Fellow Ugandans, we see there are people who are now beginning to claim that they are “game changers” when they joined the opposition not long ago, some of them having served the NRM regime in senior positions until recently and possibly responsible by commission, omission or delegation for crimes against humanity. On the other hand, there are those who have been in serious struggle immediately after the 2011 stolen elections.
UDU which was created in July 2011 has been working tirelessly to mobilize Ugandans at home and abroad for a peaceful change of regime in the first instance. We have written to all sectors of the population including the military and the police, gender, youth, civil society organization and religious leaders etc. urging them to join the opposition. Therefore those late comers who are now claiming that their success is within sight need to think again.
While we welcome everybody to join those struggling for regime change, we must avoid a situation where late comers may be tempted to claim victory the winner-take –all style. We should avoid what happened in Ethiopia immediately before the imperial regime collapsed in 1974.
For those who may not know, the revolution in Ethiopia was launched by ordinary people in urban and rural areas including women and youth particularly the poor, landless, unemployed and hungry. They were joined by taxi drivers protesting the rising price of oil that quadrupled in late 1973. They were then joined by students and later workers.
When the regime was about to fall as is about to happen in Uganda, the military stepped in and captured power and ignored those that had been struggling and preparing the country for a regime change. The civilians claimed the right to form the government because they were the ones who mobilized the population. When the army refused, a long civil war ensued, resulting in heavy casualties.
In Uganda, we should avoid what happened in Ethiopia and embrace the Filipino model of People Power, where civilians and military people that opposed the government of Ferdinand Marcos joined hands and removed it from power peacefully.
Additionally, to avoid post NRM political instability, or even a civil war as we discussed and agreed in The Hague we should reflect on Uganda’s chaotic history since independence and be creative. The institutions we inherited at independence haven’t served Uganda well. To do things better after NRM has exited, we should set up a transitional government with all Ugandans participating except criminals within and without NRM. Then the new government should be led by a presidential team of at least four people each drawn from the four regions of Uganda. We should also avoid getting people from the same group scattered in all parts of the country. Those who have jumped NRM ship and are now claiming to lead the opposition need to be scrutinized very carefully to establish whether they have genuinely left NRM or still working for it and want to weaken the opposition and maintain the status quo. Furthermore, joining hands with the devil to create a critical mass for regime change is the wrong way to go because once the regime is changed the wolves will turn against the sheep, witness post-Moshi in-fighting soon after the late Lule formed the government.
The transitional government besides running the day to day affairs of state should amend the constitution as appropriate or govern under a transitional charter. It should conduct a population census to give the latest demographic characteristics for registering voters, planning for poverty reduction, building institutions such as schools and clinics according to the population characteristics in different parts of the country. Then there should be a national convention to decide how Ugandans wish to be governed.
National institutions including the public service commission, security forces, and the relationship among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government should be reviewed to reestablish separation of powers and checks and balances and to make sure that one person in any institution does not accumulate power into his/her hands and dictate to others.
The transitional government should set up a truly independent electoral commission agreed to by all legitimate groups to prepare for free and fair multi-party elections at an appropriate time.
An independent vetting commission for presidential and parliamentary candidates should also be established to weed out those not qualified to contest elections. Profiles would be established for presidential and parliamentary candidates.
Winner take all politics, one person as president, one person as chair of public service commission and senior security officials from one group or a few regions should be abandoned and replaced by collective decision making apparatus as is practiced in Switzerland, a country whose federal institutions were built from the ground up. These proposed governance arrangements if implemented might have a better chance of creating peaceful and inclusive societies to avoid post-NRM crisis undermining economic development and social progress.
The Hague process that brought Ugandans together from home and in the diaspora and met for the first time in The Hague (The Netherlands) in November 2013 has already begun mobilizing Ugandans along these lines. The ideas of a transitional government, presidential team and national convention have already received strong support at home and abroad. Methods for peaceful regime change were distributed to The Hague process members after the London conference that took place at the end of June, 2014. They accompany an agreed upon roadmap for regime change and formation of a transitional government.
Those born after 1986 have not had the opportunity to be exposed to Uganda’s bloody history since independence. NRM government has minimized providing information about Uganda’s post-independent history because it has participated in some of the ugly events it would not want to be associated with. Those who ignore history are bound to repeat its ugly commissions and/or omissions. UDU and The Hague process will continue to conduct civic education including on Uganda’s history.
For those who want to know about Uganda’s history and what UDU has done including preparing a National Recovery Plan and diplomatic networking are advised to visit www.udugandans.org.
Not least, Uganda belongs to all the citizens who were born free and equal in rights and dignity and all are subject to the rule of law.