I write these stories with a heavy heart and watery eyes. It is heart breaking that Tutsi who were admitted into Uganda on humanitarian grounds as refugees and on a temporary basis when they were chased out of Rwanda in the wake of the 1959 Social Revolution have turned their guns on us and colonized our country and turned us into serfs to labor for their comfort. Those Ugandans who refused have been killed, jailed or forced into exile. The mysterious death of a young MP has stirred emotions of many Ugandans at home and abroad. She shouldn’t die in vain. Her untimely passing should serve as a rallying cry for all Ugandans at home and abroad with a view to making far reaching political changes.
Museveni tricked Ugandans who were unhappy with Obote and Amin regimes promising them to regain what they had lost in the political and economic areas. Catholics were promised the presidency and Baganda were promised return of federo, Mailo land and forests but none has come to pass and it is more than twenty six years since the promises were made.
In 1987, NRM government launched a stabilization and structural adjustment program (SAP). The first three years under the stabilization component were devoted largely to cleaning up the house through reducing inflation from triple to single digits, achieving a realistic exchange rate and balanced budget and promoting exports. This was a period of belt-tightening which reduced budget allocations to social sectors of health and education as well as agriculture. After these goals had been reached within a short period, the government was expected to relax belt-tightening and begin the process of development and economic transformation and distribution of growth benefits including increased government revenue to increase funding for social sectors and agriculture. Inflation control as well as monetary and fiscal policies would be relaxed as well. But they have remained a priority area since then, limiting economic growth and job creation prospects.
In the budget speech on June 14, 2012 the minister of finance stated that “Tackling inflation remains government’s overriding macroeconomic objective in order to protect macroeconomic stability”. Therefore a tight monetary and fiscal policy will remain in place as well. This policy poses problems for economic growth and job creation. In the financial year 2011/12 characterized by tight fiscal and monetary policy, economic growth of 3.2 percent was the lowest since NRM came to power and for the first time less that the population growth of 3.5 percent. Although inflation was reduced significantly, economic growth slowed tremendously and poverty rose to the tune of 81 percent.
In Uganda things have changed in the political, economic, social and environmental areas since NRM came to power in 1986. The leaders whether under pressure or voluntarily genuinely changed their opinion to match the changes that had taken place in Uganda and at the global level. In 1987 they abandoned the ten point development model and replaced it with a fundamentally different model of structural adjustment which came into force in May 1987. In 2009, structural adjustment model was declared dead. In line with the global economic wind of change, NRM government announced it had changed its opinion and abandoned structural adjustment and replaced it with Five Year National Development Plan (NDP). But there was no fundamental change in content. The core elements of structural adjustment remained intact – macroeconomic stability and limited state intervention in Uganda’s economy. This was a tactical change to hoodwink Ugandans ahead of 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections. So, one can fairly conclude that since 1987 while things have changed considerably government opinion and practice have remained virtually intact. Is it possible for NRM to change its opinion commensurate with the changes that have taken place since 1987? It is unlikely and this is why, beginning with the president.
The people of Uganda are hurting very badly under the NRM regime. Their conditions are getting worse. Ugandans are eating poorly, dressing poorly, sleeping poorly. When people struggle to get one meal of cassava a day; when people can only afford used clothes not even appropriate for their climate; when a whole family sleeps in one room on the floor sometimes with domestic animals; when parents force their daughters into early marriage to make ends meets that is a society in real trouble. I am describing Uganda society which is beginning to say Amin administration was better than Museveni’s. I am saying this from first-hand knowledge accumulated over many years. In my research, I have had the opportunity to interact with many people from all walks of life. I have visited churches, administrative offices, schools, homes, market places and vendors on the street. I have even travelled by bus many times between my home town of Rukungiri and the nation’s capital Kampala to hear passenger stories. I have visited homes at critical moments – at meal times, at bed times. I have also conversed with Uganda bureaucrats, politicians and donors. I have heard and seen it all: not from books but from real people. Some of the stories I have heard and things I have seen are horrible. People want enabling environment (roads, affordable electricity, etc) to struggle on their own but they are not getting it.
By and large a decision taken when one is angry, frustrated, tired or in a hurry is likely to be wrong. In 1981, Baganda and Catholics (no offense) with backing of some western powers led by Britain decided to wage a guerrilla war because they were angry, frustrated, tired and in a hurry that Obote had returned to power. Without proper scrutiny of each other, two ideologically opposed groups: Popular Resistance Army (PRA) and Uganda Freedom Fighters (UFF) formed the National Resistance Movement (NRM) with Yusuf Lule (RIP) as chairman and Museveni as vice chairman and also chairman of the high command of its armed wing, the National Resistance Army (NRA). This became a clear case of enemy’s enemy is a friend. What was common between the two groups is that they were both enemies (opponents to use a milder word) of Obote and UPC. What both wanted was to remove Obote and sort out their differences later, if any.
