Uganda Citizen’s compact on free and fair elections

I have read the 13 page document adopted at the National Consultation on Free and Fair Elections. The consultation took place in Kampala on 24-26 November 2014. The mobilization work covered Toro, Bukedi, Teso, Kigezi, Busoga, Sebei, Ankole, Bugisu, Buganda, Karamoja, Bunyoro, Acholi and West Nile for the conference. Here are my preliminary comments on the compact:

1. What criteria were used in this selection of areas that were visited? It would be helpful in the interest of transparency to have the names of the people that were involved in the mobilization exercise; who selected them; who funded their work and how long it took to complete the task.

2. The notion of “birth” is included in the compact. What does it relate to – to the parents’ birth; to the place of birth or status of birth? This needs to be explained clearly so that there are no ambiguities.

3. The compact also contains the phrase “other status”. What does it mean?

4. Under the paragraph beginning with “Having considered” mention is made of organizations that participated in the formulation of proposals. At the end of that paragraph it is mentioned “and other concerned Ugandans”. It would be helpful in the interest of transparency to have these organizations and other concerned Ugandans mentioned in full. Were Ugandans in the Diaspora represented? If so who were they, which organizations did they represent and who chose them.

5. Who is going to undertake all that detailed work under the New Electoral Commission?

6. How do we determine an “eligible Ugandan?” One with a new identity card, a birth certificate, a naturalized one, anyone with a Uganda passport, or anyone born in Uganda regardless of the nationality of the parents etc?

7. Under II (ii) there is mention of “with full participation of stakeholders particularly political parties, civil society organizations and ‘the public’”. How shall we distinguish ‘the public’ from political parties and civil society organizations?

8. Under II (viii) there is mention of “Membership in UPDF High Command should not be personal to holder”. This needs to be explained to be understood unambiguously.

9. Paragraph IV talks inter alia about removing campaign finance irregularities. This problem could be resolved largely by agreeing on standardizing campaign finance for candidates at various levels. For instance let all vetted presidential candidates be given the same amount of money from public resources. What causes malpractices is the drive to have more money than the other candidate and buy more voters than the opponent. This matter of standardizing campaign finance at least at the presidential and parliamentary levels should be given serious consideration to minimize corrupting the electoral process.

10. Under VII (iii) there is mention of “demarcation of constituencies”. This should be done in such a manner that each constituency has the same number of voters. This is not the case right now. Some constituencies have fewer voters than others. This could be deliberate so that instead of having two constituencies in an area dominated by the opposition you have one. On the other hand in areas dominated by the ruling party you could have two constituencies whose voters are the same as one constituency dominated by the opposition party. By having same number of voters in every constituency the problem will be resolved.

11. Under XV (i) there is mention of representation of interest groups. We should consider the inclusion of representatives of Ugandans in the Diaspora because while residing outside they play an important role in Uganda’s political economy. They have invested in Uganda and pay taxes including on their properties. They should therefore be represented in parliament and cabinet.

12. The reason given for removing workers from special interest groups because their interests can be represented by all MPs sounds discriminatory. Other special interests can equally be represented by all elected MPs. This section needs to be recast.

13. Paragraph XVIII: Implementation of the compact is very troubling because of what it omits and the constraints against it. Who will present a copy of the compact to parliament and who will follow-up with parliament as it debates electoral reforms? And who will appoint them if they haven’t been appointed or elected already? Who are the members of the Eminent Persons Group of Conveners and the convening Civil Society Organizations? Were they elected at the conference? If not how are they going to be elected? Will Ugandans in the Diaspora be included since they are very active in Uganda politics and have a right to participate as Uganda citizens? There is mention of the Coordinating Team. Who are the members and were they elected at the conference? Are Ugandans in the Diaspora members on that team? In the preparations for the conference Ugandans in the Diaspora were consulted. For Example Bishop Zac Niringiye visited Europe and USA twice after The Hague Conference of November 2013 and we indicated interest in full participation. There might be a need to circulate the draft mechanism of implementation to ensure nothing is left out. This will also be in line with the principles of transparency, participation and accountability. Certainly Ugandans in the Diaspora would like to make a contribution to this very impart exercise. All citizens including those in the Diaspora should participate in the popularization of this compact. There will need to be a coordinating committee between Ugandans at home and abroad to harmonize their message so as to avoid contradictions or duplication and focal points will be an advantage. It appears the compact was mostly designed by and for Ugandans at home.

14. Three major points were omitted. (i) The electoral reform should consider proportional representation because the winner-take-all or zero-sum game such as in forming the cabinet is exclusive. Since the compact talks of inclusivity in all aspects: political, economic and social, a proportional representation must be an integral part of the reform process. (ii) An independent vetting commission to clear presidential and parliamentary candidates based on established criteria by the independent electoral commission should be established. (iii) Standardizing campaign finance needs to be undertaken to create a level playing field at least at the presidential and parliamentary levels. This will likely eliminate buying voters.

There are two virtually insurmountable constraints to the implementation of the compact:

1. The President and NRM in general are not interested in the compact. So how will it be cleared and implemented by Parliament? Was this possibility taken into account? If yes what Plan B is available?

