It is reported that the president of Uganda and minister of defense have announced the possibility of a military coup against the constitution and government of Uganda. This has been prompted by the forces of democracy that are gathering speed and demanding answers about NRM wrong doing since before it came to power. Allegations that Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA) committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Luwero Triangle and Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Northern and Eastern regions of Uganda together with other wrongdoing in the political and human rights fields are becoming too much for the authorities to handle.
Through civic education conducted by United Democratic Ugandans (UDU), other organizations and the media, the people of Uganda and the rest of the international community are beginning to understand the gravity of wrong doing committed in Uganda by the NRM. The struggle for democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is beginning to bear fruit.
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.
Early this year (2012), South Africa celebrated 100 years marking the founding of African National Congress (ANC) as an independent country with a democratic black majority government. Originally named as South African Native National Congress, ANC was founded at a conference that took place at Bloemfontein (South Africa) on January 8, 1912.
Pixley ka Izaka Seme (Zulu), the founder of ANC earned a degree from Columbia University (USA) in 1906 and later a law degree at Oxford University. He returned to his home country, South Africa, to start a law firm and practice law. “When he arrived in Johannesburg, he found that he wasn’t allowed to use the sidewalks, leave his home without carrying as many as twelve official passes, venture out after 9:00 PM, or vote”. Outraged and appalled, Seme organized a conference at Bloemfontein to “unite all the black South African factions as a single political force”. This was the first unified political organization in colonial Africa composed of black Africans.
There are some Ugandans who are still calling on foreigners to initiate political change in Uganda preferably through the barrel of the gun to end abuse of power and the suffering it has caused there. Why should they? Foreigners have had it so good until now under Museveni like never before. Conditions for them (enabling environment) are better than in colonial days in many respects. Take land as an illustration. Governor Bell, Commissioner Spire and Director Simpson refused foreigners to own or lease land except for a few plantations. They argued successfully that land in Uganda belongs to peasants and it should remain so and convert it into commercial enterprises.
Museveni is changing all of that. He has given foreign developers the land they want and where they want it. A model school that Ugandans were proud of was pulled down in Kampala City because a developer wanted the site. Construction has taken place in previous water drainage channels in Kampala City because those are the sites the developers wanted, causing flooding and breeding ground for mosquitoes. Museveni shouted down advisers who argued against such developments. Uganda farmers have lost their land where they grew a variety of crops for own consumption and sell surplus in urban areas in the Entebbe-Kampala corridor in order to create space for cut flower production for export. Mabira forest is under constant threat because that is where the developer wants to grow sugar cane for export. It is reported he has refused other sites. Although Museveni has delayed the decision on Mabira forest he will likely yield in the end because foreign interests have triumphed over national ones.
Uganda has become a conference country. Ugandans are attending conferences or workshops at home and abroad and hosting international conferences. The international conferences are hosted largely to boost Uganda’s sagging image but are very costly in human and financial terms.
This article is a response to a request at the UDU Boston conference (October 2011) to provide information that may help to understand why Uganda despite all its endowments and generous external support poverty remains high and is deepening for some 20 percent in the lowest income bracket.
By and large, these meetings are organized or attended to analyze Uganda’s development challenges, draw lessons and recommend solutions.
A closer examination since 1986 indicates that Uganda’s development problems have been analyzed in detail, lessons learned and recommendations articulated as outlined below. Consequently, conferences could be significantly reduced, resources saved and the focus reoriented to address emerging challenges.
First, Uganda’s development challenges have been exhaustively analyzed and solutions adequately articulated. The analysis and recommendations in the ten-point program later extended to fifteen remain valid as subsequently elaborated and expanded or refocused in research findings and other documents like UDU’s National Recovery Plan (NRP) which was officially transmitted to the government and Uganda’s development partners. The Plan is accessible at www.udugandans.org.
I was trained in and have practiced the art of diplomacy at the highest level in international relations. Simply put diplomacy includes the art of establishing contacts through which problems are solved in a subtle manner or behind-the-scenes if you will. When circumstances force me to speak or to write I have used language – body, spoken or literary – to convey messages without divulging sensitive details or naming names.
As mentioned elsewhere I have studied the history of the Great Lakes Region especially my home area of Rujumbura for over forty years. I have read extensively and listened carefully to oral stories. Because I did not get much information from using questionnaires, I decided to use other techniques including travelling by bus between Uganda’s capital city of Kampala and my home town of Rukungiri – a decision that frustrated many people particularly my relatives because as a senior United Nations staff member I was not expected to travel that way.