People in the Lakes region want peace through democracy

People in the Great Lakes region want peace through free and fair multi-party elections and government of majority rule that promotes liberty and justice for all but have been governed by military leaders from minority groups who can’t win in free and fair elections. When asked, people from different ethnic groups will tell you they have no difficulties living together. It is their political leaders that create divisions along ethnic lines to mobilize support.

After assassination of the president of Burundi in 1993 Hutus attacked Tutsis. One Tutsi who had escaped unharmed was interviewed and he said “The people who killed my family were Hutu from Frodebu (Hutu Party]. … We used to have no problems with them. But when they had the news from Radio Kigali, they said Tutsi must be massacred. We peasants don’t know why the putschists killed Ndadaye. But we are paying for what they did. They provoked the revenge of the Hutu on the Tutsi”(Africa Report Jan/Feb. 1994). I have travelled in the Lakes region and talked to many people and they all want peace. They don’t care who governs provided it is done properly through free and fair elections and the elected government takes good care of all citizens equitably.

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.

A beautiful country is about to go down the drain

February 18, 2011 signaled the beginning of the end of Uganda’s history as we have known it. On February 18, 2011 Museveni massively rigged the election while the whole world watched and got re-elected to another five-year term. According to the interim report of the Commonwealth Observer group it was an election that lacked a level playing field. Museveni is now in a position to end the history of Uganda. In the next five years he is going to do the following things to achieve that goal.

1. Following his swearing in ceremony Museveni will form a cabinet of ‘yes’ men and women that will rubber stamp his wishes particularly in the ministries of foreign affairs, finance, internal affairs, petroleum and energy, lands and east African affairs. Ugandans are urged to also watch carefully the ministers of state he will appoint in these ministries. In many cases ministers of state are more powerful than full ministers. We need to know the profile of each minister and minister of state.

A message for 2011 and beyond

Fellow Ugandans

As 2010 folds and 2011 unfolds I want to thank you all and share with you a few principal points.

Twenty ten (2010) has been an important year of reflection and debate made easy by the internet. Twenty eleven (2011) should be a year to launch real action to implement for present and future generations the outcomes of the 2010 debate. We shall need collaboration with friends, neighbors, well wishers and partners to put Uganda onto a growth and development path that is equitable, sustained and sustainable taking into consideration the following points.

First, a society that develops and matures must enjoy all the rights and freedoms that include good education, healthcare and adequate and balanced diet; decent jobs, housing and clothing as well as freedom of expression and assembly. These rights and freedoms can only be enjoyed through a free and fair political system, an independent judiciary and a security system that protects citizens’ lives and properties through established peoples’ institutions and rules.

Democracy at gun point in practice

The creation of a banana district

In his interview which was published in Uganda’s Monitor dated February 9, 2004 Hon. Major General (rtd) Kahinda Otafire observed that “We [NRM] stood for national unity, for democracy, for equality and we were for justice for all. You find all the principles we fought for contained in our ten-point program”. Ugandans interpreted democracy to mean empowering them to participate directly or through their representatives in decisions that improve their lives.

The president’s spokesperson characterized President Museveni as a man of the people – a believer in true democracy – who is always in touch with ordinary people including at the lowest level. In practice two major things have happened: first, the ten-point program was dropped – and so were the principles contained in it – when the NRM government began collaboration with the IMF and the World Bank after signing an agreement in May 1987 and second, democracy has been practiced at gun point to force people and institutions to take decisions dictated by NRM leaders. In forcing some of these decisions, NRM leaders were facilitated by the donor community. For example, the idea of decentralization came largely from development partners who thought that people would be able to take decisions that improve the quality of their lives and that services would be brought closer to them.