2. Assuming that the next elections will take place in early 2016, there simply won’t be enough time to complete all the processes called for by the compact even if NRM were agreeable.

The inescapable, if sad, conclusion is that this is an effort that won’t produce the desired results under the prevailing political circumstances and time limitations.

Eric Kashambuzi

December 1, 2014

Military rule in Africa is coming to an end

Shortly after independence, military officers overthrew elected civilian governments and established military regimes. The ousted governments were accused of a wide range of wrong doing including ideological shifts; excessive involvement in the economy including nationalization of private enterprises, accumulation of external debts and budget deficits; rampant corruption, sectarianism and cronyism; violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms and changing or amending constitutions to accumulate power and govern for life without checks and balances. These abuses had resulted, inter alia, in increased absolute poverty and its offshoots of hunger, disease and ignorance. Therefore removing such failed governments from power by military means was legitimate.

When Obote government was overthrown in 1971, the soldiers led by Amin gave 18 reasons for their action including widespread corruption, regressive taxes, high unemployment, high inflation, income inequality, sectarianism, failure to organize elections, detention without trial and frequent loss of life, creation of a second army, developing Obote’s home area of Akokoro at the expense of the rest of Uganda, breakdown of security and overall violation of human rights as well as overreliance on the army. Against this backdrop, the soldiers believe acted legitimately to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

There was jubilation especially in the capital city of Kampala. Amin promised that once the situation had improved in a short period he would organize elections and return to the barracks and serve the government as a professional soldier. However, Amin not only failed to organize elections but declared himself president for life. He hired mercenaries who assisted him to rule with brutal force. By the time he was overthrown in 1979, up to 500,000 Ugandans and non-Ugandans had lost their lives and some 70,000 Asians had been expelled from Uganda. The environment had been extensively damaged beyond recognition in some places as in Kabale district where wetlands were converted into ranches and the local climate became warmer and attracted disease vectors like mosquitoes with serious health consequences. The economy was in ruins and many Ugandans had reverted to subsistence activities.

In January 1966 Jean-Bedel Bokassa overthrew his cousin Dacko and became president of the Central African Republic. He pledged to end corruption and improve the economy and welfare of the people. However, he soon showed his true character. He murdered Alexander Banza with whom he organized the coup and descended on politicians that served under Dacko with brutal force.

In 1977 Bokassa became emperor at a cost of $30 million, the equivalent of 20 percent of Gross National Income, which he borrowed to entertain 3,500 guests that were served with 24,000 bottles of champagne.

The emperor accumulated wealth as the leading businessman. One of the activities he engaged in was the sale of ivory leading to the slaughter of 5000 elephants a year. He also sold diamonds and timber (Clive Foss 2006). Like Amin, Bokassa damaged the environment extensively.

In 1978 Bokassa ordered that all primary and secondary school children wear uniforms made in his factories and sold in his shops. When the students protested Bokassa led troops against them and some 100 of them were killed. He then descended on university students; many of them were imprisoned and executed. In 1979 Bokassa like Amin was deposed, having made a bad situation worse.

In 1960 Belgian Congo became independent under Lumumba as prime minister with Mobutu as defense minister. In 1965 Mobutu seized power, became president and promised elections in five years. Before doing so in 1971, Mobutu abolished parliament, post of prime minister and assumed all powers of state and ruled by decree. He then hunted down opponents many of whom were jailed or killed. He remained in power for more than 30 years during which time he drained the country of its wealth for his family and cronies making the people of Zaire among the poorest on earth.

Beginning in the second half of the 1980s a new breed of military officers led by Museveni emerged. Museveni who became their dean in preaching democracy and neoliberal economics said at his first inauguration in January 1986 that his government was not a mere change of guards. It was a fundamental change. He condemned African leaders who stayed in power too long, emphasizing that he was not that kind of leader. He promised that as soon as security returned to the country hopefully by 1990, he would step down. He never did. Elections were not held until ten years later in 1996 under international pressure which were rigged.

Museveni had promised he would end the suffering of the people of Uganda, industrialize the economy, launch science and technology programs to make Ugandans technologically skilled to compete anywhere in the world, balance agricultural production for domestic consumption and export to end hunger at home and generate more foreign exchange for development purposes.

None of what he promised has been satisfactorily fulfilled. Multiparty politics has been suffocated. There is a poor record on rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights and freedoms. Instead Ugandans are experiencing arbitrary arrest and detention. And Museveni is still in power and counting since 1986.

African military rulers like their counterparts in Latin America have failed to deliver on peace, security and development. Consequently, Africans and their development partners are rejecting military governments as experienced recently in Mali, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso. Therefore Ugandans who wish to end NRM’s failed regime need to adopt non-military strategies which are more effective in regime change than the barrel of the gun (R. Guha2014).;

Uganda has a complicated history

Boutros Boutros-Ghali former United Nations Secretary General wrote “Without knowledge of history and of one’s own past it is impossible to conceive the path to the future”.

