Why has Museveni divided up Uganda into many districts?

One of the outcomes of UDU conference in Boston in October 2011 was recognition that there is an acute shortage of information about Uganda’s history, its place in the Great Lakes geopolitics and domestic political economy. It was decided that one of the main follow-up activities of UDU secretariat be civic education within the framework of the National Recovery Plan (NRP). I have consistently argued that:

1. You have got to identify the root cause(s) of the problem before attempting a solution;

2. You have to present research findings as truthfully and honestly as possible;

3. You have to study the actions of actors dialectically by looking for that which is not said because that is where the main motive is likely to be located;

4. You should not shy away from telling the truth for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. For instance, a doctor would do a disservice if he treated a patient with a sexually transmitted disease without disclosing the cause of the problem to avoid hurting feelings. The right thing is to tell the truth and ask that the partner also comes in for treatment so that the disease is cured once and for all, assuming that the two partners won’t engage in extra relations.

Before examining Museveni’s motives for dividing up Uganda into many districts, let us refresh our memories about Museveni’s overall goal in seeking the presidency and how he is using it. Some stuff is going to be repeated because it appears that some readers have not quite grasped the complex history of exploitative relations between pastoralists and agriculturalists in Burundi, Rwanda and southwest Uganda that are being extended to the rest of Uganda.

I am convinced beyond doubt that Museveni came to power with a hidden agenda of turning the clock back initially in Ankole to a feudal system of lords and serfs that existed in pre-colonial Rwanda where pastoralists (Batutsi) stripped agriculturalists (Bahutu) of their wealth including livestock and above all land ownership. Regarding land ownership transfer from Bahutu to Batutsi Tom Marvel (1948) wrote that “The Batutsi declared that all land was the property of their Mwami, or king and that he would apportion it out among chiefs and sub-chiefs, while retaining title to it, as his fief”. So, the king stripped Bahutu of their land. Since chiefs and sub-chiefs to whom the king apportioned the land were Batutsi, Bahutu were excluded and became landless. Bahutu became serfs on land that was previously theirs. Bahutu deprivation of land and cattle began the process that reduced them from riches to rags and the poverty-stricken Bahutu exploded in the Social Revolution of 1959. This is a lesson that those who are impoverishing Ugandans today must keep in mind because a similar social revolution could happen in Uganda as no situation stays permanent.

A section of Batutsi from Rwanda founded Mpororo kingdom in mid 17th century which lasted under one hundred years to around mid-18th century. It covered present northern Rwanda and parts of southwest Uganda in present day Ntungamo district and parts of Kabale district adjacent to Ntungamo. Batutsi declared Mpororo kingdom on land occupied by Bantu speaking people who practiced mixed farming of livestock herding including short horn cattle and crop cultivation. Indigenous people were stripped of their grazing land and lost their cattle for loss of pasture. They were reduced to crop cultivation mainly to feed the new lords in exchange for so-called protection (it isn’t clear against what). All the people became Bahororo but reverted to Bairu (commoners) after Mpororo kingdom disintegrated and Bahima took over parts of former Mpororo kingdom and incorporated them into Nkore. Batutsi/Bahororo who stayed in Nkore under Bahinda dynasty didn’t want to be referred to as commoners and adopted the name of Bahima until recently, explaining why Bahima and Batutsi/Bahororo are difficult to differentiate and are incorrectly used interchangeably. During independence negotiations Batutsi/Bahororo demanded a separate district to be carved out of Ankole kingdom. They didn’t succeed, probably explaining why Ankole didn’t get the King restored because Museveni, a Muhororo, who failed to get a separate district at independence might be settling scores. If you add on the fact that Bahima who denied Bahororo a separate district also refused to vote for Museveni in the 1980 elections, the situation might become clearer why former Ankole failed to restore the king. This might raise the question as to who is stronger in NRM government: Bahororo or Bahima. If the latter were stronger than the former or had sizeable influence the kingdom would have been restored. The fact that it hasn’t says volumes about the overwhelming strength of Batutsi/Bahororo. Other reasons given for non-restoration of the kingdom are just a smoke screen.

Then around 1800, a group of Bahororo fled their former kingdom and sought refuge in Rujumbura. With support of Arab and Swahili slave hunters and modern weapons Bahororo defeated Bantu mixed farmers (Bairu) with short horn cattle and were stripped of their grazing land, reduced to cultivating food stuffs mainly to feed their new Bahororo masters in exchange for so-called protection. Deprived of nutritious foodstuffs especially animal proteins contributed to short height of many Bairu people whose children who are eating well are tall.

Batutsi from Rwanda and Burundi (note that in Burundi there are Batutsi and Bahima) entered Uganda since the 1920s for different reasons. Those that came to Uganda beginning in the 1920s were looking for work and settled anywhere in Uganda where cattle grazing is the main economic activity. After the social revolution in 1959, Batutsi refugees and cattle came to Uganda in large numbers. Many of them about 33 percent settled with their kith and kin in Kigezi and Ankole. Others spread to all parts of Uganda because the British colonial administration did not want refugees in camps. Batutsi adopted local names and local languages. Thus many who today pose as Bakiga are Batutsi. Many who pose as Banyankole are Batutsi. This is an important distinction that must be kept in mind in trying to figure out who is employed where in Uganda’s public service, private sector and especially security forces and who is sponsored to study in good schools at home and abroad.

