos government in 1986 because it had one popular leader – Corazon Aquino. The opposition in the Soviet Union stopped a military coup in 1991 mounted by forces opposed to Gorbachev reform programs because it had one popular leader – Boris Yeltsin. The opposition in South Africa unseated the unpopular National Party government in 1994 because it had one popular leader – Nelson Mandela. Uganda opposition groups at home and abroad need to come up with one leader with the profile outlined above. The sooner it is done the better. We should avoid the current practice in some cases of choosing a leader and draft the profile afterwards.
Second, each of the opposition groups outlined above had one goal – to unseat the unpopular government. At the moment Uganda opposition groups seem to have different goals some of which appear to indicate that if NRM met their demands they would keep it in power, raising questions as to whether some of the opposition groups are sponsored by Museveni to weaken the opposition or these groups are acting out of selfishness. Opposition groups need to agree on one goal – to unseat NRM system. The rest will be tackled later by revisiting the constitution and acts of parliament. It should be understood that constitutions and laws reflect conditions and mood of the moment. When conditions and the mood in the country change the constitution and laws need to be modified accordingly. With NRM out of the way there will be room for the people of Uganda who are sovereign to revisit the constitution and laws passed under the NRM regime and make the necessary changes.
Third, Uganda security forces should stay neutral. In Iran, the Philippines, Soviet Union and South Africa security forces stayed neutral while the opposition struggled to remove the unpopular governments through civil resistance and negotiations.
Fourth, the international community should stay neutral while Uganda opposition deals with the NRM regime. The dictatorial, corrupt, sectarian and failed NRM government has continued to receive international assistance including so much money that it has used to buy support in order to stay in power rather than use it to develop Uganda economy and society as originally intended. Ugandans wonder why in spite of this evidence of failure donors continue to shower NRM government with so much money, making it difficult to unseat it. This way the international community has indirectly contributed to the suffering of the people of Uganda. By staying neutral, the international community will offer Ugandans a chance to put their house in order for better days ahead not only for Ugandans but our development partners, friends and well wishers as well.
Thus, in order to unseat NRM which is deeply divided and very vulnerable, opposition groups must agree on one patriotic leader; there must be one goal of unseating NRM government; national security forces and the international community especially key development partners should stay neutral. A more democratic Uganda will benefit all Ugandans as well as development partners, friends and well wishers. Lest it has not come through clearly, the new government will conform to national, regional and international norms.