We shall continue to write and to speak until the skeptics and surrogates are converted. A former colleague of mine advised that when you tell the truth, you will always win – sometimes at a price. He didn’t elaborate on the latter part. I have read widely, travelled widely and seen a lot. I don’t like what is happening in Uganda and won’t let it continue in order to be a popular guy on the block. Some have advised me that I am throwing away political capital by going negative against Museveni, his ethnic group and his regime. What I am doing is not for me: it is for the people of Uganda in present and future generations. If I got a public office it would be used to advance the cause of the people of Uganda – all Ugandans.
Before proceeding, let me say a word about Batutsi people and me. Normally I don’t use people’s names without permission but since I am going to say positive things I think it is safe to do so. I have already mentioned the names of Batutsi people who helped me as I was growing up. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Batutsi have treated Bairu well since the two groups interacted from around 1800. Bairu were deprived of their wealth including pasture land and converted into food cultivators to feed their Batutsi/Bahororo masters and to provide free labor before and during colonial rule.
Uganda, the size of the United Kingdom, was born after a complicated ‘pregnancy’ following the Berlin conference; border adjustment negotiations among the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and France; religious and colonial wars that left some parts devastated. The outcome was compression into one country of segments of society with different cultures, hostile neighbors, different government systems and levels of economic and social development. Indirect rule using former oppressive chiefs over their subjects and employment of Baganda advisers to other parts of Uganda complicated the situation. Buganda was rewarded with territory taken from Bunyoro for cooperation in subduing the latter, a deal that Bunyoro never accepted. Through the 1900 agreement, Dundas reforms of 1944 and the 1955 agreement, Buganda was accorded a status of a state within a state. Because of various local administration ordinances, the colonial administration introduced a strong decentralized government system at provincial and district levels at the expense of central administration. Collaboration between colonial administration and the Protestant Church at the expense of Catholic and Muslim Faiths also created complications.
The history of Uganda has been defined by war than peace. Accordingly, Uganda has no culture of resolving disputes by peaceful means. Ugandans will fight over virtually everything, cattle and land included. The skeletons of war are everywhere and are piling up. The people of Rukungiri, my home district, still remember the devastating Kagogo war. Wars between Buganda and Bunyoro are too well known to be repeated here. Religions that had been invited to protect Uganda ended up fighting each other and tearing some parts part. Colonialism could not be established in all parts of Uganda except through the barrel of the gun which left Bunyoro devastated to this day. Kings and chiefs were overthrown, exiled or jailed.
In her article dated December 7, 2010 on Uganda parastatals, Kesaasi wrote that privatization of Uganda public enterprises was not Museveni’s idea. It was Margaret Thatcher’s! This reminded me of work I did a few years ago about similarities between UK’s and Uganda’s development programs.
While researching and writing about structural adjustment programs (SAPs) or Washington Consensus around the world (Chile, Bolivia, Poland, Russia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia etc), I found that the similarities between Thatcher’s and Museveni’s structural adjustment programs were very striking. It was as though Uganda was a part of Britain run by British officials and institutions under Margaret Thatcher as prime minister. I decided to study it in a historical perspective and to identify which areas were similar and with what impact on the people in the two countries. I compressed the findings into chapter three on ‘Structural Adjustment in the UK and Uganda: Are there Similarities?’ in my book titled “Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century and Related Regional Issues (2008)” available at www.jonesharvest.com.
When I wrote that dividing Uganda into watertight Nilotic North and Bantu South was not entirely correct, some people sought clarification and elaboration. Earlier on some people had also raised the question whether the people of southern Uganda who are linguistically the same (Bantu-speakers) are also racially (or ethnically) the same.
For Uganda’s northern region one can safely use the Nilotic classification. For Buganda, Bunyoro and Toro one can also safely use the Bantu classification since intermarriage between Nilotic and Bantu peoples was so thorough that new communities emerged, adopted a common Bantu language and practiced mixed farming thereby ending the pastoralist and agricultural specialization between Nilotic and Bantu peoples respectively. However, in south west Uganda (Ntungamo and Rujumbura in particular) the situation is different.
Bantu people who speak Bantu language or Bantu Bantu-speakers (BBS) from Cameroon/Nigeria border arrived in southwest Uganda first through the Congo region. They practiced mixed farming of crops, short horn cattle, goats and sheep and poultry. They also manufactured a wide range of products particularly those based on iron ore. Centuries later, Nilotic Luo-speaking people with long horn cattle arrived in the area. Their ancestors came from southern Sudan. Although the Nilotic people (Bahima and Bahororo) adopted Bantu language, hence Nilotic Bantu-speakers (NBS), culturally and economically they remained distinct from Bantu Bantu-speakers (BBS). Separate identities were retained through a combination of strict restrictions on inter-marriage and specialized economic functions.
Two principles are important for this article. First, prevention is better than cure. Nobody disagrees but in practice cure is more common than prevention. People wait until a catastrophe has hit and then react sometimes too little and too late. Second, former President Nelson Mandela is reported to have remarked that “If there is something bothering you, if you feel you have been treated unfairly [or someone else], you must say so” (Richard Stengel 2010).
To prevent a brewing catastrophe in Uganda politics, we need to address the issue of how Bahororo-led government has unfairly treated the majority of Ugandans in order for Bahororo to consolidate power in Uganda and beyond. The government distanced itself from the agreed agenda and promises made during the bush war and since then. The ten-point program later expanded to fifteen which was essentially based on human security concept: freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom to live in dignity was abandoned. The program had captured the main elements in the United Nations Charter and the Convention on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was a program based on consultations and compromise, on forgiving and moving forward to build a democratic, secure, peaceful, participatory and prosperous country in which all Ugandans would exercise all their rights without infringement whatsoever.