Ugandans have a right to ask questions and get answers

Thankfully, Uganda has entered the Enlightenment phase of development. Enlightenment is characterized by reason: asking questions and demanding convincing answers. Therefore, Ugandans are no longer taking things for granted. The divine right of leaders is over! Anyone who enters public life must expect to be scrutinized. Ugandans have a right to know the history, ancestry, education and work experience of those seeking public office or already there. Therefore family members, relatives and friends of public figures should stop complaining when their fathers or mothers are scrutinized. If they do not want their parents or relatives to be undressed in public they should advise them to stay away from politics. You cannot have your cake and eat it too!

The National Resistance Movement (NRM) government under the leadership of President Museveni has been in power for 25 years. Since 1987, following the signing of agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) major developments have taken place and some of them have raised questions that need to be answered by the government. Below are some of them.

Who are Bahororo – Revisited ?

I have received many requests to elaborate on what I have written or posted on my blog about Bahororo. While many people have some ideas about Bahima and Batutsi, they are not sure who Bahororo are, how they are related to Bahima and Batutsi and how and when they entered Uganda. This brief will try to provide a clarification. But first let me summarize the relationship between Bahororo on the one hand and Bahima, Batutsi and Banyamulenge on the other hand.

1. It is now established that Bahororo, Bahima and Batutsi have a common Nilotic and Luo-speaking ancestry. The Nilotic Luo-speaking people entered Uganda from Bahr el Ghazel in southern Sudan with long horn cattle. It is not clear what caused them to move. However, conflict with Dinka people (whom they resemble) over grazing land and water has been mentioned as a contributing factor. They crossed the Nile in phases into the grasslands further south. In Bunyoro, Toro and Buganda the Nilotic cattle herders mixed extensively with Bantu speaking people and formed new communities based on mixed farming of cattle herding, crop cultivation and some manufacturing largely of iron products. They adopted Bantu language.

Ugandans must begin to think dialectically

Dialectics is the art or practice that helps to understand that we are not always told the truth. Dialectics therefore helps us to get to the truth by making sure that the absent is made the present because the greater part of the truth is in that which is absent.

Since colonial days Ugandans have been largely conditioned to obey what the teacher, or priest and increasingly Museveni says. Our history is still based on what John Hanning Speke (1863) and his aristocratic European and African followers connected with the royal courts wrote. They came up with the Hamitic Myth that Bahima and their Batutsi, Bahororo and Banyamulenge cousins are ‘white’ people, more intelligent, physically attractive and born to rule and that they brought civilization to the ‘Dark Continent’ then occupied by Negroes (black people).

By contrast, they emphasized that the Negroes were short with round heads and thick noses, unintelligent and born to be ruled and to serve as slaves (Bairu) of the ruling hamitic people. Although these stereotypes have been discredited with scientific evidence and performance at school and at work, Bahororo and their cousins of Nilotic Luo-speaking ancestry from Bahr-el Ghazel in southern Sudan (not Ethiopia as Speke wrote) have insisted they are superior and will rule in perpetuity wherever they happen to be, hence the idea of Tutsi Empire in the Great Lakes region.

Uganda’s elections project has failed

Every project in human history has at least four phases: the design phase, implementation phase, monitoring phase and evaluation phase. The purpose of monitoring is to ensure that the implementation of the project is on course as designed. When new problems arise they are corrected. When circumstances change fundamentally, it may become necessary to close the project and draw up a new one. An evaluation takes place usually at the end of the project to see whether the objectives were achieved or not and to draw lessons as a guide for future work.

The purpose of an election is to offer voters the opportunity to select their representatives in free and fair conditions. During the campaign candidates propose what they would do if elected to improve the standard of living of their constituents. If they do not deliver, they are voted out at the next elections. Thus, representatives’ primary responsibility is to serve all the people in their constituencies whether they elected them or not. In Uganda, it has turned out that the primary and perhaps only purpose of representatives is to enrich themselves, their families, relatives and friends. Take Rujumbura constituency as an example (no disrespect intended). The wife of the Member of Parliament (MP) is Senior Presidential Adviser and his sister in-law is also Senior Presidential Adviser! There are many others down the line. This is a case of winner-take-all.

