Non-violent resistance has worked where armed struggle failed

More than 70 percent of fallen authoritarian regimes have been by non-violent means. In those situations where violence has succeeded it is largely because of outside help. Some opposition groups that had started by military means withdrew and adopted non-violent struggle and won. Let’s see how Iran did it by non-violent means that are being encouraged for Uganda, instead of reckless and costly military adventurism.

“The 1979 Iranian Revolution [Islamic Revolution] ousted an unpopular monarchy and led to installation of an Islamic republic following an intense period of mass mobilization and collective civil disobedience. Earlier attempts to depose Shah Reza Pahlavi’s regime through assassinations and guerrilla warfare were unable to achieve what mass-based protests, strikes, stay-aways, and noncooperation achieved in less than one year. Whereas the Shah’s security apparatus infiltrated and decimated main guerrilla groups in the 1970s, the civil resistance that began in earnest in late 1977 exerted significant pressure on the monarchy and became impossible to contain or suppress. The sustained pressure exerted by Iranian workers, students, professionals, clerics, and other segments of Iranian society, even in the midst of harsh regime repression, divided the regime from its most important pillars of support. The popular uprising neutralized the Shah’s security apparatus. On February 11, 1979, when the Iranian Armed Forces Joint Staff declared that the Iranian military would ‘remain neutral’ in disputes between the Shah’s regime and the nation, the final page had been turned on the monarchy”(Chenoweth and Stephan 2011).

Baganda have also contributed to the current challenges

As a researcher and civic educator to all Ugandans I have a responsibility to contribute to the debate among Baganda that tends to emphasis external factors for their suffering.

There is a time when one of our colleagues at the organization where I worked was experiencing serious problems but blaming others for his mistakes. We got concerned and we felt that someone should tell him. It was decided that the closest to him should be the one to tell him the truth.

When you examine the record shortly before independence and since then, you realize that Baganda also made errors that must be recognized and corrected.

I listen to the Luganda program of radio munansi. What you hear for most of the time is that Baganda are suffering because of others, previously Northerners but since Museveni came to power blame has increasingly shifted to westerners especially Banyankole who must pay for the suffering they have caused to Baganda including chasing them away from Buganda soil. This is scary.

Why the next Muganda president may not solve Baganda problems.

There are some Baganda who are reasoning that they have suffered more than any other group in Uganda since independence. To end this suffering the next president of Uganda must be a Muganda. But those in favor of this idea must bear in mind that a president per se may not do much. Baganda should take a broader view and look at Baganda that have played a role in Uganda since 1962 including presidents, vice presidents, prime ministers and those that have served in senior positions like the police and the army. When you do this check you are going to realize that it takes more than mere numbers and status to produce the desired results. This honest analysis may help to rethink the strategy. Let us see what the record holds for Baganda.

Baganda have had:

1. Four presidents namely Mutesa II; Lule; Binaisa and Muwanga (he served as the real head of state when he was chairman of the military commission);

2. Four vice presidents namely Muwanga; Kisekka; Bukenya and Ssekandi;

3. Three prime ministers namely Kisekka; Kintu Musoke, Apolo Nsibambi;

4. Two second and third deputy prime ministers namely Paul Ssemogerere and Abu Mayanja;

Duncan Kafero missed a golden opportunity to convince Ugandans

Uganda is at a critical juncture in its history since independence in 1962. To save it requires the quality of leadership exhibited by leaders that include Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer, Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Park, Narasimha Rao, Deng Xiaoping and Nelson Mandela.

I listened to Dr. Kafero on both the English and Luganda programs of radio munansi. While it is understandable that assessments of his performance will differ depending upon what each one of us was looking for, I think that he missed a golden opportunity to convince Ugandans that he was the man to lead Uganda after NRM has exited with all the problems that will be inherited. He should have articulated his policy and strategy views on all areas of human endeavor, if only in a condensed manner. His presentation and response to questions left a lot to be desired. I got the impression that either he didn’t want to answer or he didn’t know. I stand ready to hear from those who think my assessment isn’t fair. Below are some of my concerns.

By its very nature politics is divisive

Politics is about getting power and keeping it. To do that those who don’t have power are prevented from getting it. So you have those with power and those without it struggling with each other.

In Uganda the Tutsi-dominated National Resistance Movement (NRM) has had power since 1986 and wants to keep it forever by keeping others out. Similarly in Rwanda, the Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) has had power since 1994 and wants to keep it forever. That is why these two countries have become vulnerable to political shocks because there is a very tiny minority of Tutsi trying to dominate the majority by using all sorts of methods including dubbing their opponents sectarian or genocidaire to keep them silent.

Tutsi have devised a sophisticated method of using others and money for their ultimate and possibly permanent benefit in Uganda and Rwanda. Without wishing to offend anyone, let me say this: To capture power in Uganda, Museveni carefully mobilized Baganda support by offering them some carrots. He made Lule (RIP) chairman of NRM. Baganda assumed that with power in NRM hands Lule would become president and Museveni vice president. Sadly, Lule passed on a year before power was captured. Museveni then became acting president and would not allow an election to have another Muganda in the chair until NRM captured power and he became president by default or through the backdoor if you will.

