Troubling developments in the Great Lakes region

It has been difficult to fully understand the nature and causes of conflicts in the Great Lakes region because much information is kept away from public view or distorted in favor of Nilotic Tutsi and against Bantu Hutu.

A combination of geopolitical conflicts over Great Lake’s resources in collaboration with Tutsi, anti-sectarian laws in Uganda and Rwanda and reporting the region largely since 1994 in the wake of Rwanda genocide has left many things unsaid like the fact that Tutsi committed genocide against Hutu in Burundi in 1965, 1972, 1988 and 1993 as recorded by Lemarchand (1994) and reported by Patrick Duport in the undated paper titled “The Sub-regional context of the crises in Rwanda and Burundi”.

Evidence is turning up that RPA (Rwanda Patriotic Army) committed atrocities against Hutu people since 1990 but as Amnesty International has reported “The international community appears to be making excuses for the new Rwandese authorities and turning a blind eye to human rights violations committed by RPA soldiers on the ground that they are not as serious as those committed by its predecessor” (New Africa December 1994).

Russian women: “They were just tired” – lessons for Uganda

I know that change is coming to Uganda. But what kind of change: peaceful or bloody change; change from below or from above? Although some readers have distorted my message for whatever reason, I have consistently pleaded orally and in writing for peaceful change – to the discomfort of those who want war – so that every Ugandan lives in peace, security, equality, prosperity and happiness. I have encouraged mixing at all levels – political, economic, social and cultural – to minimize conflicts. But to make appropriate changes we need to know what is happening in our society first. It is reporting the findings of what is happening that has caused discomfort in some quarters. And from these quarters we are getting name calling, intimidation and distorted messages. But the impartial analyst has to report research findings. And that is what we have been doing in the great lakes region. Hopefully we shall all end up on the same page.

Is today’s Uganda better or worse-off?

Before Ugandans head for the polls on February 18, 2011 to elect a president, members of parliament, district councilors and mayors, it might be helpful to consider the following developments.

1. The general standard of living of Ugandans has not reached the level attained in 1970.

2. Fifty two percent of Ugandans live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day (HDR 2010).

3. Some twenty percent of Ugandans in the lowest income bracket have become poorer.

4. Economic growth has fallen short of 7 or 8 percent required as a minimum to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

5. Seventy percent of Uganda’s GDP is generated in Kampala and its vicinity with a population of some two million. The remaining 31 million Ugandans contribute a mere 30 percent of GDP.

6. Household income distribution is highly skewed with 20 percent in the highest income bracket taking over 50 percent while 40 percent in the lowest income bracket taking 15 percent. Urban areas have performed relatively better than rural areas and southern has performed relatively better than northern Uganda.

Impact of refugees on Uganda’s population and political explosion

The job of researchers and reporters is to collect and present facts as background information for policy makers. Right now Uganda is experiencing tremendous demographic and political tremors whose causes need analysis, sorting and appropriate action before the tremors develop into full-blown earthquakes.

It would be naïve and unwise to ignore emerging emotional and controversial debates on the role of refugees and illegal immigrants in Uganda’s politics and demography, hoping time alone will solve them. The case of Cote d’Ivore where natives have had a devastating civil war with foreign-born immigrants for control of the country should serve as a useful lesson for Uganda since Uganda’s economic and political troubles have involved foreigners for about one hundred years.

Since colonial days Uganda has pursued, developed and maintained a liberal labor immigration and refugee policy which has complicated its political economy and demography. The role of refugees, foreign workers and illegal immigrants should not be underestimated in Uganda’s population and political dynamics.