Without understanding Uganda history which is complicated, it will be difficult to conceive a smooth and sustainable common path to the future. Pre-colonial history was marked by wars of territorial expansion, slave trade and plunder to accumulate wealth. Colonial period was characterized by religious conflicts, annexation of territory, economic exploitation (growth poles versus labor reserves), indirect rule where chiefs, their families, relatives and friends benefited at the expense of others, etc.

Uganda attained independence in difficult circumstances. DP was cheated. UPC/KY entered into a fragile marriage of convenience. Our leaders could not agree on the head of state so we ended up with the Queen as head of state represented by a Governor-General. They could not agree on the name of the new country so they settled for “Sovereign State of Uganda”. The leaders could not resolve the “Lost Counties” issue that became so divisive and led to the 1966 Mengo war and the Republican Constitution of 1967 that has pitted Buganda against Obote and UPC since then.

The problems got worse and we ended up with externally assisted Amin coup of 1971. Military rule turned out worse than Obote I regime and Uganda was invaded by Tanzania in 1979 and ended up with Lule who was imposed on Uganda; then Binaisa who landed at state house. He had been refused entry at the Moshi conference 68 days earlier. Then there followed total anarchy that opened the way for Obote to return because there was a political vacuum. Some Ugandans vowed to oust him and entered into a marriage of convenience that was bound to rupture and it did even before Kampala fell to the guerrillas in 1986 when Museveni refused elections to replace Lule who had passed on a year before Kampala fell and Museveni became president by default. Baganda were thus cheated because a Muganda be it Protestant, Catholic or Muslim was expected to replace Obote. Museveni like Amin had the backing of external assistance as well as mercenaries.

This time we should not make another mistake of just joining with any group for the sake of overthrowing Museveni and then plunge the country into anarchy again. We need to form an all (inclusive) transitional government but led by people with impeccable character. Those with suspected dirty hands from any group be it NRM, FDC, UPC, DP or any other party or organization should not be permitted to join the transitional government. We must vet every aspiring leader to be part of the transitional government. We therefore call on Ugandans to come forward with information about those positioning themselves to form the next government. The government must be led by a presidential team with each of the four regions represented to prevent one person to become president and then refuse to leave office. The security forces must be led by Joint Chiefs of Staff, not by one person, representing the four regions. The public service commission must be led by a team representing the four regions to stamp out sectarianism.

The transitional government must have a clear mandate and duration. It should last up to three years. It should conduct a comprehensive population census to determine who we are and how many we are. It should convene a national convention so Ugandans debate and decide how they want to be governed. It should then conduct free and fair multiparty elections and form parliament and cabinet on the basis of proportional representation. That way the winner-take-all mindset is eliminated and none is excluded from the political, economic and social processes. Parliament should then become a constitutional assembly and draw up a new constitution. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be established of independent Ugandan and foreign experts to investigate violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms since independence so that such practices are not repeated.

Those who participate in the transitional government should not participate in the next elections because they will have the advantage of incumbency.

These are concrete proposals. Let us discuss them, adjust them or provide alternative. We can’t debate forever. Time has come to act.

Eric Kashambuzi

Post-NRM Uganda will need a transitional government led by a presidential team

I have consistently argued that the system of governance in Uganda with strong central government and one person president who accumulates political, military and economic powers in his hands; appoints and dismisses public servants has not worked. This unsatisfactory governance system has pushed Uganda to a point of near disintegration. Calls to secede from Uganda are on the increase. This is a fact we have to accept. Then we need an alternative, at least temporarily, to help us draw lessons for a roadmap for the next 50 years.

Uganda will need an inclusive transitional government for at least three years embracing all political parties and credible organizations, except individuals alleged to have committed crimes against humanity since 1962. The government must be led by an empowered presidential team with impeccable character – character is the defining word to qualify.

During periods of near anarchy as in Uganda today you need this arrangement whose principal function is to give people a breathing space. This has been done before in countries where disintegration was looming on the horizon.

In Soviet Union, when Stalin died in 1953, the supreme authority was officially vested in three top Politburo members. Khrushchev eventually emerged as the leader in 1955 (F. Rothney 2002). The Soviet Union was thus saved.

In former Yugoslavia, when President Tito died in 1980 at a time of serious political economy difficulties that threatened the unity of the country, his functions were transferred to the collective State Presidency and to the Presidium of the League of the Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY). The President of the State Presidency acted as the head of state, rotating the post annually among the members of the presidency (Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Europa Publication Limited 1994). It allowed Yugoslavia to stick together for another ten years until people decided to go their ways in a bloody fashion.

In Uganda a three man presidential team was established by the Military Commission. The Commission recognized the importance of this office at least to calm the nerves of Ugandans that would possibly have rebelled in its absence after Presidents Lule and Binaisa had been ousted from power.

This time we need it even more to give Ugandans a chance to debate and agree on how they should be governed and deny one person an opportunity to manipulate the people and stay in power. Museveni had promised he would leave the office in 1990. It is now 2014 and he still wants to be re-elected in 2016. He is able to do this because the one person presidency allowed him to force removal of presidential term limits from the constitution. This is a lesson we can’t forget and can’t allow to be repeated.

