Patriotic Ugandans and friends have cause to worry about the future of Uganda which is being shaped by current developments. As we know the past impacts the present and the present influences the future. What makes a country grow and develop are its people underpinned by an enabling environment including education, health and nutrition care, infrastructure, institutions, good governance and the political will and commitment of leaders.
The first decade of Uganda’s independence witnessed commendable progress in these areas. In its 1993 report covering the 1963-70 period, the World Bank observed that “Uganda’s social indicators were comparable to, if not better than, most countries in Africa. The country’s health service had developed into one of Africa’s best. Uganda pioneered many low-cost health and nutrition programs. There was a highly organized network of vaccination centers and immunization program reached 70 percent of the population. Although school enrolment was still low, Uganda’s education system had developed a reputation for very high quality”. Uganda had also made substantial progress in infrastructure particularly road construction and institutions in research, extension services and cooperatives.
One of the outcomes of UDU conference in Boston in October 2011 was recognition that there is an acute shortage of information about Uganda’s history, its place in the Great Lakes geopolitics and domestic political economy. It was decided that one of the main follow-up activities of UDU secretariat be civic education within the framework of the National Recovery Plan (NRP). I have consistently argued that:
1. You have got to identify the root cause(s) of the problem before attempting a solution;
2. You have to present research findings as truthfully and honestly as possible;
3. You have to study the actions of actors dialectically by looking for that which is not said because that is where the main motive is likely to be located;
4. You should not shy away from telling the truth for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. For instance, a doctor would do a disservice if he treated a patient with a sexually transmitted disease without disclosing the cause of the problem to avoid hurting feelings. The right thing is to tell the truth and ask that the partner also comes in for treatment so that the disease is cured once and for all, assuming that the two partners won’t engage in extra relations.
In the 1960s and 1970s, many Latin American countries were governed by military dictators. Although they had come to stay indefinitely as managers of rapid economic growth and poverty reduction, by the 1980s and 1990s they had handed over power to civilian governments. What caused this fundamental change?
Under a combination of external and domestic pressure caused by economic failures and human rights violations, military governments couldn’t cope with the management of national economies and civilian populations they were not equipped to handle. The information below has been extracted in part from the fifth edition of a 1995 publication by Europa Publications Limited titled “South America, Central America and the Caribbean”. Economic, social, political and human rights failures led to internal and external pressures that forced military governments to retire from politics. The church played a significant role in the transition from military to civilian rule.
The main purpose of armed forces is to defend the nation against external aggression and not run affairs of state. But in Latin America there were few foreign wars to explain the rise of military dictatorship that began in 1930. However, in the 1960s, Castro and Che Guevara revolutions necessitated military intervention with external assistance in training and funding. Some countries developed the so-called “National Security Doctrine” that enabled military officers to implement drastic measures to prevent or defeat subversion in their territories.
Upon realizing that Batutsi are Nilotic people one fellow Ugandan wondered why then have Nilotic people been killing each other in Uganda. I replied briefly that the fight has been over power. Power doesn’t recognize relatives when relatives face each other. When relatives have a common opponent from another group (Obote and Ibingira versus Kakonge), relatives come together. When that opponent is out of the way (Kakonge out) relatives turn against each other (Obote and Ibingira). Before elaborating on Nilotic rivalry in Uganda politics, let us look at two examples of relatives fighting and replacing each other in England and Burundi respectively.
1. The War of the Roses (1455 – 1485). For thirty long and bitter years, two noble families in England: the House of York (whose badge was a white rose) and the House of Lancaster (whose badge was a red rose) fought a bitter civil war as a result of conflicting claims to the English throne. Many nobles and others died in the war. In the end the House of Lancaster defeated the House of York. Henry Tudor was crowned king of England as Henry VII. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I belonged to the Tudor family that ruled from 1485 to 1603. Because Elizabeth had no children (she never married), she was succeeded by James Stuart her distant cousin who became king of England as James I.
Readers must be wondering why I am writing prolifically about Uganda on a wide range of topics. There are three main reasons.
1. Uganda is at a crossroads and we must decide quickly which development path we need to take and the kind of leadership required. It is now recognized that the principal constraint in Uganda’s development is the background and quality of leadership. We need to examine economic and social performance under civilian and military leadership since independence in 1962 and draw conclusions.
2. I have been covering many topics in an inter-connected manner in economics, politics and regional/international relations because development is multi-dimensional. I have introduced a seminar on Radio Uganda Boston, USA on political economy to show how politics and economics affect each other and shouldn’t be treated as separate entities in policy formulation. The NRM government’s approach is virtually one dimensional. For example, in increasing crop production and livestock herding especially with introduction of commercial goats, the government has not taken environmental degradation seriously into account. Also, education has not been linked with employment opportunities to the extent that over 80 percent of Uganda youth are unemployed.
