“We need to guard against ethnic polarization” – Nuwagaba

Vincent Nuwagaba has written a useful article on the above subject. It is an article written in simple language, yet substantive – by someone with sufficient knowledge and experience in Uganda’s political economy. The timing of its publication could not have been better – coming so soon after the London conference.

It is true that some westerners have criticized Museveni regime constantly. And I am one of them. The idea really is not to make him uncomfortable but to draw mistakes of his government to his attention so that corrective actions are taken. I believe that is how he has received our messages.

I was forced to write an article about how Bairu of Rukungiri district got impoverished to demonstrate that western Uganda has some of the poorest people in Uganda. Some are committing suicide because they cannot raise tax money. Many are selling land to make ends meet and have ended up landless.

Subsequently a journalist from Canada visited Rukungiri district and wrote an article that was more disturbing in the depth of poverty, dispossession and marginalization than I had written. Yet many Ugandans continue to believe that all westerners are filthy rich. This is entirely wrong.

Let me stress two points at this juncture:

1. Ugandans from other regions – not only Baganda – believe that westerners have made it big.

2. Not all Ugandans and certainly not all Baganda hold the same view.

3. I co-hosted a program in English on radio munansi with two Ugandans one each from Buganda and Acholi from February to June 2011. We all made it clear that it was a handful of related families in western Uganda with access to the corridors of power that had gained disproportionately. The rest were trapped in abject poverty. The best way to confirm existence of biting poverty is to visit western region, choosing places at random. You will get a shock to learn what people are eating, the shelter they are living in and the clothes they are wearing.

4. I am now working very closely with Baganda in the UDU umbrella organization. We have realized that we need to close the wide communication gap. That is why we are working around the clock to share information as contained in the National Recovery Plan (NRP) although it has not been disaggregated by region. As we know, 70 percent of Uganda’s total income is generated in the City of Kampala with a resident population of less than 2 million, leaving the rest of the country with some 32 million Ugandans including western Uganda generating only 30 percent of total income. This gives an idea where the concentration of income is although it does not tell us who owns it.

What we need to do is to create institutions and systems that can guarantee equitable distribution of economic growth benefits. What is missing in Uganda is true leadership that puts Ugandans first. In this regard focus on selecting leaders at all levels should be given a top priority. We argued on radio munansi that given time and the right environment leaders emerge and get scrutinized by the public as we are being scrutinized in UDU right now. In the end Ugandans should decide who they want to give a chance to play a leading role as our country as it transitions from failed state and military dictatorship status.

In Uganda we have been unfortunate thus far. Some leaders have not been honest. They promise everything and deliver very little. This could be due to circumstances surrounding selection of our leaders. In 1971 many Ugandans needed any leader except the incumbent. The soldiers gave us Amin and we celebrated. He made promises he could not keep, instead he murdered our people. At the start of the 1980s we got a leader many did not like. They wanted him removed by military means and gave that responsibility to a man we did not know much about except he knew how to use a gun. The bush war gave us Museveni and we again celebrated. Now we are regretting in large part because he has impoverished most Ugandans and has not kept promises.

We should do better next time around. Ugandans should insist that prospective candidates at any level make themselves well known. The starting point is to know where they come from and their family tree and have access to their CVs or resumes. From these sources some useful information can be extracted about their character and service to the public.

The big problem is that you have people who want to be or are already leaders but will never tell you where they come from, will never give you a copy of their resume or curriculum vitae in part because they are using different names. So how do you judge such people? You end up choosing them because you go to the same church or they belong to your tribe or something like that – an imperfect way of choosing a good leader.

When I chose to participate in UDU activities I posted my CV on www.kashambuzi.com. My views are in the ten books I have written and articles on www.kashambuzi.com and on tapes recorded by radio munansi. My involvement in public and community activities in the United Nations and in Rukungiri district and elsewhere is available for all to see. So there is sufficient information about me.

As an aside, let me touch on a point raised by Mulyazzawo Timpula which I reacted to a few days ago. The issue of federal is very important and I am fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding it. We have discussed it at length on radio Munansi and in UDU. It came up again and was discussed at length at the UDU conference in Boston on October 8, 2011. Those who were there heard my sincere views and I believe were accepted and passed on to others. The federal has been spelled out in the UDU constitution and there is full collective responsibility support for it. I strongly believe that the final decision is for the people of Uganda. The few people in the diaspora like me cannot decide for the majority at home. I hope Mr Timpula is satisfied with this explanation. As they say the test of the pudding is in the eating.

I am ready to discuss further should that become necessary.