Ugandans need patience, honesty, optimism and constructive engagement

The massive rigging of 2011 elections has forced many Ugandans to conclude that NRM won’t be unseated through the ballot box. They have decided to put elections on hold until the playing field has been leveled after NRM is gone. To unseat NRM other means have to be applied. Consequently, Ugandans in the opposition are trying to find a common ground on the purpose and how to implement it.

Given Uganda’s history of divide and rule, north-south divide, master-servant relations, differences in religion, economic and political injustice, different cultures and personal ambitions, it is taking longer to establish a common platform and methods of engagement.

Thus we still have people in our midst who believe that without them in the lead nothing will get done. When they do not lead, they do what it takes to frustrate the efforts of others.

We still have in our midst some who believe that they were born to rule and others to labor for them. When those believed to be servants rise to leadership positions they are frustrated by those who think that God ordained them divine leaders, only answerable to Him.

There are some people in our midst who believe that some regions are more important than others and what they say is what counts. If leaders in that region do not get what they want, they cause trouble.

There are those in our midst who believe they cannot lose an argument and impose their opinions on others by undemocratic means or through twisted democracy. Or when they lose they just walk away instead of accepting collective responsibility.

There are those in our midst who believe that the elites have failed Uganda and the torch should be passed to those of a different profile.

There are those in our midst who believe that when they pioneer a cause, they alone must determine the outcome and direct subsequent processes. When that does not happen, they muster all instruments at their disposal to destabilize the efforts of others, including delaying actions or changing positions even on issues they championed and pushed through. There are those who use others or use fake names to undermine the work of opponents when their political ambitions are threatened.

There are those in our midst who want to use force to remove NRM bypassing peaceful means. And there are those who want to begin with the latter and only apply the former in self-defense.

Because of these hurdles, it has not been possible to move fast and some Ugandans are getting impatient. Paradoxically, there are some who have not found their bearings and are complaining that their opponents are moving too fast. They have identified leaders behind this fast speed for removal from their positions.

This is not the time to despair but to keep hope alive. This is not the time to go negative but to engage in a constructive conversation. This is the time to use our different talents in a mutually-reinforcing manner. This is the time for genuine unity, not to preach it at sunrise and turn your back on it at sunset. This is the time for straight, not double talk.

We need to draw lessons from two success stories.

David C. Korten (2006) has written about USA that “The frontiersmen and the coastal settlers, however, shared a deep hostility to the rules and taxes of a distant king and a parliament in which they had no representation. Together these conditions set the stage for an alliance between widely disparate elements in a call for liberty from the Crown”.

In the United Kingdom in a contest for the Conservative Party leadership, Margaret Thatcher unexpectedly defeated the incumbent Edward Heath. Heath supporters who included the whole shadow cabinet, except one member, never believed that the former prime minister could be beaten by an inexperienced woman.

However, for the sake of party unity and determination to defeat the Labor Party, the supporters of Heath rallied behind the new leader. In 1979 the Conservative Party won the elections and Thatcher became the first woman prime minister.

These two lessons are very important for Uganda.

1. We must have a cause(s) that applies to all Ugandans, not many different pet projects promoted by individuals or sections of our country.

2. If a new leader(s) emerges from unexpected corner of our country or obscure group, he/she should receive all the support of those opposed to the NRM regime. New leaders should be supported or rejected using the performance criterion.

To succeed we need a common platform, honesty, patience and constructive engagement devoid of double talk. Leaders should be accepted or rejected on the basis of performance, not who they are or where they come from.