Unity underscored at the London conference

Preliminary reports coming out of London indicate that the Uganda conference on November 12, 2011 was well attended and interactive. That NRM attended the conference is commendable. It appears though that the agenda was tilted towards political aspects related to the NRM regime perhaps as a result of participants’ profiles. A contribution to the conference on the National Recovery Plan (NRP) is available at www.udugandans.org.

Understanding where we are in Uganda is a historical and multi-sector process that needs to take into account political, economic, social and regional aspects that have contributed to the present impasse. Political conflict is by and large a reflection of economic and social inequities that undermine liberty, justice and dignity.

We hope that this is the first meeting in a series of others to follow. A report of the meeting with a clear message on outcomes and follow-up actions made available to the public will be helpful.

Those who deny that Uganda is not at a crossroads need to reexamine the basis for drawing that conclusion. Uganda is in real trouble politically, economically, socially, morally and environmentally. The long-term intentions of current leaders need to be understood clearly as a pre-requisite for finding solutions.

To find durable solutions, we therefore need to examine Uganda in a historical and regional context and how we got to where we are. Economic and political processes in our region have resulted in human mobility and settlements in Uganda that have affected political and governance processes that are unsettling.

Already complaints have been expressed about the profiles of those who attended the conference. Therefore the issue of our leaders now and in the future needs to be examined carefully and objectively and resolved once and for all. This issue simply cannot be swept under the carpet hoping it will eventually go away on its own.

Thankfully, Ugandans are becoming more enlightened and want to understand their circumstances through reason. This development has to be recognized and appropriately accommodated by all Ugandans at home and abroad and our partners.

Let us end on a happy note and a caution: the recognition that unity is a pre-requisite for finding durable solutions to Uganda’s problems is very welcome. With unity of opposition parties and organizations, a political solution is feasible.

United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) established in July 2011 is about bringing Uganda parties and organizations together to unseat NRM by peaceful means. Hopefully it will provide a platform on the way forward.

We have seen how unity of opposition parties in Kenya and Zambia helped to unseat governing parties peacefully. Except in Romania, communist regimes were removed peacefully in Eastern Europe in 1989 simply because different opposition groups came together and united for that purpose.

And here is the caution: when we speak unity we should genuinely mean it. There are those who talk about unity of Ugandans during the day and preach sectarianism at night. That isn’t helpful. We should also avoid being unduly selfishness and instead go for those functions for which we have an edge over others.

Those who advocate war to unseat NRM regime need to think again. Removing a military regime by military means implies continuation of a military government with new faces. There are sufficient voices reasoning that Uganda is tired of military governments and the destruction they have caused in the process.

In this context, we need to see and draw appropriate lessons about what is happening in Spain and the Middle East where there is a shift from many years of armed violence towards non-violent resistance to resolve disputes. Thus war in Uganda should not be used as a means of solving political differences in the first instance.