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.
My father, Reverend/Canon Samwiri Kashambuzi, as first born male and Anglican minister has had responsibilities for uniting people and resolving disputes in a mutually satisfactory manner. We have a relatively large extended family with members belonging to different faiths largely Protestants and Catholics. Although a Protestant and minister, his faith and profession did not influence how he treated members of the family that belong to another faith even during difficult religious times. The first lesson I learned from my father is that religion should not divide people. As a result religion has not influenced the way I treat people socially and professionally.
When I returned from exile in 1980, I started business in my home area of Rujumbura in southwest Uganda partly in acknowledgement of community support as I grew up and to help the development of the area. Since father was going to be the overall manager (we call him Chairman) in my absence at work far away from home, I discussed with him about selection of managers. He advised that we should pick the best regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Consequently, we picked a Catholic and a Mukiga to construct my family and first house in Rukungiri town although we had qualified people in our family. My father felt they lacked experience for the type of building we had in mind.
In Uganda as elsewhere leaders must be loved, not feared. Security forces in Uganda must be loved, not feared. When Ugandans are afraid of something they should run to police stations or army barracks for protection, not run away. Employers must be loved, not feared by their employees. Leaders in administration and police and military must protect the people, not scare and/or hurt them. They must cultivate a culture of peace and love, not of intimidation, torture and murder.
Conditions must be created where all people irrespective of their professions live and work together in peace and security. A maid should love, not fear her boss. A gardener should love, not fear his employer. The rule of law must work, not the rule of the gun and torture houses. The people of Uganda are tired of living in constant fear at home and abroad. Ugandans are afraid of one another even relatives because you don’t know what murder weapon the other is carrying. The people of Uganda are tired of being insulted by NRM surrogates or those scared of the wrong things they have done and are being discovered who use fake names. The people of Uganda are tired of mercenaries that torture and murder Ugandans and disappear with impunity when they can’t do it anymore. Nobody can tolerate living under these conditions indefinitely. If NRM is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens then someone else should do it.
In every society, people make mistakes. Those who recognize them early and correct them get back on the right track and move on. Those who don’t correct the mistakes suffer the consequences.
In England, King Charles I was defeated in a civil war, absolutism and the monarchy were abolished and England became a republic (Commonwealth) under Oliver Cromwell, a military commander. Cromwell governed with an iron hand and his son who succeeded him was very weak. The people of England through their Parliament decided to restore the monarchy under King Charles II with restrictions. The mistake was corrected and England moved forward.
Since the Lancaster House constitutional conference for independence, we Ugandans have made mistakes. In a rush to meet the deadline of October 9, 1962 for independence, we postponed and overlooked major issues which should have been resolved with Britain in the chair. The daunting issues of Lost Counties, Head of State, Batutsi refugees and the fate of Amin were postponed. We abandoned Ben Kiwanuka whom we knew better and welcomed Milton Obote who had just returned from Kenya who didn’t know Uganda and Uganda didn’t know him. When Uganda became independent, it was neither a monarchy nor a republic. It was simply called “The Sovereign State of Uganda” with the Queen as Head of State.
There are many reasons why people join politics. There are those who join for fame. There are those who join because they have nothing else to do. There are those who join to make money. There are those who join to bring certain issues to public attention. And there are those who join to solve problems.
I joined politics very early in life. I joined student politics at Butobere School because I wanted to bring all students together to celebrate independence as one united group, not supporters of DP or UPC. I became president of Rujumbura Students Association to bring harmony among sectarian groups. I involuntarily joined Rukungiri UPC politics of meat eaters and vegetarians because I wanted to defend a civil servant who had been unfairly treated by the vegetarian group. I became president of African Students Association at the University of California at Berkeley because I wanted African students to have a common position on the Vietnam War. I became chairman of UNDP staff association in Zambia because I wanted harmony between locally and internationally recruited staff. I co-founded Uganda Unity Group in Zambia to bring Ugandans together and end sectarian politics against the Amin regime and I joined Amicale at the United Nations in New York so that Africans have a common position on matters that affected their welfare.
Those calling on Kaguta, Kagame and Kabila (the three Ks) to pacify the Great Lakes region are exaggerating what the three leaders can do for two major reasons. First, these are military leaders who believe in military solution to problems. Peaceful negotiation or democracy isn’t their cup of tea.
Museveni engaged in a very destructive Luwero Triangle guerrilla war to solve a political problem caused by the 1980 elections which he lost instead of mobilizing for the next elections. If the international community hadn’t exerted pressure on him, Museveni would probably still be fighting the rebels in the north and east of Uganda.