On humanitarian grounds, the Kabaka of Buganda allowed Batutsi refugees to settle in his kingdom temporarily. In mid 1960s there was a severe drought in Ankole forcing many Bahima and Batutsi and their cattle to migrate to parts of Buganda particularly in Rakai and Masaka where they are now conflicting with indigenous Baganda for control of the economy and politics. Ethnic disputes in places like Ssembabule and Mawokota have become common. It is important to remember that because Nilotic Batutsi people believe in superiority over Bantu, they feel it is their God-given right to dominate politics in areas where they are settled. In order to dominate Baganda, Batutsi adopted Luganda language and Kiganda names but have avoided social integration because Batutsi men don’t marry non-Nilotic women although Batutsi women have married non-Nilotic influential and potentially influential Baganda men primarily for political control.

Because of easy mobility within the Great Lakes region, some Banyamulenge who are Batutsi settled in South Kivu in DRC have migrated and settled in Uganda as well. To sum up, Bahima, Batutsi, Batutsi/Bahororo and Banyamulenge are cousins of Nilotic Luo-speaking ancestry. Because they don’t integrate socially they have remained Nilotic in ethnicity regardless of where they reside. That is why it is true that Uganda has been governed for the most part by Nilotic presidents (Obote, Amin and Museveni) since independence in 1962 with negligible intervals by Baganda (Kabaka Mutesa II with no executive powers, Lule (68 days), Binaisa (less than one year) and Muwanga (a few months) as chairman of the military commission). Therefore Bantu people have been denied presidency of Uganda.

And since Museveni was installed into Uganda presidency by non-south westerners, he doesn’t represent western Uganda. He started the war with Batutsi mercenaries who in the end totaled some 25 percent of the total guerrilla force and a few Ugandans. He was joined by Baganda under the leadership of Lule (RIP) and reluctantly by DP supporters who happen to be Catholics. As Kenneth Ingham (1994) observes “The leader [Museveni] of the rebellion did not, initially, represent the wishes of the defeated Democratic Party or of the Baganda leadership. … The support he later gained from the DP and some Baganda came only after a campaign of sabotage and subversion had led to reprisals by the ill-disciplined armed forces at the government’s disposal”.

Pre-colonial conditions of Bantu exploitation were made worse under the colonial indirect system of administration which employed pastoralists as agents of colonialism. Bairu suffered more as they had to continue pre-colonial exploitation plus colonial taxes and free labor on public works such as public buildings and roads. This is the sad history of southwest Uganda that Batutsi/Bahororo in power in Uganda today would want to keep hidden because it resembles many forms of what is happening in Uganda today.

Albeit late, Bairu were finally allowed to go to school in the 1940s so that by the time of independence, there was a sizable number of educated Bairu who championed the struggle for independence. Given Bairu numerical superiority they were elected to public offices at district and national levels replacing minority Batutsi/Bahororo and Bahima who had dominated for centuries. Thus, agriculturalists replaced pastoralists at the political level and increasingly economically (for example, Bairu have more cattle than pastoralists). Museveni would have none of it. He set about turning the clock back, initially aimed at Bairu of southwest Uganda. The formation of an association at Ntare School in the first half of the 1960s soon after independence by Museveni was the first step. At that time there were many Batutsi refugees in Ankole who had fled Rwanda starting in 1959 following the Social Revolution that brought majority Hutus to power and achieved independence in 1962, the same year as Uganda. Museveni wished to restore pastoralist dominance over agriculturalists in Ankole and Rwanda. That is why he developed an early interest in East African cooperation project that would eventually accommodate Rwanda and Burundi. That is why Batutsi refugees formed the core of his guerrilla force that was transformed from FRONASA into National Resistance Army (NRA) with Batutsi playing a central role in Luwero war and governing Uganda since 1986.

Since Museveni could not use direct military power to subjugate and impoverish Ugandans, he took a silent, deceptive and incremental route using the tools provided by development partners in the form of structural adjustment and decentralization. Museveni used structural adjustment to destroy education and health systems. He crippled agriculture, (not cattle herding which is his pet project) by eliminating subsidies, destroying cooperatives and weakening extension services. Through labor flexibility, he allowed employers to hire and fire at will, pay virtually nothing for labor that work under sub-human conditions especially domestic workers. Museveni has flatly refused to address the mushrooming cloud of youth unemployment, support school lunch for primary school children, support subsistence farmers that constitute 68 percent of Uganda’s total population of 34 million. Museveni has also exploited Uganda’s natural resources especially fish and timber to accumulate foreign currency for the benefit of the rich at the expense of the majority poor Ugandans. The outcome is rampant poverty now at over 80 percent, unemployment of youth at over 80 percent, children wards that have turned into hospices, maternal mortality that has gone through the roof and malnutrition that is killing more Ugandans than malaria.

