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.
Uganda was born and grew up in a divisive atmosphere. The religious wars at the start of colonial rule divided Uganda. Colonial wars in which some Ugandans collaborated with colonial armies to defeat and dismember defeated groups divided Uganda. Indirect rule that favored chiefs that were used to tax, punish, imprison and force commoners to do public work for free divided Uganda. The colonial policy that designated some areas economic growth poles and others labor reserve poles divided Uganda. The colonial policy of recruiting soldiers and police from the northern region by setting the height requirement that discriminated against shorter Ugandans in the south divided Uganda. The colonial administration based largely on districts staffed with officials from the same districts and a relatively detached central government divided Uganda. And the deliberate colonial policy of divide and rule deprived Uganda of national consciousness during the colonial period from 1894 to 1962.
Preparations for independence didn’t help. Uganda National Congress (UNC) which started off as a national party split along regional lines between Buganda and the rest of Uganda. Uganda Peoples Union (UPU) was formed by members of Legislative Council (LEGCO) outside Buganda to challenge Buganda. The non-Baganda UNC and UPU groups formed Uganda People’s Congress (UPC). UPC was overwhelmingly a Protestant party. Catholics formed their own party, the Democratic Party. So Uganda was divided along religious lines as we prepared for independence.
There is overwhelming evidence in time and space that countries that have developed or recovered quickly from devastation have relied heavily on their efforts – in some cases with additional external support. For instance, post-World War II quick recovery in Europe was more due to domestic institutions and capabilities that survived the war assisted by the Marshall Plan. Those that have relied heavily on outside advice and money – however well-intentioned – have not fared as expected witness Uganda since 1987.
NRM’s ten point program launched in 1986 received overwhelming support of Ugandans because it was homegrown. It covered issues that mattered most to Ugandans. Sadly, NRM dropped it in 1987 before implementation even began in favor of structural adjustment program (Washington Consensus) drawn up by outsiders.
I was among the first that protested to the highest level because I knew many in NRM close to the center of power. We argued that Ugandans know their history, their diversity and challenges and where they are located more than anyone else. Ipso facto, Ugandans should draw the roadmap and drive the process. We argued that experienced Ugandans in exile should be encouraged to return home and participate in the recovery and development process.
The task of a researcher is to identify problems and make recommendations for policy makers to act on. A lot has been written and published about Uganda but much more remains to be done to identify challenges especially those related to globalization and East African community and the associated influx of foreigners looking for land to own.
Uganda is a country whose economy and livelihood of her people depend on land for food and foreign exchange. The land has been worked and owned by peasants for centuries. British colonial authorities respected and protected that age-old tradition. In 1986, NRM government presented a people-centered ten-point program confirming that land belongs to the people. It gave an assurance that peasants who lost their land due to political instability and/or faulty policies would get it back.
In 1987, the government launched structural adjustment with a major policy shift and a potential adverse impact on peasants. Private sector and market forces would drive Uganda’s economy and the distribution of assets. Studies were conducted that emphasized large-scale farming as a more appropriate model for speeding up economic growth and transformation from subsistence to commercial agriculture. In other words, peasants were presented as less productive than large-scale farmers and should give way to the latter. Other studies supported rapid urbanization as the fastest path to Uganda’s development, implying rural-urban influx to create room for large farmers. Free mobility and settlement would be facilitated through various instruments.