I developed an inquisitive, listening and retention mind at an early age. People discussed all sorts of sensitive things in my presence thinking I was too young to understand. When I travelled by bus passengers talked freely and I obtained useful information. And I grew up in an atmosphere characterized by church gatherings that enabled me to hear incredible stories about human relations. My home village is strategically located and enabled me to gather information from Ankole, Rwanda, Burundi and Belgian Congo (now DRC). These stories mostly about brutal exploitation of the weak by the strong disturbed me – to say the least. As I grew up I witnessed some of these brutalities that continued under indirect colonial rule. Then I went to school and what we were taught (hunger, African laziness and too many children that cannot be fed properly) did not match most of what was happening on the ground at least in my home area. At times it was difficult for me to answer some questions or engage in discussions full of distortions. In some discussions I simply kept quiet or spoke in disagreement based on what I had heard. I decided early in my life that I would gather this information and share it at the right time. Thus, the information I am sharing with the public represents many years of accumulation from primary and secondary sources, checking and revising it as new information becomes available.
There is no fun
Writing about Uganda and the Great Lakes region isn’t fun. You are either correcting distortions or reporting on wars, human rights violations, genocide and other crimes against humanity; land grabbing and stealing elections; corruption and sectarianism; people dying mysteriously or of negligence and others of starvation in a region that has the potential to produce surplus food over and above domestic needs. In many of the interviews I have been asked why I don’t report on good news. Frankly I would love to but there isn’t much good news to report and twisting things to please isn’t my cup of tea. I am writing these stories not to start trouble but to prevent one. In this article, I will focus on Tutsi land grab in Uganda and the implications for the landless.
Museveni’s hidden agenda
Yoweri Museveni came to power with a clear but hidden agenda from the majority of Ugandans. You have to study Museveni dialectically to find the truth which many of us haven’t done or those who know don’t want to say it for various reasons mostly selfish ones. He also came to power with a conviction that he could do whatever he wants with impunity as long as he has his AK 47 and full support of security forces and some western backers.
UDU: Civic education end-of-year report
When I officially joined Uganda politics, I made a statement regarding three principal areas.
First, I joined politics to acquire and use power. Some acquire power to enrich themselves, their families and their kith and kin as we have seen in Uganda. Some use it to improve the standard of living of their fellow men and women. I belong to the latter group. The deterioration of ecological and human condition especially of women and children in Uganda is so shocking that it compelled me to do something about it. I have realized as have many others that talking and writing is necessary but not sufficient. I have already written ten books and created a blog www.kashambuzi.com to share information with a wider readership. Ugandans are now sufficiently informed about the causes of their dehumanizing condition. Action is now needed but we can’t act without taking power from those that have caused the suffering.
This question keeps coming up in our discussions. So let me try to answer it hoping that this time everyone will be satisfied. As noted earlier, Uganda has entered the age of asking questions and demanding answers. Uganda has also entered the phase when citizens are determined to exercise their natural rights and freedoms in political, civil, economic, social and cultural areas. In this we have received support of development partners that have warned the NRM government to refrain from violating rights and freedoms of Ugandans. The age of taking things for granted and maintaining rulers and ruled status quo is coming to an end. Adjustments on the part of authorities used to handing down instructions and using force to ensure compliance are needed. Let it be known to those still in doubt: Uganda is moving forward and the message is clear for all to read. Those attempting to stop or turn back the clock are only inviting trouble. When the French and Russian mobs led by women demanded government relief from food and fuel shortages, the respective governments ignored their calls and summoned police to disperse them. By the time they realized that the situation was serious it was too late. The rest we all know. Museveni and his team should not underestimate the power of unemployed, hungry and angry masses.
Revolutions that overthrow long established regimes happen swiftly. But conditions leading up to them take longer to crystallize. Revolutions thus occur in countries where regimes are incapable of adjusting to the demands of the people. Revolutions such as those in France, Mexico and Russia occur in stages. They are preceded by enlightenment or reform movements whose suggestions are ignored, then the regime collapses followed by a full scale civil war. Countries where revolutions occur exhibit similar characteristics. In France, Mexico and Russia the respective previous decade was marked by famine and economic crisis. The three countries were also predominantly agrarian in which the peasants who formed the majority of the population were exploited and starving. The three elements of hunger, economic crisis and agrarian society define today’s Uganda.