In preparation for political control of Uganda by Batutsi people, Museveni preached a liberal immigration policy reasoning that Uganda had plenty of arable land that Ugandans were not utilizing, thus began the arrival of “bus loads” of Batutsi from Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and Tanzania with their cattle. Batutsi are nomadic people. To facilitate their mobility and settling in various parts of Uganda, Museveni ensured that the constitution stressed freedom of mobility and residence in any part of Uganda and using local language. This has enabled Batutsi to settle in all parts of Uganda speaking Kinyarwanda which they record as Kifumbira because Bafumbira are “indigenous” as opposed to refugees and immigrant Batutsi.

Apart from occupying large swathes of territory in all parts of Uganda, these immigrants and refugees were assisted and have accumulated wealth and are increasingly participating in politics at district and national level. They represent people whose interests they don’t serve. If anything they are impoverishing the indigenous people to dominate them forever politically and economically. For example, Baganda are complaining openly that while they are represented in strategic places in government they have not benefited from NRM government (one wonders the extent to which Greater Kampala has damaged Baganda interests). To explain this situation one needs to find out who is actually representing Baganda. Are these representative true Baganda or those Batutsi who have adopted Kiganda names and speak Luganda but are working for the benefit of Batutsi than Baganda.

Museveni has carefully identified indigenous men and women hungry for power and is using them to demand more districts in areas where he knows Batutsi will benefit the most. Originally Bushenyi was to be divided into two districts; it ended up with four. Those who sealed the deal have been handsomely rewarded. Have they done the right thing for their Bantu people in the end? For some Ugandans becoming an MP or a junior minister is more important than protecting the future of their children. One may also ask whether people doing these reckless things are greedy true Ugandans or Batutsi clandestinely taking over Uganda?

Museveni is now working closely with prime minister and NRM secretary general Amama Mbabazi to seal the land transfer to Batutsi and control district councils and parliament. That is why Museveni can’t let Mbabazi go until this project is over. That is why Museveni is overworking Mbabazi with two huge responsibilities because he cannot trust anyone else. Museveni and Mbabazi are busy transferring Uganda from indigenous control to foreigners. That is why they are keen to naturalize millions of immigrants and refugees.

To understand Museveni, don’t read him at face value. Try to find out what he is hiding which is the introduction of a feudal system of Batutsi lords and the rest serfs laboring twenty four hours a week (24X7) for the comfort of lords. The only way to stop this development is to have a transitional government that brings in enlightened elements from UDU. The National Recovery Plan (NRP) was drafted carefully to counter what Museveni is doing – bottom up approach instead of NRM top down, supporting small holder farmers instead of NRM large scale farmers; producing food for domestic consumption first unlike NRM that produces for export first; protecting Uganda industries unlike NRM that has opened up trade that has trampled domestic industries, etc.

UDU urges Ugandans to be vigilant and honor the memory of the late Adimola by implementing NRP so that “the children of his two sons and two daughters and all young Ugandans would live in a better country after fifty years of independence”. Adimola’s wish is similar to UDU message in our article titled “Uganda in the next fifty years”. Those who are calling for defeating Museveni and NRM in 2016 are Museveni agents trying to divert attention from the transitional government project. Don’t listen to them.

Let us not deceive ourselves. There is no way NRM can lose an election in 2016 in prevailing Uganda political and economic circumstances. Therefore let us focus on making Uganda ungovernable through legitimate means of non-violent resistance and force formation of a transitional government. The walk-to-work demonstrations worked but were stopped prematurely. Look at the outcomes. Last year the economy grew at 3 percent from the projected seven percent. Opposition parties have won all the by-elections. These are indisputable facts. Let us build on the momentum by acting strategically and smartly as part of advancing the date for the establishment of a transitional government. Opposition parties should field one candidate to improve chances of defeating NRM but at the same time avoid placing a wolf in a goat house. In other words make sure you know whom you are voting for to avoid disappointments.

To root them out, we have first to accept that Uganda has been infiltrated by foreigners who are in all political parties and organizations working hard to take over Uganda. We must stop being naïve and act pragmatically in national interests. We must overcome parochialism which has handicapped Uganda national unity and cost us dearly. We must develop a sense of putting Uganda first ahead of regional, religious, ethnic and individual interests. Let us stop Museveni who has successfully used patronage to corrupt real Ugandans with ministerial and other posts and then use them to destroy the future of our children. UDU provides an umbrella framework for all opposition parties, organizations and NRM progressive supporters to act collectively and defeat NRM. Please embrace UDU, support it and you won’t be disappointed. For more information, contact erickashambuzi@yahoo.com.

Kenya’s KANU was finally defeated only after opposition parties pooled their resources and agreed on a candidate with a good chance of winning the election. Zambia’s UNIP party was finally defeated only after opposition parties pooled their resources together and agreed on a candidate with a good chance of winning the election. The liberation movements in Zimbabwe finally defeated Ian Smith illegal government by pooling ZANU and ZAPU resources. Africans finally defeated the apartheid regime in South Africa by pooling their political, trade union, women and youth organizations. Uganda opposition needs to do the same or it will stay out in the cold for a very long time.