We can make Uganda a better place in 2015

As 2014 draws to a close and 2015 unfolds, let us all Ugandans – the young and the old and those in between, at home and abroad – take a moment to reflect on what happened this year and the likely impact in the new year. The year 2014 produced mixed results, benefitting some and disadvantaging others. It also generated hope. In the interest of time and space, I will focus on developments that hold promise for a better 2015 and beyond.

The Hague conference that took place in November 2013 brought together Ugandans from home and in the Diaspora, from all the four regions, all the major religions, all demographics and many professions. The conference agenda was structured in such a manner that it allowed open and interactive debate about the future of Uganda in 2014 and beyond.

Recalling Uganda’s experience of conflict and wars since 1966, there was a general consensus that wars should be ruled out as a means of regime change. Additionally, empirical evidence was presented that war begets war and makes matters worse and more dictatorial regimes have been removed by non-violent methods than through the barrel of the gun.

Participants at the conference decided that a roadmap and methods of non-violent resistance against the failed NRM regime be drawn up and shared as widely as possible to offer Ugandans a choice that is location specific rather than resorting to demonstrations that have not produced the desired results so far. The task was completed in June, 2014 and the roadmap is now available on the internet including at www.udugandans.org.

It is worth recognizing that throughout his two-year stay in Europe David Sejusa preached that war was the only strategy to remove the failed NRM regime, a strategy that was vigorously opposed by those who favor peaceful means. Sejusa took everyone by surprise when he renounced, shortly upon return to Uganda, the use of violence to unseat the NRM government. Hopefully others who shared his approach to regime change will drop that strategy and join with those calling for non-violent resistance that is gathering momentum.

The second promising development that dominated the debate in 2014 is the call to embrace the political economy of inclusion and renounce the politics and economics of exclusion and the attendant concentration of power and wealth in fewer hands at the expense of the majority that spreads and deepens poverty and vulnerability and breeds inequality and conflict; undermines tolerance, compromise and reconciliation.

The politics of inclusion has also been given more prominence than ever before in the deliberations at the United Nations in New York. The post-2015 development agenda to 2030 has included a goal on peaceful and inclusive societies embracing the rule of law, good governance and human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

To accomplish this goal, Ugandans at home and abroad are actively engaged in discussions about setting up an all inclusive transitional government led by a presidential team to give a sense of regional balance at the highest political level in the land. There is unhappiness that the presidency has been concentrated in two regions at the expense of the other two.

Besides managing the daily affairs of state under a special charter to avoid the complexities of applying the 1962, 1967 or 1995 constitutions, the transitional government will conduct a comprehensive population census largely for development purposes, organize a national convention so that Ugandans from all walks of life debate and decide how they want to be governed, followed by organizing free and fair multiparty elections.

Thus, in 2015 every effort should be made to spread the debate about the transitional government to all communities in Uganda and abroad so that no one is left behind. The debate should be constructive to help forge a common path on the way forward.

The third development that gathered momentum in 2014 and should be expanded in 2015 is the use of social media. This facility has brought together Ugandans in all corners of the globe in a cost effective manner to debate national and international developments affecting Uganda. Not only are we able to interact regularly but are doing so in real time that has helped to provide solutions and avoid unhappy outcomes in many instances.

In 2015 Ugandans will be engaged in preparations for elections in 2016. All parties involved should recast how campaigns have been conducted in the past and devise means to do better. Campaigns based on force, intimidation and money to buy voters may produce short-term benefits for the winners but deepen resistance among the losers with serious adverse consequences that will spare no one in the future. Ipso facto, such campaigns should be avoided.

Happy New Year to you all