Why reading history is important for Uganda

When you read widely you are likely to stumble on useful information applicable to a contemporary situation like in Uganda regarding land grabbing.

One of Museveni’s principal goals was to find land for his ethnic nomadic people in the Great Lakes Region. He came up with the idea that Uganda had plenty of empty arable land (there is no piece of land that is unoccupied by animal and human populations) which was well watered and needed to be populated by people who did not or were deprived of their land (Museveni has claimed that his people were dispossessed of their land but does not say who did it). So word went around in the Great Lakes Region that Uganda had plenty of empty land. Mobility to Uganda has been facilitated by a liberal immigration policy that has been pursued by the NRM government since 1986. Associations like Banyakigezi were created in large part to assist in identifying land for purchase. And it is also rumored subject to confirmation that a trust fund was created to make money available for those in need of purchasing land.

Why history lessons are important

A few listeners who are vocal on Radio Munansi are protesting reference to history because it is producing what they don’t want to hear. I must add that the silent majority who communicate privately are happy with the programs and have urged us to continue. The purpose of studying history is to draw lessons that help present leaders to govern better by avoiding past mistakes.

For example, it is stated that Kabaka Mwanga acted too late to control his converted subjects who had come under the influence of missionaries and disrespected the king. What lesson can we draw from this in present circumstances? If we let Museveni and NRM continue to do what they are doing especially dispossessing Ugandans of their land and giving it to foreigners, it may be too late when we decide to act. We need to do it now by vigorously opposing the new landlord tenant bill and the associated national land commission bill. Complaining is necessary but not sufficient. We must act.

Ethiopia expanded through annexation, conquest and subjugation

Ethiopia’s expansion brought together people that were culturally, racially, linguistically and historically different from the conquering Abyssinians of Amhara and Tigriya. Menelik “converted what had been sovereign independent states to the hegemony of one over the rest”. Haile Selassie consolidated into a unitary empire that was divided into standardized provinces.

The Abyssinians were Christians of semitic and Cushitic race that entered Ethiopia from Arabia. The conquered and colonized people were Cushitic and Nilotic stock. At the time of annexation and colonization they were at different levels of development (Mekuria Bulcha 1988).

The relations between Abyssinians and the rest exhibited colonial characteristics including economic exploitation. The colonization took place during the scramble for Africa. The inhabitants of the conquered territories were subjected to characteristic treatment: They were sold as slaves and exploited as serfs. They had no political, religious, economic or social rights. Officially they were referred to as dependents. Inequality in political status, economic participation, educational opportunities and human rights defined the relations between the conquerors and the conquered.

Federalism doesn’t hopefully mean a return to pre-colonial status quo

There is resurgence in connection with a return to the past as some Ugandans mainly from the central region are advocating. What we are doing in civic education is that when an issue is discussed, Ugandans should have all the information in order to make informed decisions. Most of these issues are raised by Baganda participants on Radio Munansi, hence our responses are focused mostly on Buganda. Ugandans and others that have information on other regions or societies should make it available.

Ugandans have been complaining about centralization of power in the hands of one national leader which is abused in many instances. Those who oppose excessive central government authority want a return to the good old days before colonization. But when you look at Buganda you see that power was concentrated in the Kabaka as the quote below shows.

“He [Kabaka Mutesa] had power of life and death over his people and maintained his authority by severe and brutal punishments, such as the destruction of houses and property, the selling of his subjects into slavery, mutilations, burning offenders alive or hacking them to pieces (Richards, 1960:45)

Use lessons of history to make life better for all Ugandans

As I have argued orally and in writing patriotic and peace loving Ugandans should oppose the still few separatist and extremist Ugandans from the central region who are arguing for Buganda secession or a federal system based on pre-colonial ‘superior’ ideology and policy as presented yesterday by one commentator on Luganda program of Radio Munansi.

The two sources about the greatness and wealth of the central region indicate that we need to move cautiously on the return to pre-colonial days ideology and policy. Here is what we have come across.

“The Ganda constituted a warring, authoritarian, achieving, and competitive society. These traits and the patterns of behavior which they engendered formed an interdependent, complex whole. They were a predatory society. War brought them additional territory, slaves, women, power, and individual rise in position. Through prowess in war, individuals could achieve a rapid advance in status. War became a standard norm of external relations. Not until the latter half of the nineteenth century did external trade develop. Sir Apolo Kagwa, a prime minister in the early twentieth century said that ‘This custom of robbing the surrounding nations brought wealth to the Baganda, but it also meant the loss of their ability to trade. These expeditions had to be made quite regularly about every six months, and sometimes resulted in considerable loss of life and no particular gain”(Kenneth S. Carlston 1968).