People demand change of different degrees when existing frameworks don’t work well. Students demand better food because what they are eating isn’t good or is monotonous. Workers demand better working conditions because the existing ones aren’t good. This is a normal thing in all societies. And when leaders refuse to respond or convince the public they face difficulties, sooner or later, some of them revolutionary. Leaders that adjust as enlightened despots in Europe did during the 18th century lasted longer. Those that didn’t like Charles I of England, Louis XVI of France, Nicholas II of Russia and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia were booted out of power and their dynasties destroyed.
Similarly, the people of Uganda after fifty years of independence are demanding change of leadership and a new governance system. NRM leadership and its unitary and tier system of government are not only controversial but also unacceptable. They have made a few families filthy rich and the majority real paupers. All Ugandans are born equal and must be presented with equal opportunity to develop their talents. If they fail to get what they want peacefully, they are likely to resort to other means. This is natural.
Slaves in the Roman Empire collaborated with barbarians to destroy the Roman Empire in the west which refused to accommodate their demands. The peasants of medieval Europe had to fight and lost many lives because there was no other choice to register their objection to exploitation. In the end feudalism disappeared including in the French Revolution of 1789.
When Ugandans see their children die of starvation or of neglect because there are no medicines or staff in hospitals, when primary children drop out of school because government has refused them lunch, when women die needlessly in child birth, when people witness a neighbor’s livestock destroy their gardens without compensation, when some people lose their land because the boss wants it, or someone who was given a temporary accommodation on humanitarian grounds turns around and refuses to leave when asked to that is a recipe for trouble in present of future generations.
Uganda leaders must learn from history. The days of the jungle are over when the powerful did what they wanted to the weaker with impunity. Today because of technology and communication, information is travelling fast and people are seeing or reading about what is happening around the world. People now know their rights and freedoms. And they are not going to sit down in silence while their lives, freedoms and properties are destroyed. They may not get what they want today but with patience and iron determination, they will ultimately succeed.
I worked in Southern Africa during the days of struggle for liberation. Many in the region especially in South Africa were inspired to fight because all countries surrounding them had regained independence. From women to men to children arose the determination to fight for their rights. Most of the people who were shot to death at Sharpeville peaceful demonstration in 1960 were women and children. The Soweto uprising of 1975 that pushed the final nail in apartheid coffin were primary school children. Kenyan women played a crucial role in Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s. People that I talked with in Southern Africa didn’t want to fight and destroy life and property but they argued that was the last resort. They had nowhere else to go. They risked all they had and some lost all including their lives – witness Steve Biko, a medical student who abandoned it to join the struggle. Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, among many others, had a law firm and were making good money. But they abandoned all that for the liberation struggle. Many were jailed and died there but didn’t die in vain. South Africa is independent with majority rule government.
In Uganda the water is about to boil and someone could get burnt. The economic, political, social and environmental conditions call for a rethink of the status quo. Refusing to listen to the demands of fellow citizens and accommodate them is a sign of bad leadership. Good and mature leaders listen and negotiate with those demanding change until an agreement based on win-win principles is reached. We appeal to NRM government to listen to voices of the people reason and negotiate with them instead of dismissing them as trouble makers engaged in unlawful activities and should be thrown behind bars or worse.
The October 27, 2012 conference in London is an important event. UDU will attend. It has been discussing a form of governance that may accommodate the regional and district aspirations of the people of Uganda and has settled on federalism with checks and balances and working in partnership with federal government in a way that allows room to regions, districts and other local units to determine their destinies. We hope NRM will not pose obstacles but will attend the meeting with an open mind and present its views at the meeting. We believe that the meeting should agree on a follow-up agenda that will facilitate negotiations on a roadmap to achieve a federal system of government in the not too distant future.
All Ugandans have been invited to the conference.