The political developments in Uganda are worrying and could end up in another bloody confrontation if common sense does not prevail at home and abroad. In order to find a lasting solution one has to identify the root cause of the problem like a good medical doctor does before prescribing medication. Pointing out the cause of the problem in Uganda has made some readers uncomfortable who have resorted to using uncalled for language to intimidate and silence the author because they do not want to hear the truth that may force them to accommodate others. These are Ugandans that believe in winner-take-all. Those Ugandans who harbor the notion that they were born to rule others in perpetuity are mistaken and are on the wrong side of history which does not entertain such notions. In Europe those who believed in the divine right of kings were defeated. And in societies where leaders in government and opposition compromise political problems are resolved peacefully resulting in stability, economic development and improvement in the standard of living of all. On the other hand in those societies where leaders are autocrats (rulers who hold absolute power over societies) and resist change the end result is a sad one, sometimes even tragic. The story of the Romanovs is an illustration of the latter.
The National Resistance Movement (NRM) thought that it had created a favorable permanent situation and developed immunity against challenge after 1987 when it signed a stabilization and structural adjustment program (SAP) with the IMF, started to enjoy rapid economic growth (in large part because of excess capacity inherited in 1986 now almost exhausted) and established macroeconomic stability by keeping inflation in single digits through raising interest rates, balanced the budget by removing subsidies and dismissing public servants, accumulated foreign currency reserves in the central bank to guarantee continued imports for the rich and received massive external support.
NRM speeches were full of confidence and vibrancy stressing that market forces, laissez faire and trickledown would solve all problems. All NRM needed to do was to make sure that opposition was not allowed to say anything negative. The military, police, intelligence and prisons were expanded to deal with dissent. Lack of demonstrations was interpreted by the outside world as a sign of stability. Invitations to make speeches about Uganda’s success story at UN and G8 summits blinded NRM government to creeping signs of exhaustion and possible failure. Museveni even declared that there was no problem he could not solve.
People who know Museveni well will tell you that during his secondary education life he exhibited restless rather than leadership behavior. Two developments appear to have disoriented him fundamentally in the late 1950s and early 1960s. First, during negotiations for Uganda’s independence, Bahororo (Museveni is a Muhororo) of Ankole demanded a separate district to recover part of former Mpororo kingdom. Bahima refused. It is believed that in retaliation, Museveni, as president, has refused restoration of Ankole kingdom. Second, Bairu’s political ascendancy in Ankole kingdom as independence approached was disturbing. Until then Bairu had been treated like slaves by Bahima and Bahororo. Bairu – a term coined by Bahima according to Speke (1863, 2006) – means slaves.
Realizing that numerically, Bahororo are insignificant and could not change Bairu’s political trajectory democratically, Museveni opted for a military solution: to stop Bairu’s political advance and restore Bahororo’s lost glory. His military participation in the overthrow of Amin was supposed to catapult him to Uganda’s presidency in 1980 election which he lost. He used the excuse of rigged 1980 elections which had been certified by the Commonwealth Observer team (which he has used to certify his rigged elections since 1996) to start a devastating guerrilla war. Museveni was aware that he would not win the next elections – hence the military option.
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.
It is always admirable to have dreams and to take calculated risks to accomplish them. Museveni has had big dreams. People take different routes to realize their dreams. Some take political routes dodging obstacles on the way while others resort to the barrel of the gun in a hurry and crush every obstacle on the way. Some get to the top of the mountain, others fail to do so.
Museveni started off his long journey by becoming president of Uganda using the barrel of the gun (the political route was too slow). He wanted to use Uganda, a small country, to rise to greatness which included restoration of Mpororo kingdom and formation of Tutsi Empire in the great lakes region and first head of the East African political federation and play a leading role on the African and global stages.
The inclusion of cultural institutions in the 1995 constitution was designed to help restore Mpororo kingdom. The project has run into difficulties because the idea of kingdoms or cultural heads is not popular in southwest Uganda. Discussions of Mpororo in the media, reappearance of Mpororo kingdom on Uganda maps and singing Mpororo benefits are attempts to sell the idea which has remained unpopular. Twisting arms to restore the kingdom will have unintended results especially as it violates the human rights of others.