While in London to attend the federal conference in late October 2012 where I presented two papers and prepared a summary report of the conference, I bumped into a compatriot on Oxford Street. We discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to the sad situation in Uganda. He thanked me for writing a book on “Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century” including a chapter in which I praised Batutsi for the help they extended to me. He paused as if he was trying to say something that didn’t fit into the trend of the discussion thus far. He looked around and finally said “Why then have you turned against Batutsi?”
I told him I was not against Batutsi as human beings. I was against the destructive policies of the current generation of Batutsi in power in Uganda. And I am doing so to help them refocus the trajectory onto the right development path.
For easy reference (and against my principle of refraining from mentioning names), I am listing some Batutsi people in Rujumbura County of Rukungiri district who helped me (a Mwiru) while I was growing up. Some or their relatives are still alive and you can ask them to confirm or deny my story.
There has been talk of using force to get rid of NRM government which has disappointed Ugandans and neighbors that had counted on Museveni to champion peace, security, stability, prosperity and good neighborly relations. It was hoped that through multiparty democracy, NRM would be unseated through free and fair elections but that hasn’t happened because of electoral fraud and suppression of opposition parties.
New developments regarding formation of Tutsi empire using Uganda as a base and the recent decision by Uganda and Rwanda delegates to terminate colonial borders has raised eyebrows and fear that Uganda could disappear as we have known it. In addition the prime minister’s statement that peasants should be replaced by large scale farmers without indicating where he would put them has created tremendous anxiety.
Regarding elimination of national borders, it is possible that Uganda and Rwanda parliaments which are basically rubber stamp institutions could be instructed by Presidents Museveni and Kagame to pass legislation for merging Uganda and Rwanda into a single state and erase national borders through legislation. These developments should be taken seriously and prevent them from happening because once they have happened it is very difficult if not impossible to reverse them peacefully.
People demand change of different degrees when existing frameworks don’t work well. Students demand better food because what they are eating isn’t good or is monotonous. Workers demand better working conditions because the existing ones aren’t good. This is a normal thing in all societies. And when leaders refuse to respond or convince the public they face difficulties, sooner or later, some of them revolutionary. Leaders that adjust as enlightened despots in Europe did during the 18th century lasted longer. Those that didn’t like Charles I of England, Louis XVI of France, Nicholas II of Russia and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia were booted out of power and their dynasties destroyed.
Similarly, the people of Uganda after fifty years of independence are demanding change of leadership and a new governance system. NRM leadership and its unitary and tier system of government are not only controversial but also unacceptable. They have made a few families filthy rich and the majority real paupers. All Ugandans are born equal and must be presented with equal opportunity to develop their talents. If they fail to get what they want peacefully, they are likely to resort to other means. This is natural.
Writing from the heart and directed by conscience
Those who have read my work since my first book was published in 1997 will have realized that I am writing from my heart with no grudge against anyone. I am not writing to be praised. I am providing information as a basis for debate. My conscience and observations tell me that something is wrong in our country and society under the leadership of Museveni. I see a country that has lost direction and with no prospects for recovery under the current government. To find a solution we must get to the heart of the matter which is corruption, sectarianism and Museveni ambition to create a Tutsi Empire using Uganda as a spring board. I have advocated peaceful means for solving our problems. Force can only be used in self-defense. I call on all Ugandans do discuss these sensitive and controversial topics substantively, constructively and in a civil manner. Furthermore I call on all Ugandans regardless of their profession to work towards finding a peaceful solution so that we create a solid foundation for all our children.
UDU premise is finding and telling the truth about Uganda and Ugandans in order to identify problems and recommend solutions that will benefit all. In our culture we have a saying developed before refrigeration became available that if you hide meat from fire it will rot. Either you roast or boil it.
When confronted with a difficult situation, we Ugandans have developed a habit of brushing sensitive issues under the carpet/rug hoping time will provide solutions. We especially politicians have therefore developed a tendency of saying what the audience wants to hear or skipping vital issues to earn popularity.
There is ample evidence that if discussions before independence had been genuine, Uganda would have avoided the situation we are in. But because they were rushing our negotiators made some blunders. They avoided the issue of the head of state and we ended up with a Governor-General which delayed the problem. They avoided the right solution to Amin problem and we all know what we got from him. They avoided the issue of ‘Lost Counties” and we know what happened and what still lingers on. The colonial administration simply handed over the problems it created.