We need to be innovative. We can’t settle into routines even when they have not worked. Let me add that a presidential team may slow down efficiency but that is not the issue now. The issue is to give people a sense of representation at the highest level while they sort out how they want to be governed. The proposed transitional government led by a presidential team should not last more than three years unless the people may want to extend it as is done in Switzerland.

Please offer your constructive views on these two proposals: a transitional government led by a presidential team for up to three years.

Eric Kashambuzi

For revolutions to occur there must be a trigger

As I have written and spoken on a number of occasions, revolutions will not occur unless there is a spark. I have given you the sparks that triggered revolutions in France, Mexico, Russia, Tunisia and Ethiopia. In Uganda the conditions for a revolution are there in abundance. What is missing is a spark which could come any time from now. We can prevent a revolution only if commonsense prevails in the NRM government. Ugandans are not docile people. They are ready but the spark hasn’t gone off yet.

In Iran the revolution was triggered by an article written by the Shah. Here is what happened after the Shah decided to counter the growing popularity of Ayatollah Khomeini.

“The Shah penned an article, a report supposedly about Ayatollah Khomeini, calling the cleric a coward, a traitor, a communist and insinuating that he’d partaken in particularly lascivious deeds. On January 7, 1978, when the Shah had the article published …, it was the first time the cleric’s name had seen the ink of Iran’s printing press since 1964. It also marked the last time the Shah’s people were going to put up with his crap [hence the spark].

Iranians knew it was a fake. The article that condemned Khomeini, calling him decadent and a communist spy, proved to be the noose the Shah drew around his own neck. When religious students in Qom read the article, they kicked off a protest that would snowball into a revolution. Marching from the house of one theologian to another asking them to condemn the Shah, their numbers grew from a few dozen to thousands, as angry townspeople joined in. Windows were smashed, the crowd chanted ‘Down with the Shah’, and several marchers threw stones at police manning a roadblock. The police shot into a crowd, killing five. Or may be seven or twenty or thirty….. Across the country, memorial services were scheduled, and those emotional protests spawned more run-ins with the security and more deaths. Religious students continued protesting so loudly that SAVAK and the military broke up the protests. At least seven students were killed. Riots broke out….. The oil workers went on strike, cutting off revenue and domestic supplies. The blackouts began. …

In August, a theater in the oil town Abadan burned down, killing four hundred. …, the striking oil workers blamed it on SAVAK. In September the Shah imposed martial law … All public meetings were banned and even two constituted a crowd.

Khomeini’s tapes urged followers to rebel [these days it is social media]. On September 8, 1978, thousands convened in Teheran … In response…, the military rolled in… At least eighty were killed on Black Friday… It marked the Shah’s darkest hour.

The Shah tried deal making with his people. He promised to call off SAVAK. He tossed in a new prime minister – a nationalist. But it had all gone too far. By now the revolution had full support of the bazaaris, the powerful and religious-leaning merchant class whose networks stem from traders to the countryside. … Like that in the cities, the rural population backed an overthrow of the Shah’s regime and backed Khomeini, whose anti-Shah message was also embraced by ethnic minorities… and militant dissidents…

It soon became clear that the Shah had lost his grip. Asked to leave by the prime minister, on the night of January 16, [1979], the Shah, his wife, and his family secretly hurried from the palace and boarded the royal plane. .. For the first few months he [the Shah] made a home in Egypt, watching in horror the news of what had happened since he left [and never to return]”(Melissa Rossi The Middle East 2008).

Many leaders who refused to listen to the voices of dissent from their people including Rhee of South Korea, Marcos of the Philippines and the Shah of Iran I have written about ended up in exile, never to return. These leaders were confident they had strong security forces and reliable foreign backers. In the final analysis the people’s power prevailed. It could well happen in Uganda even though there might be strong security forces and reliable external friends.

The purpose of writing the above quotation is not to incite a revolution in Uganda but to advise the government that the way things stand the only alternative left is a people’s revolt unless the government is willing and ready to enter – quickly – into negotiations with opposition parties and groups at home and in the Diaspora to set up an all inclusive transitional government run by a presidential team with each region represented. The transitional team would then arrange for free and fair multiparty elections.

Eric Kashambuzi, Secretary-General of UDU.

Sadly, in Uganda history is repeating itself

In Uganda politics has two meanings. There are Ugandans like me who see politics as an art of capturing power and using it in the interest of the people. On the other hand, there are those who see it as a means to enrich themselves. In the rush to get power, Ugandans in the latter group have hurriedly entered into marriages of convenience that are unsustainable and therefore destabilizing.

In the struggle for independence, men like Ignatius Musazi, William Rwetsiba, George Magezi and Ben Kiwanuka, among others, that had legislative experience at the regional (Lukiiko) and national (Legislative Council) levels were replaced by ambitious but very young and inexperienced people like Milton Obote, John Kakonge and Grace Ibingira, among others who formed Uganda People’s Congress (UPC).

