Political revolutions occur principally because the oppressor refuses to address the concerns of the oppressed and the latter refuses to withdraw them. Political revolutions, like revolutions in other areas of human activity, take time to occur and have virtually similar background characteristics. When people live under constant conditions characterized as “poor, nasty, brutish and short’, they eventually band together so that their voices for reform are heard by authorities. Regarding peasants, it has been demonstrated time and again that when they get hungry and believe they are being overtaxed (broadly defined), they rebel.
Uganda’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) government led by Museveni conveyed a message of hope when it came to power in 1986 after a costly guerrilla war. It promised to end all forms of sectarianism (ethnic, tribal and religion in particular) and all privileges by birth, root causes of political instability in the 1960s and the dark period from 1971 through 1985.
On capturing power the NRM government created an environment that accommodated every Ugandan and leveled the playing field so that every Ugandan could participate in the national development process on equal footing. This would correct pre and colonial deficits including lumping together people from different political, cultural, professional, social and discriminatory formations. For example, in southern and western Uganda pre-colonial authoritarian and exploitative governance system of rulers and ruled was not only retained but reinforced through the indirect rule system, causing endemic struggles between the two classes particularly in former Ankole and Rujumbura county of Rukungiri district.
Uganda’s situation was further complicated by religious feuds between Anglican Protestantism and Roman Catholicism and the economic divide between the north and the south. Thus, throughout the colonial period no attempt was made to create national consciousness through economic, social and political linkages. The federal independence constitution imposed by the British to keep Uganda together when it was very clear there was no sense of common statehood made a bad situation worse.
When the National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power in 1986, it had a clear domestic and external policy message which was compressed into the ten-point program. It was a program that had been based on compromise with national unity in mind which became a cornerstone in Uganda’s development discourse in the early years of the NRM administration.
Earlier, the late Grace Ibingira had written about the absence of national consciousness in Uganda brought about by the retention or intensification of ethnic differences during the colonial period. He observed that “Since the colonial system kept them alive through indirect rule and the policy of minimal inter-ethnic contact, the idea of Britain bequeathing a new state uniting all the divergent groups with a government of nationalist politicians from different groups, some historically enemies, generated intense fear in the country, most especially among the group that had more to lose, the Baganda” (G. S. Ibingira 1980).