Uganda which is blessed by human and natural endowments has failed to develop because of conflicts and foreign interference going as far back as the interaction of different ethnic groups in what later became Uganda (for example, Arab slave traders with European weapons helped Bahororo to defeat indigenous peoples in southwest Uganda). Slave trade, religious, regional, colonial and post-colonial wars created animosities that have torn the country apart and the situation is getting worse under Museveni. Instead of creating a foundation for peace, stability and prosperity for all, we are engaged in zero-sum games. Trust among Ugandans has dissipated as state informers have penetrated every aspect of our being. We are even beginning to get scared of our own shadows (I am confident that out of this fear will emerge courage to liberate ourselves).
The king of Buganda invited European missionaries because he was afraid of Muslim influence coming from the east and the north of his kingdom. He thought different religious groups would neutralize one another and leave him alone to govern his people in peace. Within a short time the three groups (Muslims, Protestants and Catholics) were at each other’s throat and fought one another and together or separately fought and forced the king into exile in Seychelles. When Protestants and Catholics turned on each other, Captain Lugard stepped in on the Protestant side and helped defeat Catholics. The Protestants since then (until Museveni came to power with Catholics in 1986) worked closely with the colonial administration to promote their interests at the expense of Muslims and Catholics.
These religious differences were manipulated by the colonial power and possibly the Church of England that created post independence relations in favor of Protestants. Obote (leader of UPC) prevailed over Kiwanuka (leader of DP) because the former was more trusted to guard British interests in Uganda and Buganda preferred him to its own man (Kiwanuka).
The imposition of a UPC-KY coalition government of strange bedfellows (Obote and Kabaka) and an unworkable independence constitution (based on the Munster report of 1961) began to crack soon after independence was declared. The late Kabaka commented that although he did not like (the late) Obote because he was not a likable man, he agreed to form an alliance with him. Obote was seen … “the obvious and best ally against Kiwanuka and the hated DP” (J. H. Mittelman 1975).
Uganda’s independence was rushed – in part because of fear that the destructive social revolution in Rwanda in 1959 and military chaos in Congo in 1960 might spread to Uganda – before national consciousness had been forged and a popular national leader had emerged (UPC was strong in the north and DP in the south). UPC that led Uganda into independence in 1962 was formed in 1960 by an alliance of different groups with different interests. DP was formed in 1956. Decision on thorny issues such as designation of head of state, the fate of Amin for atrocities he committed in Kenya and the ‘lost county’ issue was postponed until after independence.
The political events that followed apparently with external involvement (J. H. Mittleman 1975) tore the country apart: 5 ministers were detained and Buganda asked the central government to vacate its land resulting in a bloody confrontation and a republic constitution that abolished kingdoms. Obote’s turn came in 1971 when Amin kicked his boss out of power with foreign involvement. Amin (Nubian) like Obote was imposed on Uganda by foreign interests.
Thereafter, political, economic, social and ecological chaos descended on the country. People died and others fled. Commercial agriculture reverted to subsistence. Professors who survived became taxi drivers and street vendors. Officials on missions abroad avoided talking for fear spies in their midst might distort the story back home and end up on the gallows.
Wild animals were slaughtered en masse and survivors crossed the international border and took cover in Mobutu’s country which was also burning from Sese Seko’s fire. Forests were razed to the ground to produce timber for export. Asians were thrown out and the ensuing economic war resulted in massive degradation. Swamps, hill slopes and catchment areas were cleared of vegetation to grow crops and herd animals to boost economic growth. When that failed and agitation increased including among soldiers, the president for life chose to invade a neighboring country to buy time. Meanwhile foreign interests kept supplies flowing into Uganda and Bob Astles ran the country and stayed on until Tanzania’s troops rolled into Kampala.
Some 75 percent of Amin soldiers were foreigners from southern Sudan and DRC. They terrorized the country and murdered our people. Uganda was not their country and Ugandans not their people. They simply could not care less!
Museveni became president through the barrel of the gun and with massive foreign support in political, financial and media fields. Like Obote and Amin Museveni was imposed on Uganda. Museveni like Amin had strong backing of African mercenaries to the tune of 25 percent during the guerrilla war including Rwandans. He formed a government with western and African experts and advisors. As Amin’s government was basically directed by British Bob Astles, Museveni’s has been basically directed by British Lynda Chalker.
To create room for foreigners Museveni massively retrenched Ugandans, others were marginalized while a lot more with vast experience were advised to stay in exile as they would not find jobs at home. The extent of foreign involvement in Uganda’s affairs became known when Rwandese in strategic positions (whom we thought were Ugandans) left for Rwanda in 1994. A substantial number remained and is still wielding huge influence while citizens are languishing abroad because there are no jobs for them at home.
Museveni has been in power for twenty five years. He has managed to destroy what had been constructed since colonial days beginning with Makerere University (the former ‘Harvard of Africa’) which is now likened to a community college and Mulago teaching and national referral hospital. Sports that produced Ugandans like Akii Bua who put Uganda on the world map are gone. Uganda’s reputation of brilliant debaters in international conferences and at the UN is gone because appointments are mostly not based on merit.
Museveni believes Ugandans are afraid of guns and soldiers. That is why when he wants to scare them he wears military uniform and addresses the nations with his eyes about to jump out of the socket. In addition he has impoverished Ugandans deliberately including destroying cooperatives so they depend on him for survival.
Because Uganda has been ruled by leaders installed and sustained in power by foreigners (Obote and Amin were removed by foreigners), because our leaders have resorted to force to address challenges and because our governments are directed by foreigners (Bob Astles, Lynda Chalker, World Bank and IMF) Ugandans have never had a chance to design and implement programs of their choice. Under Museveni Uganda has become a guinea pig for experiments. Structural adjustment came to Uganda after it was rejected in Ghana and you have seen what damage it has done to our people, infrastructure, institutions and biodiversity.
No matter where you look Uganda is deteriorating fast (whether government reports annual economic growth rate of 8 or ten percent) and has become an embarrassment to donors that marketed Museveni as a star pupil, darling of the west that presided over a success story in structural adjustment. The pictures of malnourished mothers and children (while Museveni continues to insist on food exports to earn foreign exchange for the rich mostly his relatives), bodies disfigured by jiggers (a disease of poverty not laziness), frequent and devastating floods in the capital city of Kampala and dry river beds and hospitals that have turned into hospices etc cannot be swept under the carpet. It is time for change of Uganda’s leadership.
The ballot is secret and there is no reason why Museveni and NRM should not be defeated. What we need is a prayer led by our religious leaders and courage. By voting wisely we shall avoid what is happening in the northern part of Africa.