Within UPC there soon developed ideological and cultural differences. Ibingira who became the youngest cabinet minister at independence in 1962 was connected with the ruling house of Ankole had aristocratic and capitalist values. John Kakonge, a commoner from Bunyoro was defined as a socialist while Obote a commoner from Lango was somewhere in between.

This untenable marriage of convenience began to crack when Kakonge, Secretary-General of UPC, was not nominated to parliament and could not be made a minister. In 1964 he was ousted as Secretary General of UPC at the Gulu delegates’ conference and replaced by Ibingira who then threw Kakonge and his so-called socialist supporters out of the party (many of them formed NRM and are running the government). Then Ibingira tackled Obote for UPC leadership and ended up in prison. These developments marked the gradual decline of UPC.

The ambition by Protestant individuals led by Ibingira and Obote to wrestle power from Catholic-based Democratic Party (DP) entered into a marriage of convenience with individuals in the Mengo administration that hurriedly created Kabaka Yekka (KY) and formed a UPC/KY alliance. Thus, Kabaka Mutesa II and Milton Obote “who were implacably hostile to each other [conveniently managed] to submerge their political differences and work together to prevent a Catholic politician, Benedicto Kiwanuka, from becoming the first Prime Minister of independence Uganda”(Onyango Odongo 1993).

Within the KY, as within the UPC, there were major differences. There were ambitious Baganda who “were prepared to forget Obote’s previous public speeches in which he venomously condemned Mengo Establishment. Only the shrewd Katikiro of Buganda, Michael Kintu, could clearly see the political time-bomb that was wrapped in the alliance of the UPC and the Kabaka Yekka (KY)” (Onyango Odongo 1993). And the time-bomb went off in 1966.

Then came the 1979 Moshi conference put together in a hurry by Julius Nyerere who didn’t know what to do with Uganda after he chased away Amin. People who were not talking to one another converged in Moshi, Tanzania without a well-thought out agenda and candidates to field for the transitional government. Obote, Tiberondwa and Binaisa etc were locked out of the conference. Out of the blue, Yusufu Lule was elected president, only to regret later by his sponsors that they made a big mistake. He lasted 68 days in office. Binaisa who had been locked out of the Moshi conference a few weeks earlier as unqualified became the next president. He lasted less than a year in that post. The squabbles between the legislative and executive branches of the transitional government turned the country “into a state of total anarchy”(J.R.Leguey-Feilleux 2009).

Museveni played a big role in the ouster of Lule from office as president. Yet within months, the two men formed an alliance – the National Resistance Movement (NRM) – that brought Museveni and his supporters mostly from Ankole and Lule supporters mostly from Buganda together to fight Obote and his UPC II government. Lule became chairman and Museveni vice chairman of NRM. Unfortunately, Lule passed on before Kampala fell to the guerrillas and we can’t tell what could have happened between the two men regarding occupation of state house. What we know is that Museveni resisted elections to replace Lule so Museveni as acting chairman of NRM became president of Uganda. The alliance did not hold well. Many disgruntled Baganda who had fought so a Muganda becomes president after Obote ran out of the country and some are now threatening through USA-based radio munansi that when they wrestle power from Museveni they will punish Banyankole for the damage they have done to Buganda.

With rumors circulating that political changes might soon take place in Uganda greedy Ugandans are now scrambling to form coalitions. Sejusa, among them, is frantically calling on anyone including Amama Mbabazi to join him when he replaces Museveni as the next president of Uganda through the military force.

To sum up: it is these marriages of convenience by greedy Ugandans seeking power for themselves that have turned Uganda – with all its human and natural resource abundance and strategic location – into a failed state vulnerable to internal and external shocks.

Against this backdrop, we Ugandans need to pause, reflect on this political history of marriages of convenience and decide how we should move forward together in peace, security, stability, dignity and sustainability.

Eric Kashambuzi is New York-based international consultant on development issues and Secretary-General of UDU.

Everywhere Change begins with awareness

As I have been writing and saying change be it in politics or economics etc begins with awareness. You have to understand how you got your place in the scheme of things – how you became a ruler or ruled. And must you remain that way?

As we acquire education and travel, we end up reading about enlightenment or reason by Europeans who challenged the status quo inter alia of divine kings, peasants or serfs who were heavily taxed without benefits, leading to the American and French Revolutions followed by others throughout the world.

The Atlantic Charter agreed to by Roosevelt and Churchill called for self-determination of colonized people. Following the formation of the United Nations the General Assembly adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states in part that we are all born free and equal in rights and dignity. The differences are man-made: one group using whatever means but largely force turned another group into a servant or slave thus losing God-given political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights – especially the right to land ownership and the right to determine one’s destiny.

In Uganda the rights and freedoms of many Ugandans were taken away and forced into subjugation. People were forced into administrative arrangements that still exist today. Some kingdoms that started off tiny expanded into large entities by military force, intimidation and surrender. Buganda received a large chunk of Bunyoro as a gift for helping Britain to defeat Bunyoro. Ruthless methods including scorched-earth were used and the record is there for all to see. Thank God the records exist. Ugandans find them, read them and you will understand why we have inequalities: how some got ahead of others politically, economically and socially and those ahead don’t want others to catch up. You will understand strangers in our midst, how they got in and what they have done.

