UDU’s first conference at Los Angeles in July 2011 was preceded by six months of extensive and frank discussions about Uganda challenges and prospects. There was full transparency and inclusiveness. At the conference there was a brain storming session that covered all aspects of human endeavor. The conference was attended by Ugandans from different parties and organizations and from all regions of Uganda with different backgrounds, demographic dynamics (gender and age groups) and experiences that enriched the discussions. Detailed instructions were issued on preparing a National Recovery Plan (NRP) as a foundation upon which to build a new Uganda. The draft Plan was circulated widely to Ugandans, friends and well wishers a month ahead of the Boston conference in October 2011 for study, consultation and comment. Comments were incorporated into the draft Plan that was prepared by Ugandans.
The Boston conference which was held on the eve of Uganda’s independence anniversary devoted the entire day discussing the Plan and a road map on the way forward. It was clear from the debate that Uganda was ripe for a new beginning. The UDU secretariat was given fresh mandate to prepare policy and strategy messages for wide circulation at home and abroad and to gather information about what Ugandans want. The secretariat was also mandated to follow developments at home and abroad and respond appropriately. We have posted our reports on www.udugandans.org and Ugandans at Heart Forum. Dennis Nyondo of UNAA has been instrumental in circulating and commenting on UDU work. We have received tremendous responses of encouragement and UDU has already become a household name. So far, we have learned that:
1. As an independent nation, Uganda started on a weak foundation and structure and has been driven on a wrong path by wrong leaders as the many deficits in economic, social, political and environmental areas demonstrate. The process of destruction has accelerated under NRM government as witnessed by re-emergence of old diseases, mass poverty, unemployment of youth, hunger, corruption and sectarianism etc. The speed of these negative changes is unprecedented as if it is deliberate as government does not seem to care about the welfare of Ugandans except to maintain macroeconomic stability particularly inflation control through raising interest rates that constrain borrowing, investment and job creation, and to continue to export Uganda food while Ugandans starve and to expect the market forces that have failed to address the unemployment challenge. Ipso facto, Uganda needs a new foundation, a new structure and a new beginning under a new breed of leaders with known, impeccable and tested records;
2. Ugandans must receive detailed and accurate information about our history and who we are to be able to take informed decisions;
3. In the interest of national security, leaders from the lowest to the highest level in all areas of elective activity must be scrutinized with a fine tooth comb. Leaders must be selected on the basis of their biographic data and on an agreed upon profile. The practice of selecting leaders without knowing who they are particularly their background and experience has proven very problematic. You discover after elections that some wrong people or people who are not team players were elected or elected for different reasons and it is too late to change. So far Uganda leaders with military background have performed poorly as presidents. Military leaders used to commanding soldiers and seeing political opposition as enemy to be destroyed as in a battle field, not to negotiate with, should be discouraged from seeking presidency of Uganda. Their association with the military will also cause problems to the public and creating a professional army.
4. Leaders must be selected on a democratic basis by eligible Uganda citizens only in a fair and free atmosphere where a level playing field will be provided including the same amount of campaign funds to competitors for respective positions. Changing government by military means should be eliminated. However, when government uses excessive force against demonstrators for peaceful change, then the opposition has a legitimate right to defend itself by whatever means appropriate. After Uganda’s experience since 1971, military governments should not be allowed again in Uganda;
5. Term limits must be set for each category of representation to prevent Ugandans from turning politics into careers;
6. Proportional representation must replace winner-take-all in elective offices in the interest of national stability;
7. Uganda must be governed by laws and not by the dictates of one individual or a small group of individuals. No Ugandan must be above the law;
8. Uganda must be administered by institutions and not by individuals. Individuals come and go but institutions stay;
9. The succession of the head of state must be institutionalized and put in the constitution;
10. Ugandans must be treated as equals with inalienable rights that no individual or authority can take away. All Ugandans must be given equal opportunity to use their God given talents to the greatest extent possible. At a minimum, this will include education, healthcare, food security, shelter and clothing. Food being the source of life the nation must be fed first;
11. Rewards must be given on merit and not on the accident of birth, taking into consideration Uganda’s diversity;
12. Uganda must establish and protect separation of powers as checks and balances among the legislative (to pass laws), executive (to implement laws), and the judiciary (to interpret laws) branches of government; no one branch of government especially the executive branch should be allowed to accumulate excessive powers;
13. Appropriate responsibility and commensurate authority must be decentralized to the regions, districts and communities with common standards monitored by the central authority to maintain national cohesiveness and unity and to ensure that no region is left behind. Common services such as national defense, law and order and foreign and regional policy will be conducted by the central government. It will collect revenue to fund its activities;
14. Uganda must respect traditions, culture and values but the central authority must ensure that they are not used to create sub-nationalism;
15. Uganda should participate in regional cooperation arrangements on equal basis and net gains and without sacrificing too much sovereignty. Uganda borders must remain inviolable within the region. Uganda must retain sovereignty including over defense, foreign affairs and a seat in United Nations organs and African Union, African Development Bank etc and keep land ownership and use out of negotiations (Europeans kept Common Agricultural Policy – CAP – out of Lome Convention negotiations because it matters a lot to them just as land matters a lot to Ugandans).
16. Religious freedom must be guaranteed and separation of church and state strictly enforced so that the state does not interfere in church matters as such interference may create unnecessary divisions and engagement in church sectarianism. Religions should participate in development work on a non-sectarian basis through inter-faith institutions as part of government establishment;
17. Security institutions should be professional and defend the nation regardless of who or which party is in power;
18. Public servants should stay out of politics and serve who or which party is in power. Those who choose to run for political office should resign and not seek re-entry into public service. When a member of parliament crosses a party line, there should be a by-election;
19. In the interest of national security, immigration and naturalization policies must be scrutinized with a fine tooth comb. Refugees should be taken care of in designated places until they return to their home countries when conditions allow;
20. Some sectors of the economy that have a national security component or commanding importance must be controlled by the state;
21. Within regional cooperation framework, Uganda must retain sufficient financial, monetary, separate currency and political authority to adjust Uganda’s economy to changing circumstances. East African or national language should not destroy local languages that give identity to communities;
22. Sovereignty resides in the people of Uganda served by the government. The people have the right to remove a government from power by democratic means that does not serve the interests of the people. Peaceful demonstrations, strikes etc are legitimate methods. The NRM government has been warned against beating up or jailing innocent people who demonstrate peacefully. So go out and demonstrate when you are not happy. The power of conducting Uganda affairs resides in Ugandans. If you do not use it someone else will and don’t complain when things go wrong. The opportunity you have to turn things around is at the ballot box. If you sell your birth right to select a good representative then that is your fault. Don’t complain when a member of parliament does nothing for you because he or she bought your vote with a kilo of salt for five years;
23. When governments or dynasties that stay in power too long are finally removed, they are usually followed by destructive civil wars – in France, Russia, Iran, Ethiopia and Zaire etc. Uganda should ensure that post-NRM government is not accompanied by a civil war. To avoid this Ugandans must use a strategy that involves everyone in a new government under a carefully selected leadership with a record of bringing people together, of reconciliation and not of dividing people along religious, ethnic, regional and class lines;
24. Uganda must follow a friendly regional foreign policy, not to dictate to neighbors and not to be dictated to by neighbors;
25. Uganda must pursue a foreign policy that promotes and protects national interests;
26. A revised constitution will be necessary to incorporate these proposed changes that have been collected from Ugandans at home and abroad.
Secretary General, UDU