On October 23, 2010, I wrote that I had closed a chapter began in 1961 about Uganda’s political economy. The focus of that chapter was to analyze political economy challenges. Now, I am embarking on another one that will state a specific problem and suggest solutions. I will begin with the compelling case of Museveni’s hidden agenda – to promote Bahororo/Batutsi/Bahima dominance from southwest region to the national level – how he crafted and has implemented it without the majority of Ugandans realizing it.
Museveni began preparing his political career while at Ntare School in the early 1960s based largely on local (Ankole) politics. He realized that independence in Ankole (Museveni’s home base) based on majority rule of Bairu (slaves) led by Protestant elites was dangerous for minority Bahororo/Bahima (also Protestants) supremacy. The abolition of kingdoms including in Ankole by Obote – a Protestant, northerner and commoner – was bad news because it removed the institutional shelter that had protected Bahima and Bahororo minority rulers for centuries. Museveni developed a political strategy based on military and religious strength complemented by external forces. But he knew very early on that ultimately what would count most in his rise to power was military strength, not democracy. Religious divisions and external help would supplement military strength.
Many are wondering why October 9 (2010), Uganda’s 48th independence anniversary came and went like any other day. It happened that way because there was virtually nothing to celebrate. Independence anniversaries are about celebrating achievements, not mourning failures. A number of factors explain this silence.
Until the abandonment of structural adjustment in 2009 as a failed strategy, NRM government boasted that it had created conditions for high economic growth (although the rate was lower than the real GDP growth rate of 7-8 per cent a year required as a minimum to achieve the MDGs especially halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015), low and stable inflation rate, export diversification, privatization of public enterprises, controlling and reversing HIV & AIDS, providing universal primary education and maintaining peace, security and stability. External sponsors of these programs praised Museveni and his NRM government for achieving stability. Thus, NRM government and its external supporters felt they had done their work – and done it very well. The rest would be performed by the private sector as the engine of growth under able guidance of the invisible hand of market forces and trickle down mechanism. Maintaining macroeconomic stability was left in the hands of the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank.
When the National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power in 1986, it had a clear domestic and external policy message which was compressed into the ten-point program. It was a program that had been based on compromise with national unity in mind which became a cornerstone in Uganda’s development discourse in the early years of the NRM administration.
Earlier, the late Grace Ibingira had written about the absence of national consciousness in Uganda brought about by the retention or intensification of ethnic differences during the colonial period. He observed that “Since the colonial system kept them alive through indirect rule and the policy of minimal inter-ethnic contact, the idea of Britain bequeathing a new state uniting all the divergent groups with a government of nationalist politicians from different groups, some historically enemies, generated intense fear in the country, most especially among the group that had more to lose, the Baganda” (G. S. Ibingira 1980).
From Makobore to Mbaguta to Kaguta
Many people are still asking me to write concisely about the history of Bahororo: who are they, where they came from, where they live, how they are related to Bahima, Batutsi and Banyamulenge, and above all how they rose to prominence in Uganda politics.
Location before they entered the Great Lakes Region
Bahima, Batutsi, Bahororo and Banyamulenge are cousins. They change names and language whenever they move to a new place. In former Ankole District they are called Bahima; in Rwanda and Buruindi Batutsi; in Eastern DRC Banyamulenge and in Rujumbura Bahororo. Until recently Bahororo were relatively unknown because they registered or introduced themselves as Bahima. We shall say more later on.
There is credible evidence that they are Nilotic Luo-speaking people who entered the Great Lakes Region in the 15 and 16th centuries from Bahr el Ghazal in Southern Sudan and not from Ethiopia as John Hanning Speke had written in 1863 (Eric Kashambuzi. Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century 2009). They are known for their love of long-horn cattle. J. Roscoe described them this way: “Men become warmly attached to their cows; some of them they love like children, pet and talk to them, and weep over their ailments. Should a favorite cow die, their grief is extreme and cases are not wanting in which men have committed suicide through excessive grief at the loss of an animal” (Richard Poe 1999).
Any conversation about the Great Lakes region of Africa is likely to touch on ethnic relations. During my mission (January/February 2010) to DRC, Burundi and Rwanda ethnic issues came up in the three countries. Those who argue that there are no ethnic problems resort to using intermarriage as a justification. While in Burundi, the topic of extensive intermarriage came up at times when it was out of context.
In Uganda senior officials have endorsed the institution of intermarriage as a national unifying factor. And we should applaud that. But we need to examine the kind of intermarriage that has occurred between Batutsi/Bahima and Bahutu/Bairu in the region to be able to determine whether that is the model we should promote.
I will be brief because I have written on the subject several times. Let me stress at the outset that I support the institution of intermarriage but it has to be a two way relationship between ethnic groups to be meaningful and unifying. It also has to be combined with other considerations such as social interaction and equal access to opportunities by all ethnic groups based on merit. A few illustrative examples will be used about intermarriages and other social relations that have taken place so far.