Ugandans have a right to know who their representatives are

To understand why majority Ugandans are getting poorer, jobless, hungrier, sicker, landless and are about to lose national sovereignty as borders are eliminated as suggested recently by the president of Rwanda when he met with a high powered Uganda delegation in Rwanda, one needs to know the origin of the core group of NRM and its motives to enable Ugandans to take informed decisions. To tell this story requires boldness because the risks are very high. But the story has to be told for Ugandans to read, discuss and decide on the way forward.

The original group led by Museveni formed some sort of association at Ntare School in the early 1960s, soon after independence in 1962. This group was motivated by the desire to regain domination of politics in the Great Lakes region. The independence of Congo (home of Banyamulenge or Batutsi from Rwanda), Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda introduced fundamental changes in the minority pastoralist and majority agriculturalist relations. The minority pastoralists who had dominated the agriculturalists for centuries were defeated during pre-independence elections based on majority rule. The association was formed to map out a road map to return Batutsi to power in Rwanda and regain domination in Ankole politics initially and Uganda and East Africa subsequently. The group launched an attack on UPC for rigging Ankole elections in order to gain the support of Catholic Bairu DP supporters. It also attacked UPC for lack of interest in the East African Community (EAC) project. Protestant pastoralists deserted UPC which they could no longer dominate and joined DP which they dominated. You need to remember that politics in Ankole is dominated more by religion than ethnicity. Museveni planted a seed among DP supporters in Ankole which would help him to mobilize Catholics throughout Uganda during the 1981-85 guerrilla war.

Telling the truth is costly – but necessary

I developed an inquisitive, listening and retention mind at an early age. People discussed all sorts of sensitive things in my presence thinking I was too young to understand. When I travelled by bus passengers talked freely and I obtained useful information. And I grew up in an atmosphere characterized by church gatherings that enabled me to hear incredible stories about human relations. My home village is strategically located and enabled me to gather information from Ankole, Rwanda, Burundi and Belgian Congo (now DRC). These stories mostly about brutal exploitation of the weak by the strong disturbed me – to say the least. As I grew up I witnessed some of these brutalities that continued under indirect colonial rule. Then I went to school and what we were taught (hunger, African laziness and too many children that cannot be fed properly) did not match most of what was happening on the ground at least in my home area. At times it was difficult for me to answer some questions or engage in discussions full of distortions. In some discussions I simply kept quiet or spoke in disagreement based on what I had heard. I decided early in my life that I would gather this information and share it at the right time. Thus, the information I am sharing with the public represents many years of accumulation from primary and secondary sources, checking and revising it as new information becomes available.

Revolutions succeed when the people are galvanized

There is sufficient evidence in time and space to confirm that when people are sufficiently galvanized and fully understand the causes of their pain, and who is benefitting from their sweat, they will revolt spontaneously. They only need a spark such as the enforcement of poll tax in England that led to a countrywide spontaneous revolt in 1381. In Rwanda, the Social Revolution of 1959 was sparked by Tutsi youth assault on a Hutu sub-chief. The introduction of Afrikaans in Black schools sparked student unrest that enhanced the demise of apartheid system in South Africa. The eviction of a dissident priest from his residence sparked a revolution that ended communist rule in Romania.

Galvanization of people takes place inside and outside the country. Archbishop Desmond Tutu galvanized Black South Africans from home. Oliver Tambo did so in exile. Civic organizations such as Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia galvanized their citizens from home. Radio Free Europe made a significant contribution to the 1989 Revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe from outside. In turn, the 1989 Revolutions influenced the introduction of multi-party politics in Africa.

Guns don’t make peace, secure people do

When military leaders overthrew governments in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region beginning with Yoweri Museveni in Uganda in 1986, those who didn’t understand their real motives quickly christened them a new breed of African leaders in search of peace, democracy and development led by private sector and market forces. The new leaders hired lobbyists in western capitals and received support from sympathetic reporters especially after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In Rwanda, Bahutu were depicted as “bad guys” behaving like wild beasts that should be punished en masse. And Bahutu were hunted down with millions of lives lost in jungles and in camps of displaced persons. Reports of atrocities perpetrated by Rwanda and Uganda were ignored by the international community or issued statements of condemnation that were meaningless without the force of law.

Guns don’t make peace, secure people do

When military leaders overthrew governments in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region beginning with Yoweri Museveni in Uganda in 1986, those who didn’t understand their real motives quickly christened them a new breed of African leaders in search of peace, democracy and development led by private sector and market forces. The new leaders hired lobbyists in western capitals and received support from sympathetic reporters especially after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In Rwanda, Bahutu were depicted as “bad guys” behaving like wild beasts that should be punished en masse. And Bahutu were hunted down with millions of lives lost in jungles and in camps of displaced persons. Reports of atrocities perpetrated by Rwanda and Uganda were ignored by the international community or issued statements of condemnation that were meaningless without the force of law.

