People in the Great Lakes region want peace through free and fair multi-party elections and government of majority rule that promotes liberty and justice for all but have been governed by military leaders from minority groups who can’t win in free and fair elections. When asked, people from different ethnic groups will tell you they have no difficulties living together. It is their political leaders that create divisions along ethnic lines to mobilize support.
After assassination of the president of Burundi in 1993 Hutus attacked Tutsis. One Tutsi who had escaped unharmed was interviewed and he said “The people who killed my family were Hutu from Frodebu (Hutu Party]. … We used to have no problems with them. But when they had the news from Radio Kigali, they said Tutsi must be massacred. We peasants don’t know why the putschists killed Ndadaye. But we are paying for what they did. They provoked the revenge of the Hutu on the Tutsi”(Africa Report Jan/Feb. 1994). I have travelled in the Lakes region and talked to many people and they all want peace. They don’t care who governs provided it is done properly through free and fair elections and the elected government takes good care of all citizens equitably.
The 18th century intellectual revolution (enlightenment) in Europe paved the way for revolutions in Europe and America, solving many problems. These intellectuals that included Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Paine disagreed a lot among themselves but the direction and conclusions were clear – absolute rule with divine right, intolerance, abuse of human rights and exploitation were things of the past. Many intellectuals ran into trouble with their governments: were jailed or fled their homeland but never yielded what they stood for.
We had very intense and interactive discussions at the UDU conference in Boston in October 2011. It was realized that there was a severe shortage of information. Our history has distortions, biases, misinformation and misinterpretation of events. It was agreed that civic education should be one of the principal tasks of UDU. It was however stressed that discussions should be civil regardless of the degree of disagreement. None has a right to abuse others with different opinions. I urge that we maintain the spirit of respect for one another especially when discussing controversial topics.
One thing that is indisputable is that Ugandans including many in the NRM want change preferably by peaceful means. War has no support domestically and in the international community. On the other hand, the ruling clique in the NRM that wants to hang onto power and hand over to their children when they retire is working hard to keep Ugandans divided as illustrated by the creation of over 100 districts that has killed the unity project which was NRM’s flagship at the start of its administration in 1986. History shows unambiguously that when people are divided they fail and when united they succeed in their endeavors. The purpose of studying history which everyone should do at school or through self education besides passing examination is to draw lessons about what to avoid and what to emulate with modifications as appropriate. NRM has definitely mustered the history lesson of keeping Ugandans divided including encouraging them to seek work abroad so that it weakens the middle class that champions agitation for change. The following paragraphs will demonstrate using examples from different parts and different times how unity brings about success.
There are things that we shall keep in the media until solutions are found. One of the senior officials at the United Nations in New York replied to a question that conferences on the same subjects will continue to be organized until solutions are found. I agreed with him then, I agree with him now. And that is what I intend to do with Uganda until solutions to the questions raised are found. Ugandans and other readers are urged to make constructive comments on what we write in order to reorient Uganda’s development path. The purpose of development is to end poverty. Economic growth rates while necessary are meaningless unless they lead to poverty reduction. Poverty can only end by addressing dimensions that create it: illiteracy, disease, poor diet, poor housing and clothing, low productivity and value addition etc. Buildings, referenda and constitutions are necessary but not sufficient. Pass or fail depends on how much poverty has been reduced. You may have sufficient revenue and skilled people and yet fail to reduce poverty because of the way resources are used. Why has Uganda with adequate resources and skilled human power failed to address these dimensions that have kept over fifty percent of Ugandans absolutely poor? Here are the principle reasons.
When I was growing up, we had unwritten rules, regulations and procedures at family and community levels (I am not talking about the rulers and the ruled because that is a totally different story). Nobody was above them. They were designed to ensure justice and equality, maintain law and order and respect for private property. Everyone had dignity within that community. Individuals and groups had responsibilities. For example, among children, the older one was obliged to take care of the young ones. Preference was especially given to weak or sick members. We did not take advantage of them.
Stealing or possessing something that was not yours was strictly forbidden. For example, when you picked up some money or handkerchief you would take it to the priest who would announce lost and found items on Sunday. People who swindled others would not get away with it.
There were procedures for sharing information and resolving disputes to avoid rule of the jungle. The most important instrument was sharing information. If a neighbor found your child doing something inappropriate, parents would be notified to take corrective steps. If a child stayed with friends or relatives, parents or relatives would be notified. Disappearance of children was unheard of!
Wherever you look – economic equitability, food and nutrition security, quality education and healthcare and biodiversity protection etc – you see deficits. That is why even those at the UN, BWIs (World Bank and IMF) and bilateral partners are quietly distancing themselves from Museveni’s development failure and ruthless dictatorship.
Museveni came to power at a time when Uganda was ready for positive change. Ugandans wanted change that would help all of them put food on the table, send their children to school, find remunerative and decent jobs, move out of subsistence economy, enjoy healthy lives, good neighborly relations and protect their lives and properties earned intellectually (an article posted on the internet for example) or through physical labor etc.