Uganda has entered the era of enlightenment or reason and that can’t be reversed. Ugandans no longer want divine rulers who think they rule by the grace of God and can dictate what is good for Ugandans. Ugandans are now vigorously questioning the current scheme of things in which those connected with the NRM administration and traditions get all they want while others are sinking deeper into poverty – educated or not or are languishing in exile. Ugandans want to know their history including their roots and how they came to be governed as they are. Those who want to prevent this thinking have launched ideological programs to keep Ugandans in the current scheme of things. You were born to be a goat herder that’s it, so will be your children and theirs. You were born to be a king that’s it, so will be their children and theirs. This is man-made and violates the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about freedom and equality.

Ugandans are now reading and vigorously debating and no longer taking things for granted. They know independence discussions did not include people self-determination. They were just handed Uganda as it was colonized. The people were never consulted. They are now asking about the origin of 15 nations that have resurrected a few months ago and are asking: are Banyankole a nation? Are Baganda a nation? Are Banyakigezi a nation? Are Batoro a nation, etc? The champions of 15 nations need to explain who came up with this idea and how they define a nation whether in a classical sense or their own. Commentators are discussing it but the champions are silent. Have they discovered they made a mistake and don’t know what to do about it? I am asking these questions because I am not aware of what the champions have said.

Ugandans are now seeking self-determination. Self-determination is sought by the people, not their rulers. We call upon all Ugandans to engage in this debate with evidence and in a constructive manner so that we find solutions to set the record right peacefully. Rights and privileges are different things. Rights are inalienable (none has the power to take them away). Privileges are given by a ruler who can withdraw them. For example Museveni appointed Mbabazi a prime minister which is a privilege and he has taken it away from him. But Museveni has no right to decide who should vote and who should not. That would be a violation of a God-given political right of an individual. And when he takes away that right he should be resisted. That is why we are resisting the way elections are conducted and not accepting the outcomes as the opposition did after the fraudulent 2011 elections.

No president or king has the right to take decisions unilaterally. The people in one form or another must be involved. That is why in some situations referendums are held to get the views of the people in a free democratic atmosphere. When that does not happen, the people have a right to seek an alternative.

One of the things we should resist is losing our land because land is life. That is why the rich are investing heavily in land purchase or grabbing because they know that once you are landless and have no skills to sustain yourself outside agriculture you are basically finished economically and by extension politically and your rights and freedoms can be violated with impunity because your are powerless and voiceless.

In order to fulfill its fifty year master plan and extend it thereafter NRM is focusing on dispossessing Ugandans of their land. The opposition should stand up to this blatant abuse of the inalienable right to land ownership and challenge anybody who collaborates with the government in land grabbing.

The age of reason has come to stay and can’t be reversed. Negotiations and compromise is the only alternative to a peaceful resolution of differences. The alternative which should be avoided is a nasty one and everyone knows that is what Sejusa and Kafero are championing.

The people’s power can’t be defeated

With my own initiative and resources and alone, I have researched, written and published extensively about the Horn and Great Lakes regions of Africa with a focus on Rwanda and Uganda – the two neighboring countries. I have tried to understand the root causes and consequences of endemic conflicts in these two regions.

By way of comparison, I have also tried to understand the causes and consequences of conflicts in the French, Mexican, Russian, Ethiopian and Iranian Revolutions and People’s Power in South Korea during the presidency of Syngman Rhee and in the Philippines during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.

I have concluded that by and large conflicts start when individuals struggle for political power to access economic resources and enrich themselves. In doing so, they rely on members of their class, ethnicity or faith – hence class, ethnic or religious wars.

The winners do everything to cling to power by using repressive tools like the military, intelligence and police and reliance on external support. They violate the political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights of the losers hoping the latter would be controlled and exploited forever.

My research findings show that no situation is permanent. Ultimately the rulers are resisted even by some of their supporters; the oppressed get organized and fight back and external support is withdrawn. And the revolution which has long-term, immediate and trigger causes occurs that more often than not is followed by a civil war as different groups that defeated the oppressive regime fight one another to capture power.

The story of Uganda is that coalitions of convenience, use of security forces and external support have failed to keep one group in power permanently. The lessons of the 1966, 1971 and 1979 conflicts; the Luwero Triangle guerrilla war and civil wars in Northern and Eastern Uganda show beyond a shadow of doubt that no one group can defeat and subjugate another forever.

To avoid a political explosion, it is suggested that Ugandans together as equals begin a process of finding lasting solutions without further delay. This will happen only when Ugandans are gathered together in a national convention to debate and decide how they want to be governed. Another war won’t do. An inclusive transitional government should be formed run by a presidential team to avoid concentrating too much power in the hands of one president.

The transitional government should then organize free and fair multiparty elections with the understanding that members in the transitional government would not participate in the elections as they would have advantages of incumbency over other candidates.