NRM government finally admits development failure

We should all congratulate the government for admitting, like the IMF and the World Bank before it, that mistakes had been made in Uganda’s development efforts. This is a wise move and there should be no regrets about it. When President Museveni addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009 and said in part “We have started doing what we had left undone for a long time…” I got a sense that the government had finally admitted the failure of its development model. This was confirmed a few days later when ministers and permanent secretaries acknowledged at a retreat that the development model pursued since 1987 had failed to produce the desired results.

When former President Pinochet whose government was the first to introduce structural adjustment in 1973 with ‘Chicago Boys’ (Chilean economists who had been trained at the University of Chicago in USA) and advice of the late Milton Friedman, father of monetarism, realized that the policy was not working he made a bold move. He dismissed the entire team of Chicago boys, appointed a new minister of finance and recast the development model by combining state and private sector in a new development agenda. The recessions ended and the economy has been doing very well since then. So what should Uganda stakeholders do?

NRM failed from the start

On July 4, 2012, my articles on Ugandans at Heart Forum generated a vibrant, constructive and informative as well as – I must add thankfully – civil debate. Even those who were rough in the past were gentle this time. Those who tried to divert attention from the core message of my articles in the hope of discouraging further writing along similar lines ended up confirming what I have been saying all along; namely that NRM has destroyed Uganda – intentionally or otherwise – which is now a failed state under a military dictatorship (so that NRM stays in power an extra day because it has lost popular support) no matter what the defenders of NRM – in or out of government – may say. Others concurred that Uganda is indeed in deep trouble but complained that NRM has been disproportionately bashed. Overall, there is agreement that NRM has performed far below expectation and has therefore failed the test. We have discussed at length what has gone wrong and the factors involved since NRM came to power in 1986. The differences have narrowed considerably on the following factors behind NRM failed performance.

If we don’t rise above sub-nationalism, Uganda development will remain stunted

Since I joined Uganda political debates, I have been concerned about the degree of sub-nationalism, albeit subsiding. I had hoped that the suffering we have experienced as a nation, not as individual regions or families, would bring us closer together to forge a common front, liberate ourselves and lay a strong foundation for sustainable peace, stability, security, prosperity, equity and happiness for all Ugandans. I was invited to co-host an English program on Radio Munansi. As the debates proceeded we began to lose focus on the country as a whole and drifted into sub-nationalism accusing one region for all the troubles in Uganda and vowing not to allow another national leader from there. Thankfully, others stepped in and we resumed the national debate. Based on the information we gathered among Ugandans at home and abroad and friends and well wishers, a consensus emerged that opposition groups needed to come together under one umbrella and speak with one voice for efficiency and effectiveness. Another consensus emerged that we should use our respective talents, expertise and experiences in a mutually reinforcing manner, regardless of region, religion, ethnicity, gender, age and size, etc.

NRM to displace peasants and grow GMOs

Museveni promised to correct wrongs previously committed in land ownership that had disadvantaged real owners especially peasants. He also promised he would balance production of food for domestic consumption and agricultural commodities for export. He promised to end suffering of Ugandans.

In practice NRM has done the opposite. More land has been taken from peasants. In 1989 Ugandans complained to the president on land grabbing by foreigners particularly Tutsi. In 1990 land grabbing was prohibited but there was no enforcement mechanism. And Ugandans have continued to lose land through fake willing seller and willing buyer concept; some land transactions are conducted at gun point.

People who borrowed using their land as collateral are failing to pay high and variable rates of interest and are losing their land. Expansion of municipality boundaries into rural land that converts peasants into tenants is causing a lot of problems as land owners are pushed off the land in the name of development.

Last year (2012) in his state of the Nation address the president stressed that the government was going to focus on developing the neglected some 70 percent of subsistence farmers. Soon after that Amama Mbabazi the prime minister announced that Uganda was introducing large scale farming to boost agricultural productivity because peasants had failed to do so.

Uganda is hungry for political change

Uganda is hungry for regime change even by progressive and well placed members in the NRM government and security forces. Some senior police officers have resigned, others fired for refusing to apply disproportionate force against peaceful demonstrators presenting to the government reasonable demands like ending corruption, sectarianism and cronyism so that national benefits are distributed equitably. Some army officers are complaining openly about injustices in the military. Some religious leaders are opposing the government in broad daylight.

Thankfully, the donor community is beginning to hear the voices of dissent and to act appropriately by issuing statements from their capitals or missions in Uganda, calling on the government to respond to the needs of the people. That some donors are demanding return of their stolen (donor) money is a sign that there is a wind of change in the donor community. It is estimated that over $30 billion has been donated (free money not loans to be repaid) to NRM government but there is virtually nothing to show for it. Add on $1 billion annually sent home by Ugandans in the diaspora, the revenue from exports, taxes and now oil and you have an idea of the magnitude of money that has been stolen by Museveni and his collaborators.