There is sufficient evidence in time and space to confirm that when people are sufficiently galvanized and fully understand the causes of their pain, and who is benefitting from their sweat, they will revolt spontaneously. They only need a spark such as the enforcement of poll tax in England that led to a countrywide spontaneous revolt in 1381. In Rwanda, the Social Revolution of 1959 was sparked by Tutsi youth assault on a Hutu sub-chief. The introduction of Afrikaans in Black schools sparked student unrest that enhanced the demise of apartheid system in South Africa. The eviction of a dissident priest from his residence sparked a revolution that ended communist rule in Romania.
Galvanization of people takes place inside and outside the country. Archbishop Desmond Tutu galvanized Black South Africans from home. Oliver Tambo did so in exile. Civic organizations such as Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia galvanized their citizens from home. Radio Free Europe made a significant contribution to the 1989 Revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe from outside. In turn, the 1989 Revolutions influenced the introduction of multi-party politics in Africa.
This is what a good leader does. When things go well, he/she shares credit with his/her team. When things go wrong the leader takes full responsibility.
In Museveni’s Uganda things are done differently. When Uganda was described as star performer in structural adjustment program; when Uganda was congratulated for confronting HIV & AIDS boldly and when Uganda was praised for its efforts to bring about peace and stability in the Great Lakes region, President Museveni took all the credit. He attended all the Summits at the United Nations in New York and G8. He spoke with confidence that Uganda would end poverty and suffering and would become an industrialized nation within fifteen years. And nothing would stop Museveni in these endeavors.
When things turned sour, Museveni has blamed everyone but himself. He is known for blaming Ugandans as lazy and drunkards, blaming Ugandans as empty tins, idiots and bankrupt. He has blamed opposition groups for sabotaging NRM worthy efforts, civil servants for incompetence and corruption although he is the one who appoints and promotes them. He has blamed development partners for donating insufficient funds and foreign experts for giving wrong advice. He has blamed slowdown in economic growth on external factors including weak developed country markets and “Acts of God” beyond NRM control. His New Year message is a repeat of what Museveni does when things have gone wrong.
There are examples from time immemorial which demonstrate that when people can’t take it any more they draw a line beyond which they revolt regardless of consequences. The peasants in feudal Europe had been taught by priests that they should tolerate suffering on earth because their rewards were in heaven. But when the burden of food insecurity and taxation among others became unbearable, they revolted. Since Uganda is basically a rural country of peasants, let us look at some examples of peasant revolts in Europe and one example in Kenya. The examples in Europe are drawn from Historical Facts by Robert Stewart (2002).
The Britons revolted against the Roman rule. The most serious revolt came in A.D. 61. One of the British tribes in East Anglia revolted because it was angered by loss of land to Roman soldiers and heavy tribute imposed on them. Thirteen years earlier, they had revolted because they were deprived of their right to bear arms.
In A.D. 220 there were revolts against China’s Han dynasty. The oppression of peasants by landlords and bureaucracy led to a series of revolts that ended the dynasty and left China with no central government for 350 years.
Ugandans are going through a hard time under Museveni dictatorship which his supporters interpret as bold leadership. But we should not lose hope. Contrary to what many believe, God hasn’t forgotten Uganda. We only happen to be passing through a rough phase. Those who fly between Europe and USA know there are turbulent sections across the Atlantic where passengers are advised to return to their seats and fasten seat belts. When the turbulent area is over the flight is smooth. That is where Uganda is now. In the end Ugandans will go through the stormy weather which is caused in large part by hanging onto traditional beliefs one of them being that we are created differently – some are born to lead and others to be led. Some are refusing to change their mindset.
In my home area of Rujumbura in southwest Uganda, Bairu (Batutsi slaves or servants) were conditioned to believe that Batutsi were more intelligent and born leaders. Bairu were born to labor for Batutsi. Men were conditioned never to cry or scream under whatever amount of torture by Batutsi (I understand in Rwanda this requirement applied to women as well). And we accepted it.
People demand change of different degrees when existing frameworks don’t work well. Students demand better food because what they are eating isn’t good or is monotonous. Workers demand better working conditions because the existing ones aren’t good. This is a normal thing in all societies. And when leaders refuse to respond or convince the public they face difficulties, sooner or later, some of them revolutionary. Leaders that adjust as enlightened despots in Europe did during the 18th century lasted longer. Those that didn’t like Charles I of England, Louis XVI of France, Nicholas II of Russia and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia were booted out of power and their dynasties destroyed.
Similarly, the people of Uganda after fifty years of independence are demanding change of leadership and a new governance system. NRM leadership and its unitary and tier system of government are not only controversial but also unacceptable. They have made a few families filthy rich and the majority real paupers. All Ugandans are born equal and must be presented with equal opportunity to develop their talents. If they fail to get what they want peacefully, they are likely to resort to other means. This is natural.