Those interested in my research work and findings please visit

Eric Kashambuzi

Social relations in Uganda must change

In Uganda the exploitative (feudal) relations between leaders and the people (lords and serfs) is on the rise in one form or another. God created us equal but man in his desire to dominate created divisions of rulers and ruled.

In Europe the feudal system developed after the fall of the (western part) of the Roman Empire in AD 476. Because of the instability that followed weak members needed protection but had no money to pay for that service. So they gave up their land. The king or overlord in turn gave part of the land (fief) to lords (king’s vassals) who in return swore to train and fight on behalf of the king as knights (horse warriors). Serfs therefore lost their land. In return for food, shelter and clothing etc serfs worked the lord’s land and virtually had no freedom. The feudal and manorial systems of exploitation began to be challenged through peasant revolts beginning in the 12th century and they eventually collapsed.

They were replaced by states with more powerful kings that ruled and exploited their subjects by ‘divine right’ i.e. their power came from God. They were answerable and accountable only to God. The people could not hold them accountable.

This exploitation was challenged beginning in the 17th and mostly in the 18th century. This period of resistance is called “The Age of Reason” or “The Enlightenment”. During this period people began to believe that all questions about the world could be answered by reason and by anybody, regardless of class. Therefore the lords or kings had no right to rule over peasants.

Europeans like John Locke, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire and Hume etc championed this cause. Hume demonstrated how important it was to work things out for yourself (solve your own problems) – not just be told what to do by someone else (Museveni tells Uganda peasants to grow food for cash and not for the stomach and we go ahead and do it and end up hungry when we are selling mountains of food to neighboring countries and beyond to raise foreign exchange that Museveni then uses to buy military hardware and torture equipment against citizens). The ideas of the Age of Reason were used in the American and French Revolutions. They spread to Latin America and Haiti used them in its war of independence.

Sadly in Uganda under NRM feudalism is spreading. Land is being grabbed by the rich or at gun point who are pushing landless people into urban slums or exploiting them if allowed to stay on the land. We hear of new landlords emerging in Buganda that are likely to be approved by Lukiiko and could be extended to the entire country and approved by parliament. Who are these new landlords or masters?

Peasants and urban dwellers are being taxed heavily as happened in the European feudal system. Ugandans have virtually no freedom as happened in feudal Europe. Rujumbura constituency is hereditary, owned by Bashambu family. Independence MP was Karekaho Karegyesa. He passed it on to Jim Muhwezi who will pass it on to his son, daughter or a close Mushambu relative whether qualified or not and the people are silent. Matthew Rukikaire whom I think was a better man to represent the constituency and I would have supported him going by what I knew then about him was blocked until Muhwezi was ready because Rukikaire is not a Mushambu. He eventually gave up politics.

Museveni is methodically moving towards making his son Muhoozi the next president and we are watching hopelessly. This has got to be stopped. But to do that we need to get organized. Sadly, the opposition has been infiltrated by NRM people at home and abroad. We don’t know who Duncan Kafero is working for? There was a rumor, not yet denied, that he was working with Sejusa. We don’t know what Mbabazi is up to? Some of the opposition leaders are in bed with Museveni but confuse us: look at the business they have, the jobs their relatives are landing, travelling on diplomatic passports, money deposited on their foreign bank accounts.

Upon probing, some Ugandans who had positioned themselves as members of the opposition have changed their position. They are now saying or through their representatives that they are not in the opposition but are activists for democratic change within the established political institutions which remain confidential.

Amama Mbabazi should explain why he chose to leave the post of Secretary-General to which he was elected and the president or party chairman could not dismiss him from. Being removed as prime minister was within the powers of the president because he appointed him and was confirmed by parliament. Mbabazi could have clung to his post of Secretary-General but he abandoned it on his own: Interesting development.

Against this backdrop, I have resisted joining or be joined by any Ugandans who show up as members of the opposition for the sole purpose of removing Museveni (not even NRM as some have suggested under the slogan of Musevenism) from power.

If there is no long-term plan for governing the country after NRM is gone which will happen sooner or later there will be a civil war among so-called revolutionaries or resistance by the people when the military takes over which I think Duncan Kafero and Sejusa are planning jointly or separately – just wait and when the people have triumphed you move in with your soldiers including possibly mercenaries and take over government.

That is what happened in Ethiopia in 1974 and when the people resented a military take over there was a civil war. That seems to be happening in Burkina Faso where the people carried out the revolution. The people representatives should form the transitional government: not Compaore soldiers.

Fighting also erupted in Iran after the 1979 revolution. Here is what happened. “At home, the revolutionaries who had toppled the shah found themselves divided over the very fundamentals of the new regime: whether it should embrace theocracy, or republicanism, socialism, or mercantilism, liberty or justice. As the radical clerics around Khomeini closed ranks, opponents of the new revolutionary order faced everything from firing squads to street combat, culminating in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The opposition that the Islamic Republic did not decimate it intimidated into silence”(Foreign Affairs January/February 2014).

