Uganda’s main challenge

Greetings fellow Ugandans and friends

Making progress in any area of human endeavor begins with a clear understanding of the challenge and how to address it.

1. Uganda’s principal problem right now is Museveni and his political economy philosophy for Uganda and the great lakes region. It has potential for instability that will adversely affect domestic and foreign investments in the region. Bwengye said in an interview in 2005 that Museveni was given a key role in the guerrilla struggle without understanding who he was and what he exactly stood for.

2. As we know Museveni became president in 1986 without legitimacy. He was acting Chairman of NRM after the passing of Yusuf Lule. Elections to replace Lule were delayed until NRM/NRA entered Kampala and Museveni who had been acting NRM chairman became president by default. So he had no legitimacy but nobody raised it.

3. Now that we know who he is we are not going to allow him to govern without legitimacy again. That is why the current negotiations being moderated by religious leaders should not lead us into a government of national unity headed by Museveni because that will legitimize his illegitimate government of, by and for foreigners. Museveni and NRM candidates were voted overwhelmingly by foreigners who were bused in from Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and DRC as well as migrants and refugees.

4. Museveni has no legitimacy for another reason. Presidential opponents have refused to concede defeat. A candidate can claim victory only after the opponent has conceded defeat. So Museveni cannot claim victory based on the announcement made by a non-independent electoral commission.

5. Without legitimacy at home, Museveni and his government cannot be recognized abroad and welcome into the community of nations. Therefore Museveni and his government cannot represent Uganda including signing contracts or agreements. Museveni knows that but he will do it if we allow him through silence.

6. Museveni should not trick Ugandans to give him legitimacy indirectly through forming a government of national unity. To deny him legitimacy, presidential candidates should not enter into an agreement with Museveni except to form a transitional coalition government to prepare for fresh elections.

The second point we should discuss and put to rest is who has primary responsibility for unseating Museveni. Some voices continue to request that western powers remove Museveni from Uganda’s presidency. Removing Museveni from power is the responsibility of Ugandans. We must understand that very clearly. Our development partners and well wishers can only facilitate. And facilitate they have. Here are some examples.

1. The president of the United States has eloquently talked about freedom and popular participation in democratic processes including in Africa. He has condemned dictatorship, corruption, violation of human rights and staying in power too long. American administration will be on the side of the people seeking to restore democracy, freedom, liberty, equality and dignity. Peaceful demonstrations constitute an integral part of measures to achieve democracy and form government of, by and for the people. The message is clear but Ugandans have not taken advantage of it.

2. When campaign for 2011 elections started, development partners gave a hint that opposition parties should not accept an electoral commission that was not independent. We did not take the hint.

3. Our multilateral donors have sent messages about corruption and economic mismanagement. One of them went even further and insisted that corrupt cabinet ministers should be dismissed. Museveni refused. These corrupt ministers and MPs have been re-elected and Museveni will likely reappoint them ministers. When Museveni reappointed censured ministers to the cabinet Ugandans said nothing. We cannot afford to do that again.

4. Some western powers have warned Museveni against use of force (tear gas, batons, and live bullets etc) during the election campaign and subsequent peaceful demonstrations. Museveni took the hint. He applied intimidation instead but nobody was killed by security forces. That was not luck as some people have reasoned. Museveni recently stated that “Peaceful demonstrations should not be fired on with live bullets” (March 20, 2011). Although he left out tear gas, batons and water cannons etc, the statement has opened the door for Ugandans to demonstrate peacefully and without fear of getting killed. To do that we need to defeat fear within us first.

5. The report on torture of Ugandans which was published March 23, 2011 on BBC has sent a message that some of the media reported to have supported Museveni is having second thoughts.

Ugandans need to know that fundamental changes don’t happen without taking risks and making sacrifices. Here are some illustrations from around the world.

1. Socrates, a Greek philosopher, sacrificed his life to launch a questioning mind in Greek society. He asked questions about everything to get genuine answers and taught his students to do the same.

2. Many 17 & 18th century scientists, philosophers and political activists including John Locke, Tom Paine and Voltaire suffered arrest and imprisonment, threats, attacks, ridicule and exile. But their messages had great impact including on American and French revolutions and decolonization of Latin America.

3. European women risked their lives in revolutionary changes. Parisian women risked arrest and imprisonment or worse when they dragged Louis XVI king of France and his family from his quiet palace of Versailles and brought him to the less elegant palace in Paris to see and feel the suffering of the French people at the start of the revolution in 1789. Additionally, French women rich and poor got together and prepared a long list of grievances that was used in preparing a new constitution and bill of rights for France. These women began a liberation process that has spread to the rest of the world.

4. Drawing on the example of French women, English women started their struggle for emancipation. In England, there was a myth that “there are no good women, but only women who have lived under the influence of good men” (Christopher Hibbert 2002). After many years of struggle and sacrifice including through strikes, demonstrations and even imprisonment led by women like Emmeline Pankhurst, women were accepted as of equal worth as men in all areas of human endeavor. Margaret Thatcher later became the first woman British prime minister.

Sacrifices have also been made by men and women in developing countries. Here are some examples.

1. Simon Bolivar who inherited a huge fortune left it to fight for the liberation of Latin America from Spanish colonialism. He suffered reversals and defeats but he persisted and won in the end.

2. Mahatma Gandhi, a lawyer from a family whose father had been a state prime minister, left all that and began to protest for the suffering of the Indian community in South Africa. He was beaten, arrested and imprisoned. He suffered more beating and imprisonment back in India in order to silence him. But it never worked. Gandhi’s sacrifice contributed to the decolonization of India in 1947.

3. Nelson Mandela, a trained lawyer left it and joined the struggle to liberate South Africa. He ended up in jail for 27 years. He got out in 1990 and became the first president of decolonized South Africa in 1994.

4. We have already talked about Steve Biko and Winnie Mandela. But there were other South Africans who sacrificed a lot including Mamphela Ramphele a medical doctor who was banned from political activities and isolated in remote areas. She survived and became Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the prestigious Cape Town University and served in senior positions at the World Bank. Ruth First, a university professor was an effective political activist. She was assassinated by a letter bomb.

5. In Mozambique Eduardo Mondlane, the first graduate with a Ph.D and an employee of the United Nations left all that to fight for the liberation of his country. He was assassinated by a letter bomb.

6. Amilcar Cabral started the liberation movement (PGAIC) to free Portuguese Guinea later Guinea Bissau. He was assassinated shortly before independence was declared in 1973.

7. These few illustrations demonstrate that risks and sacrifices have to be made for change to occur. The choice is personal based on inner conviction. Ugandans who feel strongly that Museveni must go should rise up, take risks and make sacrifices. Otherwise Museveni will go nowhere. Prayers alone while necessary are not sufficient!

8. The international community has given us the green light and Museveni has declared that peaceful demonstrations should be accommodated in Uganda. The rest belongs to us Ugandans. And the moment is now.

9. Thank you for your kind attention.

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