Second, Kaguta, Kagame and Kabila are agents. And agents don’t decide: they carry out instructions. The locus of power and decision making is elsewhere, not even at the United Nations in New York. It is in major western capitals.
During a mission to the Great Lakes region in DRC, Burundi and Rwanda about three years ago, it was made clear from different sources that Uganda and Rwanda and their leaders are mere agents of western powers and corporations. Therefore calling on Kagame, Kaguta and Kabila to end the fighting is a waste of time and money. These leaders are acting on instructions.
The October 27, 2012 London conference on federalism in Uganda could not have been organized at a better time. It has given us the opportunity to examine the system under which Uganda has been governed for the last fifty years, the benefits and deficits associated with it and how to proceed in the next fifty years.
One thing should be made clear at the outset: the conference is about federalism which is a system of governance by sharing power between the central and local governments. Following consultations, my understanding is that the conference isn’t about kingdoms. However, fellow Ugandans who still have doubts should seek clarification from the organizers of the conference.
Since the launch of the Republic Constitution in 1967, Uganda has been governed under a unitary or centralized system of government that has concentrated power in the executive branch of government at the expense of legislative and judicial branches and local governments. Presidents in Uganda from Obote I to Museveni have governed like European absolute rulers including the Stuarts of England, the Bourbons of France and the Czars of Russia.
Further to my earlier preliminary remarks here are specific observations.
1. The long awaited cabinet reshuffle to put Uganda on the right development trajectory has not occurred. The appointing authority is either not fully aware of the daunting challenges around him or he didn’t have the courage to make revolutionary changes. We have not only ended up with the same faces, but more interestingly with ministers that had been dropped or suspended while investigations in alleged wrongdoing were underway and aren’t completed yet.
2. As noted earlier the vice president should have been given a full ministry to make him visibly active and make savings.
3. The ministry of East African affairs should have been combined with the ministry of foreign affairs and renamed ministry of foreign affairs and regional cooperation with two ministers of state one each for regional cooperation and East African affairs.
4. The post of third deputy prime minister and functions are redundant and should have been deleted.
5. The ministry of security should have been combined with the ministry of internal affairs and renamed ministry of internal affairs, security and immigration with two ministers of state.
Many Ugandans are very unhappy about the deteriorating situation in our country. However, they are unable to react because they are afraid that if they don’t succeed in regime change or make fundamental changes within NRM the consequences might be severe. They are therefore prepared to wait until time solves the problem or someone else does it for them. That is why some Ugandans are praying virtually daily for donors to come to our rescue. In life there are few, if any, improvements that occur without human involvement and sometimes sacrifices. Intervention by others is more often than not to promote or fulfill parochial agendas that could lead to more hardship for the non-participants in the process. Therefore in order to solve a problem those affected need to participate. Second, success or failure depends upon the goal one sets. For example, those who had planned to unseat NRM regime in 2011 elections and didn’t obviously failed. Those who criticized NRM economic policy succeeded because the government dropped the devastating structural adjustment program in 2009 based on the invisible hand of market forces and replaced it with National Development Plan designed to introduce a public-private partnership model. Third, there are goals that are achieved in stages. You start with producing and disseminating information in the news papers, radios and the internet as Ugandans are doing now. The information is then debated and synthesized into policy and strategy in the second phase. In the third phase the strategy is implemented. Implementation may not achieve all the goals or none at all. The momentum may be slowed or the movement even destroyed completely. History provides lessons we can draw from so that when we do not succeed or do so partially the first time we should not despair and throw in the towel. In some of my publications, I have deliberately drawn on history lessons to show that those that persist and are optimistic win in the end. Below are some lessons that discourage pessimism and defeatism.
We are writing these stories not because we are driven by radicalism or assertiveness as some people have suggested but because we want to save a bad situation from getting worse. For those who care to know two worrying developments are taking place in Uganda – land grabbing by foreigners and inferior education for indigenous population. These developments are reminiscent of the recently ended apartheid system in South Africa where the indigenous black population lost most of the land to the minority white population and got inferior education. It took almost one hundred years of struggle, abandoning education, loss of lives and long term prison sentences from 1912 to end this unjust system but the effects are still being felt. Let us examine the land issue as it relates to Uganda.
When we were growing up in poor families in southwest Uganda we were told again and again that our future was in education and not in tilling the land, a profession left for those who failed at school. To drive the point home we were punished at home and at school for whatever wrongdoing by doing agriculture work in school or family gardens. So Ugandans developed a dislike for agriculture and by extension land ownership. Educated people distanced themselves from rural areas and most would not even think of investing a small portion of their income in agriculture or rural development. Village life was something to be avoided.