I joined Uganda politics because I was convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that NRM was driving the country in the wrong direction. I also accepted the post of Secretary General in UDU to participate in civic education and diplomatic networking. I was fully aware that the silent, voiceless, powerless and suffering majority of Ugandans needed some people to speak on their behalf. I was equally aware that to do so would involve one in dealing with sensitive issues like sectarianism, corruption and violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms – issues that Uganda’s military dictatorship wouldn’t want discussed.
The hurdle we are facing is that we are dealing with a regime that thinks we are still in the feudal age of lords and serfs or an era of absolute rule and divine right. NRM hasn’t realized that we have entered the Age of Reason (Enlightenment or Intellectual Revolution) that has enabled us to develop a questioning mind and won’t take anything at face value. Charles I of England didn’t accept that change had occurred when he conflicted with British parliament but James II did and allowed the Glorious Revolution to occur. Later on Louis XVI and Czar Nicholas II didn’t understand that there was a wind of change.
Let me begin with three points of clarification. First, there are some people who are wondering how one person can write as prolifically as I am doing without assistance. I want to assure everyone that I have never received one dollar in assistance; I have never hired a consultant or even a secretary to type my manuscripts. I have done all the research, all the writing and all the typing by myself and paid all expenses from my own resources. I have not been influenced by anybody or any ideology but my own conscience. It is a commitment to my country that has driven me to do what you have read. If unsure you are free to investigate.
Second, I became an author and co-host of an English program on Radio Munansi for various reasons. One of them is that many decision makers in Uganda used to tell me and still do that more often than not they take decisions they would avoid if they had enough information. Some of them urged me to share my thoughts with a larger public. I focused on the Great Lakes region because it has had a far greater impact on Uganda than any other African region, and it could even have more in the days ahead. Notwithstanding human imperfections, I have tried to be as factual as possible, at times examining both sides of the issue before drawing conclusions and offering recommendations.
It is now crystal clear that Uganda has leaders suffering from a sleeping ailment. As if that was not debilitating enough, they have begun to quarrel among themselves. When the president addressed parliament last year on State of the Nation, his senior cabinet staff fell into deep sleep – people can doze off once in a while and that is excusable but when you sleep so deeply and repeatedly that is a different matter. One would have thought that the sleeping habit was due to age but young ones slept as well on both occasions. Therefore age has nothing to do with it. Last year’s sleeping incident was not taken seriously. We thought there must have been some specific and temporary reason why so many cabinet ministers could sleep so much. On June 7, 2012 it happened again this time with more ministers – again young and old – in deeper sleep than last year. Leaders who can sleep this deeply and for so long in the presence of their president, how much do they sleep when they are alone in their offices? A non-Ugandan friend of mine who had seen pictures of last year called me after he saw those of this year. He wanted to know whether Ugandans were suffering from a sleeping disease and, if so, what steps were being taken to cure it because no country can develop with that kind of leadership. I had no answer for him.
Many Ugandans are very unhappy about the deteriorating situation in our country. However, they are unable to react because they are afraid that if they don’t succeed in regime change or make fundamental changes within NRM the consequences might be severe. They are therefore prepared to wait until time solves the problem or someone else does it for them. That is why some Ugandans are praying virtually daily for donors to come to our rescue. In life there are few, if any, improvements that occur without human involvement and sometimes sacrifices. Intervention by others is more often than not to promote or fulfill parochial agendas that could lead to more hardship for the non-participants in the process. Therefore in order to solve a problem those affected need to participate. Second, success or failure depends upon the goal one sets. For example, those who had planned to unseat NRM regime in 2011 elections and didn’t obviously failed. Those who criticized NRM economic policy succeeded because the government dropped the devastating structural adjustment program in 2009 based on the invisible hand of market forces and replaced it with National Development Plan designed to introduce a public-private partnership model. Third, there are goals that are achieved in stages. You start with producing and disseminating information in the news papers, radios and the internet as Ugandans are doing now. The information is then debated and synthesized into policy and strategy in the second phase. In the third phase the strategy is implemented. Implementation may not achieve all the goals or none at all. The momentum may be slowed or the movement even destroyed completely. History provides lessons we can draw from so that when we do not succeed or do so partially the first time we should not despair and throw in the towel. In some of my publications, I have deliberately drawn on history lessons to show that those that persist and are optimistic win in the end. Below are some lessons that discourage pessimism and defeatism.
We have a president who came to power in 1986 advocating what Ugandans wanted to hear and he said it all loud and clear. He said that under his brief administration (because he had more important things to do at community and Pan-African levels) he would end the suffering of all Ugandans children included. In his eagerness to drive the point home, he blamed all previous regimes for failure to take good care of the people of Uganda. The welfare of children was a recurrent theme in his speeches as was the empowerment of women including through reduction in maternal mortality. One of the themes he stressed with implications on children was food and nutrition security. He talked clearly about balancing agricultural production for domestic consumption and export markets. Museveni knew that all parents regardless of their status want good education and health for their children. And he knew that they know that children need to feed adequately in order to study well and stay healthy. So when Museveni talked about the welfare of children including good education, healthcare, decent shelter and clothing including shoes and food and nutrition security he endeared himself to the people of Uganda particularly women who take care of children most of the time.