Success will not come to Uganda on a silver platter

For an individual, group or nation lasting success does not come easily. It has to be earned. Throughout my adult life I have observed that those who succeed work very hard, have determination and resilience and usually want to change the status quo: overcome poverty or end autocratic regime etc. They innovate, sacrifice and take risks. Those who take it easy usually don’t get very far. For example, students who miss classes, don’t do home work, complain about teachers all the time have no chance of success. During my school days children from poor families were urged to work very hard and break the chains of poverty and vulnerability. I have also noticed that those who are favored at work fall by the wayside soon after those who favored them leave the scene.

By and large, when you keep silent, the interpretation of onlookers is that you are satisfied and should be left alone. Africa would probably still be a colony if there were no voices, in some instances armed struggle, demanding independence because many leaders some of them still alive in the west expressed the view that they did not expect some parts of Africa becoming independent in their lifetime. Everywhere people have struggled for freedom. Women have fought for the right to vote. And to succeed there is always a need for people to work together or help one another and, above all, to shed fear. Those who have raised children have noticed that children who are afraid of falling take longer to walk. Ipso facto shedding fear is the first step to success. This brings us to the situation in Uganda.

Before the stolen 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections, Uganda was considered a stable, peaceful and prosperous country: a success story to be emulated by others as reported in UN publications and other media. How did this inaccurate reporting come about? First, because of a wide range of laws including those against sectarianism and terrorism, Ugandans lived in a state of fear and could not raise a finger in protest against injustice, inequity and indignity. Demonstrations could not take place and on a few occasions that they did were brutally suppressed resulting in loss of lives. Distorted reporting on economic performance based on so-called macroeconomic stability in the form of low inflation and economic growth hid skewed income distribution and high levels of poverty, unemployment, de-industrialization, interest rates, hunger, mortality especially among women and children and environmental degradation. Ugandans watched mountains of food being exported while they starved. They read about NRM donating money to build schools in neighboring countries while their children studied under trees. They watched their industries and jobs disappear because of cheap imports including second hand clothes. They bottled up their anger and frustration hoping that change of regime would occur through the ballot box and bring in a caring government. 2011 was set as that date when regime change would take place. But when NRM stole the election, there was nothing else to do but to show anger and gather courage and demonstrate. NRM declared determination to crush resistance to its rule. Tanks rolled, tear gas canisters were thrown, demonstrators were shot dead and others injured or thrown into jail. NRM thought fear would return and force Ugandans into silence again.

This time the situation is different. Youth, women and men at home and abroad are shedding fear and facing the tyrant boldly including some in the NRM itself. They are talking and the international community is hearing the voices of dissent loud and clear. The falsehood in political stability and economic success is being exposed through for instance publication of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) accessible at Foreign press releases and verbal warnings have been issued that Ugandans have a right to march, associate, assemble and express their opinions peacefully. The debates and the demonstrations taking place at home and abroad show promise that there is no turning back. Ugandans want to take their country back. In doing so, Ugandans need to hit targets where NRM is weakest and not to give it a chance to fire back mercilessly with impunity. So do not wage a military attack against the government first. The international community will turn against you and probably brand you a terrorist. Demonstrations, strikes and non-cooperation arrangements must be done without breaking the law. Location specific strategies must be worked out and each area should have champions to plan and direct anti-NRM actions. It would be useful if these actions would take place across the country spontaneously to stretch thin the capacity of security forces, exhaust them and force them to give up or join demonstrators in unseating NRM regime. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, Tsar Nicholas II ordered troops to shoot and disperse demonstrators or worse that were led by women. Instead the police and soldiers joined demonstrators because they too were experiencing food shortages, rising prices and other kinds of hardship. The king also ordered parliament to suspend sessions and go home but they refused. Thus a combination of demonstrators, security forces and parliament joining hands forced the king to abdicate on his behalf and on behalf of his son and passed on the crown to his brother Michael. Realizing that the Romanovs dynasty had come to an end Michael decline the crown.

At the start of this article I indicated that working together is essential. No one group or region is likely to defeat NRM alone. We need to pool all our talents and resources to unseat NRM. In past struggles faith leaders have played crucial roles. We are aware of the supporting work of Pope John Paul II in Poland Solidarity in the 1980s, John Ball in the English Peasant Revolt in the 14th century, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes in the French Revolution of 1789-99, Cardinal Sin during the struggle against Marcos in 1986 and Desmond Tutu of South Africa against the apartheid regime. We need religious leaders in Uganda to come forward boldly and play a leading role for your flock needs you at this time in the liberation struggle. We also need Ugandans in the intelligence, police and military to join your suffering brothers and sisters. We know most of you are suffering as well. We know you are not paid well, or the pay comes late, we know your families are going to bed on empty stomach or you are eating unbalanced diet of maize and cassava that contributes to neurological disabilities and rising insanity. We know your children or relatives who completed school cannot find work. We know some of you are selling ancestral land to put food on the table. Why do you support a regime that treats you like this? We appeal to you to join us in this worthy struggle to liberate Uganda peacefully. Your mission is to protect the people against tyranny. Join us or at least stay neutral like the Iranian forces did in 1979.

Members of parliament regardless of the party you belong to, your responsibility is to represent the people faithfully and defend their interests which are being trampled by the executive branch of Uganda government. We appreciate the work you are doing and the resistance once Speaker Kadaga put up. Kindly do more because the suffering of the people you represent is too much. You will be rewarded. We need a new regime that uses all Uganda talents in a transitional government that prepares for fresh free and fair multi-party elections. The 2011 elections were dented badly. The best solution is to organize fresh elections to restore Uganda’s image on the international stage. Needless to say when frustrated people have nowhere else to run to, they defend themselves with whatever they have. We are trying peaceful means but should they fail, the next alternative is not difficult to tell. We don’t want another military regime. War is very costly and usually targets innocent people. Police and soldiers are not trained to run governments: police are trained to keep law and order and soldiers to defend the country. Government should be run by elected representatives and civil servants. Uganda’s economy, society, ecology and politics are in bad shape right now after 26 years of misrule. This is a fact.

NRM’s 26 years of failure in the economic and social fields can be deduced from the second and third paragraphs on the second page of the press statement issued by Uganda media centre on March 9, 2012. First of all economic growth is necessary but not sufficient to reduce poverty. Growth must be combined with improvements in the quality of life of citizens. In Uganda the benefits of economic growth have gone disproportionately to the few families already filthy rich. Poverty remains above 50 percent. Second, Uganda needs a growth rate of at least 9 percent per annum to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The current economic growth is far below this figure. A press release like the one under consideration that does not touch on developments in social and ecological sectors is very defective indeed. Uganda is known domestically and internationally as a corrupt and sectarian country whose public finances are mismanaged contrary to media center’s presentation that Uganda is as a country with improved governance. Oil in Uganda is likely to be a curse than a blessing and signs of the former are already visible for all to see.

Uganda has been a tourist country for quite some time and according to the press release it has been described as the best tourist destination in 2012. One would therefore have expected an account of the benefits Uganda has enjoyed so far rather than the immense potential the country has. These are signs of a reporter who does not have much positive news to present. This confirms the description that Uganda is a failed state under military dictatorship. This political and economic embarrassment needs to change. We encourage all Ugandans to come together and effect that change quickly and peacefully. Success will not come to Uganda on a silver platter. We shall earn it and everyone must make a contribution.

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