Why a rising tide of opposition against Uganda’s NRM regime

From time immemorial opposition, rebellion and even revolution against a regime develop not because the regime is getting stronger or becoming more dictatorial but because it is getting weaker and less capable of delivering desired goods and services. What triggered the French Revolution of 1789, for example, was a reaction not against the rising tyranny of the ancient regime but its weakness and inability to deliver expected results.

In Uganda, the NRM regime is following in the footsteps of France’s ancient regime. NRM’s domestic, continental and global strength and glory are fading. At home the promise of eradicating poverty has vanished. Instead absolute and relative poverty is increasing. Some twenty percent of Ugandans are believed to be getting poorer. Those in the top income bracket are getting richer leaving behind those in the middle income causing a feeling of relative poverty.

The retrenchment of public servants who had been used to a high standard of living became poor as they could not be reabsorbed in the private sector as promised or expected. Under structural adjustment program, the private sector was promoted as the engine of economic growth and job creation. The ‘new poor’ who had been dispossessed of their public service jobs or dismissed by the private sector kept a low profile because the NRM regime was strong and there was still hope that jobs could be found for them. The failure of structural adjustment which was abandoned in 2009 and the poor performance of the private sector in job creation dashed hope of ever finding a job. Loss of hope was compounded by too many unemployed university graduates who would be hired first should jobs become available. Recent warnings of early retirement of public servants and continued retrenchment in the private sector have consolidated Ugandans’ views about NRM as a weak and ineffectual institution ready for attack and embarrassment, hence the rising tide of opposition and demonstrations at home and abroad.

The breakdown of family and community cohesion in the wake of neo-liberal economic policy that promoted individualism has left many Ugandans in a state of disarray. Many have found themselves alone in a hostile economic and social environment. Loss of land under the lure of willing seller and willing buyer arrangements has uprooted many from the countryside, breaking family and communal patterns that provided refuge in economic hard times. The uprooted individuals are experiencing serious economic insecurity and psychological trauma and maladjustment in a hostile and ‘depend-on-yourself’ urban environment. Instead of government assisting them to find their bearing, NRM is accusing them of laziness and drunkenness and refusing to work voluntarily. The dispossessed see government reaction as a sign of weakness and failure to deliver on promises, concluding that time has come to oppose the regime, hence increasing attacks on the regime. Some members of the NRM are also beginning to sense party weakness and ineffectuality and to mount opposition from within. The disgruntled ones who see better life out of the NRM have opted to contest 2011 elections as independent candidates.

The allegations in the UN report of war crimes, crimes against humanity and possible genocide of Rwanda and Congo Hutu people committed by Uganda and Rwanda troops in eastern DRC have delivered a devastating blow to the image of Uganda government and its leaders, emboldening more attacks on NRM at home and abroad. Uganda’s weak participation at the September 2010 UN General Assembly and failure to meet high profile heads of state and government in New York left no doubt that Uganda government’s star had faded extensively.

Thus, the rising opposition at home and abroad should be understood and interpreted in NRM’s growing weakness and ineffectuality after 25 years in power.

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