Religious leaders and call to justice in Uganda

It is now recognized that to bring about justice or fairness in Uganda will require inclusiveness, full participation, solidarity and compassion. In other words it means involvement of all sections of society: religious and traditional leaders, political and civil society leaders, security forces, youth, students and women. Religious leaders in Uganda have a special responsibility to end injustice because they interact directly or through networks with the population and appreciate its suffering better than most observers and are therefore in a position to recommend appropriate and location specific short and long term action-oriented solutions. The Christmas sermons in 2011 were very powerful in this regard. You need to build on that solid foundation in 2012. To facilitate your work and remove some possible obstacles in relations between religion and politics let us review in a historical perspective the work of religious leaders and theologians to end injustice.

Uganda has grossly underutilized capable, experienced professionals

Ugandans opposed to the failed NRM regime have begun a radical assessment (misinterpreted by some as trying to cause trouble) to get to the root of Uganda’s development challenges in order to offer appropriate recommendations including in skilled labor to get Uganda out of the political economy trap. We are beginning to behave like good medical doctors who will prescribe medication after they have identified the root cause of the illness. Let us examine the root cause of lack of skilled labor in Uganda.

Often Uganda’s underdevelopment has been defined in terms of lack of trained and experienced human capital to be eased by implementing a liberal immigration policy of very expensive professionals from neighboring countries and beyond. Although the colonial administration did not train sufficient numbers, a qualified cadre of civil service staff was trained for district and to a lesser extent central government. Obote I government increased training in quantity and quality in the 1960s. The political crisis from 1971 to 1986 resulted in many of them dead and most of the rest fleeing into exile where they got employed and improved their skills through further study and/or work experience. Those who stayed at home either took a low profile in towns or disappeared into the countryside where they engaged in subsistence agriculture to survive. These sad developments opened the door for ignorant and inexperienced staff mostly mercenaries to take charge of Uganda which they looted mercilessly and disappeared with their loot in 1979.

Uganda’s diverse society needs diverse leadership

When Ugandans meet formally or informally, the political economy, future and diversity of Uganda come up. What has been recognized is that Uganda’s diversity is an asset and a strength that should be utilized properly to bring about equitable distribution of the benefits of that diversity. Many times, as discussions progress, my mind races back to what Kaunda former president of Zambia said about diversity in his country. He observed on several occasions that although merit is important in appointments and promotions, he had to use it carefully to meet the needs of Zambia’s diverse population. He stressed that in trying to strike regional balance, he picked the best trained and experienced from each region so that he maintained professionalism and regional balance.

In Uganda the concept of merit has been applied differently under the NRM government since 1986 with unanticipated adverse outcomes. There are cases where merit considerations applied by the appointing authorities have resulted in top or strategic positions going to people from the same family, same ethnic group or same region. The western region is believed to have benefited more than any other in Uganda. However upon closer scrutiny you find that within the western region some families or ethnic groups have benefited more than others. Further analysis has demonstrated that merit was not even strictly applied causing discomfort in various quarters.

Corruption, poverty and the 1848 French Revolution

Lessons for Uganda

King Charles X was overthrown in large part because he wanted to reintroduce the ‘divine right of French kings’, indemnify French nobles at state expense for property lost in the 1789 Revolution and impose press censorship. On July 26, 1830 Charles attempted to remove the legislature and to abolish all freedoms to discuss royal authority. The king had become too much even for the poor, tired and revolutionary-weary Frenchmen. He had to go. For three days – July 27, 28, and 29, 1830 – the French people rose up and served notice that the royal services of Charles X were no longer required. He abdicated and departed for England on July 30.

Democracy became the buzz word in France. The middle class that had long complained about the abuses of political power by the aristocracy felt that its moment had come to take charge of France’s public affairs. In the discussions that ensued, some French wanted a republic, others a monarchy. In the end they opted for a restricted monarchy and Louis Philippe, a member of the Orlean’s family and cousin to the Bourbons became the “Citizen King” or “The July Monarch” (G. Roche 1993).