How Museveni got into power and why he is not leaving soon

Museveni has remarked that as a guerrilla fighter he is not going to be chased out of state house like a chicken thief. He has warned that you cannot kill an animal and leave someone else to enjoy the meat. Since Uganda has just found oil, Museveni expects Ugandans and the rest of the world to understand why he just cannot walk away and leave someone else to enjoy the benefits. He will come up with something else in 2016 elections to stay in power!

In order to govern indefinitely Museveni forced an amendment in the 1995 Uganda Constitution that removed presidential term limits. He can therefore contest presidential elections as many times as he wants. Western powers have acquiesced. In other situations they would have put pressure including withdrawal of foreign aid. What facilitated Museveni’s ascent to and stay in power?

If Museveni is reelected Uganda’s future will get worse

Many Ugandans and some non-Ugandans especially from the great lakes region believe – rightly or wrongly – that Museveni will do everything to get reelected to avoid being dragged to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He will also ensure that he gets over two-thirds of NRM candidates elected so that Parliament rubber stamps his decisions. Then the following will likely occur as mentioned in conversations so far.

1. The defeated Ugandans will adopt a passive resistance strategy that will further cripple the economy that is already in bad shape with over 55 percent of Ugandans living below the poverty line.

2. Museveni will basically retain his present core cabinet of ‘yes men and women’ who will continue to tell him what he wants to hear. He will likely create a new ministry of petroleum or expand the current ministry of energy and appoint one of his closest relatives turning oil revenue from a savior to a curse for Ugandans.

What happened to Uganda historians?

In many countries, history or civics is a compulsory subject in schools. The idea is that students should know where their ancestors came from, how they have interacted with others over time and how they are governed.

Because Africa was considered a “Dark Continent” at the time of colonization, Europeans assumed it had no history and darkness was not a subject of history. Thus during colonial days, we were taught the history of European explorers and missionaries in Africa. The little Uganda history we were taught was about kings and their royal courts because first colonial and missionary officials came from aristocratic families in Europe and were not interested in peasant or commoners history. The first batch of Uganda historians was either from royal families or connected with the royal court. So for some years after independence, Ugandans continued to be taught the history of royal courts and British work in Uganda.

A new breed of historians emerged after independence led by Prof. B. A. Ogot, Kenyan mathematician turned historian who taught me in Nairobi. They began research into the history of Africans which led “to abandon certain formerly accepted terms and to introduce others”. Uganda historians began to write a new history of Uganda about who Ugandans are, where they came from and where they live and how they have interacted with one another.

Uganda has entered the enlightenment phase

Enlightenment also known as the age of reason or the age of rationalism was a period in history when thinkers emphasized the use of reason (justification) through observations to arrive at the truth – five plus five is ten. The period began in the 1600s and lasted about one hundred years. The thinkers included John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. Their ideas have lived on.

Brilliant thinkers in Europe rejected uncritical acceptance of long-accepted dogmas or views about society, politics and religion including the divine right of kings, primacy of aristocrats and prelates (church leaders) and a class society that dictated one’s destiny. For instance, if you were born a ruler or peasant you would stay that way. Thinkers developed the freedom and boldness to inquire and to doubt. Consequently, people in authority and church leaders were blamed for keeping others poor and ignorant in order to keep power for themselves. The outcomes of this freedom included major changes in governing and ecclesiastical institutions. American and French revolutions borrowed a lot from the work of enlightenment thinkers. What is the relevance of enlightenment to Uganda’s situation?

Why has birth control become a priority in Rwanda and Uganda?

Whatever justification is advanced for birth control, such as eradication of maternal and infant mortality, the ultimate outcome is reduction in population size at family, community, tribal and national level. Because of cultural, ethnic and religious sensitivity associated with birth control, different terms have been used such as family planning and reproductive health and rights. However, they all end up in reducing population size.

The common message conveyed by Malthus and his heirs is that poor people (regardless of how they got trapped into poverty) wherever they live produce more children than they are able to support. Therefore they must reduce the size of their families through family planning.

In Rwanda and Uganda, a combination of wars, endemic diseases and AIDS pandemic has raised mortality rates. In Uganda, for example, life expectancy declined from 47.0 years in 1980-85 to 41.0 years in 1990-95. At the same time, thanks to western donations, the economies of Rwanda and Uganda are growing faster than population growth. Consequently, birth control should not be a priority needing urgent implementation.