This is the kind of outcome I am trying to avoid in Uganda by joining with anyone who claims to be an opponent of Museveni and NRM. Ugandans let us from now on be guided by reason, not emotion on the basis of tribe, ethnicity, religion, gender or region. Let those aspiring to be leaders articulate what they would like to do after NRM has exited. They shouldn’t keep silent or complain about NRM wrongs without giving solutions while ordinary people are struggling to remove the oppressor and when NRM is gone they spring up and take over.

Those with guns or connections of birth per se should not be allowed to rule over ordinary people who have the power once they know how to use it. Revolutions exist to change such social relations. I support peaceful revolutions as we have seen in Burkina Faso. Soldiers there should not be allowed to turn it into a civil war.

Eric Kashambuzi

Why Uganda needs opposition with a long-term common vision

I supported NRM’s ten-point program which was well written, inclusive and put Ugandans at the center of development. Sadly, the program was suddenly and unceremoniously abandoned in mid-1987 before implementation started. It was replaced by a ‘shock therapy’ structural adjustment program (SAP) that the NRM had vehemently opposed during the Obote II regime and vowed to scrap it once in power.

Museveni rejected advice from Ugandans and some foreigners that urged a gradual and sequenced approach to minimize the adverse impact on poor and vulnerable people. The minister of finance who was an economist was dismissed and replaced by a medical doctor. Museveni then relied on foreigners who tutored him about the merits of market forces (S. Mallaby 2004).

The design and implementation of the program were placed under the care of the IMF and World Bank apparently for lack of domestic capacity (P. Langseth et al., 1995) when in fact there were many qualified and experienced Ugandans eager to come home but Museveni was not keen to receive them (The Courier Sept-Oct. 1993).

When my efforts to persuade the government to have a cushion like school feeding program against the pains of structural adjustment were rejected, I shifted from advising to opposing the government. Since then, some groups and individuals have urged me to join them for the sole purpose of unseating the NRM regime. I have been reluctant until there is a clear common development vision acceptable to all groups to minimize conflicts.

Experience shows that when groups or individuals with different ideas come together as in the French, 1848, Mexican, Russian, Ethiopian and Iranian Revolutions etc for the sole purpose of removing an oppressive regime without agreeing on what to do next, there have been problems including civil wars that should be avoided after NRM has exited. Let us examine the three cases of Ethiopia, Iran and Uganda by way of illustration.

The Ethiopian revolution was initiated by civilian mass protests in urban and rural areas. They were triggered by the 1973/74 increase in oil prices and the famine that began in 1973. As the civilians were within sight of removing the imperial regime and capturing state power by peaceful means, the soldiers stepped in, toppled the regime and formed a military government (Dergue) without consulting civilian organizers. The latter, in turn, demanded removal of the military government and the establishment of a people’s government consisting of representatives of workers, peasants, teachers, students, public servants, traders, soldiers and women. The military government rejected the demand and warned that resistance would be crushed. The rank and file soldiers also made some demands. The failure to reach a compromise on power-sharing resulted in a bloody civil war.

Within the Dergue itself differences emerged as well and fighting erupted. General Aman Michael Andom the first head of the Dergue was killed in November 1974. Andom’s successor General Tafari Bante was killed in February 1977. The second vice-chairman of the Dergue Atnafu Abate was killed in November 1978, leaving the first vice-chairman Mengistu Haile Mariam in charge of a country that descended into a political, economic and social crisis.

In Iran, the Shah’s authoritarian and corrupt regime resulted in a political, economic and social crisis. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from his exile in France called for a mass protest to end the Shah’s regime. The response was enormous and brought together groups from all walks of life and differences: leftists and rightists; liberals and conservatives; intellectuals and bazaar merchants; radical and moderate clergy; and impoverished slum dwellers with the sole purpose of ending the Shah regime.

Following the departure of the Shah into exile, the clergy under Khomeini seized power, a decision that was rejected by other groups. There were fights and those opposed to the clergy were dealt a heavy blow. The clergy then proceeded to Islamize Iran’s culture (Monika Gronke 2009).

Regarding Uganda, the imminent fall of Amin regime in 1979 brought together groups with diametrically opposed ideas to form a transitional government at a hurriedly organized conference in the Moshi town of Tanzania. The only thing delegates had in common was to replace the Amin government and govern apparently on the basis of the Moshi Spirit that was not clearly defined, much less understood, leading to different interpretations. Differences surfaced as soon as they took office. The Consultative Council or Legislative Assembly disagreed with the National Executive Committee or the cabinet especially on the powers to make public service appointments. The two branches of government could not compromise. Within 68 days the president was gone replaced by Godfrey Binaisa who had been locked out of the Moshi conference. His presidency lasted less than a year and was succeeded by a Military Commission made up of members that disagreed on virtually everything. The seeds of instability planted at that time germinated into oppressive regimes, deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people especially women and children and a militarized administration that has employed many instruments such as safe houses, anti-sectarian and anti-terrorism laws to deny Ugandans the exercise of their inalienable human rights and fundamental freedoms.

These three cases demonstrate unambiguously that efforts to change a repressive government, must be combined with an agreed common blue print that promotes inclusive societies and institutions that guarantee peace, security and development for all.