Reporting UDU’s diplomatic progress

Press statement

A year ago, on July 9, 2011, United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) was born in Los Angeles, USA. One of the topics that dominated the brain storming and other formal and informal debates was restoration of political and civil rights so that Ugandans can associate, march and assemble freely; express opinion orally and in writing without harassment; campaign, vote, count the ballots and announce results without interference. Delegates also expressed the importance and urgency of restoring presidential term limits, establishment of a truly independent electoral commission and keeping the military out of politics as well as taking the recommendations of international observer missions seriously (in 2011 the Commonwealth Observer mission reported that the electoral process lacked a level playing field, implying declaring the results null and void). One of the strategies to effect the necessary changes was UDU’s interaction with the international community – at government, United Nations and human rights organizations levels.

Thankfully, UDU’s work was made relatively easy because many of the officials we met with were largely aware of the human rights violation in Uganda which was unacceptable to them. They therefore welcomed our initiative and the National Recovery Plan which contains information about deficits in democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms and governance (corruption, sectarianism, cronyism and non-accountability; lack of transparency and mismanagement of public funds). Our working methods have varied depending on circumstances but have produced positive results.

Uganda: when you’re afraid of failure you will never make progress

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.