A year ago, on July 9, 2011, United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) was born in Los Angeles, USA. One of the topics that dominated the brain storming and other formal and informal debates was restoration of political and civil rights so that Ugandans can associate, march and assemble freely; express opinion orally and in writing without harassment; campaign, vote, count the ballots and announce results without interference. Delegates also expressed the importance and urgency of restoring presidential term limits, establishment of a truly independent electoral commission and keeping the military out of politics as well as taking the recommendations of international observer missions seriously (in 2011 the Commonwealth Observer mission reported that the electoral process lacked a level playing field, implying declaring the results null and void). One of the strategies to effect the necessary changes was UDU’s interaction with the international community – at government, United Nations and human rights organizations levels.
Thankfully, UDU’s work was made relatively easy because many of the officials we met with were largely aware of the human rights violation in Uganda which was unacceptable to them. They therefore welcomed our initiative and the National Recovery Plan which contains information about deficits in democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms and governance (corruption, sectarianism, cronyism and non-accountability; lack of transparency and mismanagement of public funds). Our working methods have varied depending on circumstances but have produced positive results.
First, you will have noticed that some of our development partners have issued statements from their capitals and missions in Kampala urging the NRM government to observe human rights and fundamental freedoms especially during political campaigns and peaceful assembly and demonstrations. Intensive discussions behind closed doors between the government and partners have also taken place. Consequently, the use of excessive force has declined (more remains to be done), security officers that harassed or assaulted demonstrators have been dealt with and government has apologized to victims. You will agree that this was unthinkable a few months ago. NRM thought it could do whatever it wanted with impunity in the name of maintaining law and order and national security. That is no longer the case. We, Ugandans need to be more vigilant to oust the oppressive and corrupt NRM regime from power. We therefore need to intensify non-violent resistance which is a legitimate instrument of unseating a government that has turned its back on the people. We are grateful to our partners for the support they have extended to us. We shall continue to work together until full democracy and governance are restored preferably by peaceful means.
Second, UDU has constantly issued press and other statements urging Ugandans to fully understand and practice human rights and freedoms. We have also called on the government to strictly observe political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. We have separately and/or collectively urged women, youth, parliamentarians, security forces, religious and traditional leaders to come together and demand that government stops harassing, intimidating, torturing and jailing innocent citizens. UDU has made a significant contribution in the improvement of the political and civil environment. The only fear among Ugandans at home and abroad is fear itself and there is nothing our friends and well wishers can do about that. Uganda forces can no longer beat up people like before for demanding democracy and governance because UDU is watching and will spring into action damaging to the government. Ugandans themselves have to overcome fear and liberate themselves from dictatorship that is already experiencing unprecedented difficulties from within and without. This is our moment and we can’t afford to squander it. To succeed, opposition groups need to come together and pick credible, capable, impeccable, selfless and patriotic leaders in order to defeat NRM. NRM is not a popular party – now or in the past. It has stayed in power this long because of stealing elections and divisions among opposition parties. Once an independent electoral commission is in place and the opposition is united and real leaders in place, NRM will have no chance of stealing another election at all levels. Let us make sure that 2011 be the last election year when NRM stole elections.
Secretary General & Chief Administrator, UDU