Uganda: when you’re afraid of failure you will never make progress

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.

The burden of silence on Banyankole issue in Uganda

A society that takes things for granted or keeps silent when it is hurting can hardly makes progress. Societies that have progressed including ancient Greece had people like Socrates that questioned the status quo and would not remain or be silenced when unsatisfied about something. They developed a questioning mind and took nothing for granted. They would not budge even under the threat of death. Socrates was advised that he could avoid the death sentence for allegedly corrupting the youth if he paid a small fine and swore to remain silent about politics or went into exile. Socrates refused reasoning that the unexamined life was not worth living.

The political and military environment and laws of Uganda especially the anti-sectarian and anti-terrorism laws have made it very difficult for Ugandans to question the wrong things that have and are happening in our country. The tough anti-terrorism act has a broad definition which describes terrorism as the “use of violence or threat of violence with intent to promote or achieve political, religious, economic and cultural or social ends in an unlawful manner”(Human Rights Watch 2003). What is threat of violence and what is unlawful in the Uganda context? Under this broad definition anything said or done that the NRM government does not like can land any Ugandan in jail for a long time or forever. When you have laws like these there is no democracy, no freedom, no fairness and no dignity. Under these circumstances Uganda cannot claim to be a democracy where people are sovereign with freedom to express themselves. It is a dictatorship, pure and simple, regardless of whether elections are held or not which forces people to stay silent.

When people resist in solidarity, they can’t be defeated

The principal reason why Africa was colonized is because Africans were divided. Take the case of Uganda starting with religious wars. The Muslims had their group of supporters; the Catholics had their group and the Protestants theirs. And they fought one another. That conflict had an adverse impact that has not vanished. Bunyoro would not have been devastated as it was had Africans joined it or stayed neutral. And who captured Kabarega and Mwanga? That is how resistance to colonial rule was lost. And history is repeating itself because we have refused to learn lessons of colonial rule and cold war. We are seeing a repeat of keeping leaders in power that have become staunch supporters of western interests regardless of how they are treating their people. It is known that Uganda is a failed state under a military dictatorship disguised as democratic because of rigged elections. Yet, NRM leadership has continued to score high marks among donors and is still protected. In practice, this is not the kind of democracy and good governance we have been hearing. The opposition has no chance of winning democratically when the playing field is not level, leading to temptations to resort to war out of frustration. To avoid this from happening alternative scenarios should be accorded the attention they deserve. All Ugandans should have a stake in the affairs of their country.

When people demand change, they can’t be stopped

I have followed and participated in Uganda politics since before independence. Those at Butobere, Ntare, Rukungiri, Nairobi, Berkeley (USA), Arusha, Brussels (Belgium), Addis Ababa, Lusaka and Mbabane (Swaziland) where I was born, studied or worked and now New York where I reside will recall the political discussions we had and are now having about the desire for Ugandans and Africans to take charge of their own destiny. The lesson I have learned is that when people are determined for change, they will get it regardless of the hurdles on the way. We used to hear that Africans were not ready for independence. They needed more time and guidance. They were like children beginning to walk or to ride a bicycle. Some even argued that people in Southern Africa would never be liberated in our lifetime. Ready or not, the people of Uganda and Africa pushed on and got independent.

When a president refuses to feed children, Uganda should demand answers

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.

“When thunder is wet, it’s mistaken for a dove”

For general information I have read world history from the earliest to the present. I also watch movies about nature. One thing is common to all creatures. They all defend their territory – broadly defined – and protect their young. When conditions are right all creatures live in peace with one another – they are peaceful like doves. But when disturbed disproportionately, all creatures strike like thunder, witness the French Revolution. Ugandans are no exception.

Sad events in Kenya in the 1950s and 2007 and in Rwanda in 1959 and 1994 should serve as a wakeup call that when people long considered docile are very disturbed and fear suffering heavy losses they can switch from dove to thunder behavior – with heavy destruction in the end.

The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa had vowed to effect political change and gain majority rule by peaceful means. But after the bloody shooting at Sharpeville in 1960 in which many peaceful demonstrators were killed and others injured ANC changed from dove to thunder tactics.

The people of Uganda are demanding their rights

Enlightenment and dialectics have entered into Uganda’s political economy discourse. They have developed a questioning mind about who is governing them, why our institutions and systems (education, health, nutrition, agriculture, ecology, urban housing etc) are collapsing, why Uganda’s population growth is excluding migrants and focusing on natural growth alone (births minus deaths) which is half the story.

The people of Uganda are beginning to understand their inalienable rights – God-given rights – that no leader can take away. These are not privileges. When a leader denies the people their inalienable rights, they have a right to demand them back. And that is what the people of Uganda are demanding their rights right now. Through disenfranchisement, many Ugandans were denied their right to elect their representatives at the presidential, parliamentary and local levels.

Uncaring and iron fisted M7 faces wrath of the nation

It is known that when people are hungry and/or feel they are unfairly taxed or neglected, they get cranky. And when they do they rebel, making governments uncomfortable including the government of Uganda right now.

Museveni came to power in 1986 promising to end the long suffering of Uganda people through democracy, rule of law and equal development opportunity. He declared that the people of Uganda were sovereign and his government would be their servant. He also indicated he would step down and focus on pan-African issues as soon as the security situation improved. He called on the nation for support as he put the house in order. And support he got!

As soon as he felt fairly secure, Museveni began to behave more like a conqueror and dictator than a liberator. Earlier he had talked about different races in southwest Uganda, implying superior and inferior tribes. In 1992 Museveni convened a meeting of Bahororo (considered a superior race) at his Rwakitura country residence to map out how to dominate Uganda politically, economically and militarily for at least fifty years.


When people are sufficiently angry and brave, change can’t be stopped

There is overwhelming evidence that sufficient frustration and anger alone are unlikely to bring about major changes. Frustration and anger must be combined with bravery for change to occur. England’s 1381 peasant revolt, France’s 1789 peasants and Parisian mobs, Tunisian and Egyptian youth uprisings were successful because frustration and anger were combined with bravery.

When vans and fire trucks ran over some demonstrators and men on horses charged into other peaceful demonstrators there were fatalities and injuries. But the Egyptians who survived did not run away. Instead they gathered courage, picked up stones and fought back. Their bravery encouraged other compatriots to join them while others at home and abroad cheered them to continue until their goal was realized. Hosni Mubarak saw the writing on the wall when demonstrated defied security forces and peacefully camped outside the presidential palace. He stepped down, packed his bags and left the presidential palace.

When Tutsi youth assaulted a Hutu local administrative chief in 1959, the Hutu population concluded that they had had enough. Spontaneously, they gathered courage and decided to defend themselves against well armed Batutsi. And the result was the social revolution that chased away Tutsi, abolished the monarchy and achieved independence in 1962. Hutus had all along been considered passive and docile who would never have the courage to even chase away a ‘fly’! They are now down, not out.

What is needed for a demonstration to succeed?

Greetings fellow Ugandans and friends

The following requirements must be met in whole or in part for a demonstration, revolt or revolution to succeed.

1. There must be deep-seated, long-held grievances that translate into sufficient frustration and anger for change.

2. The goal must be clearly defined. The Peasant Revolt of 1381 in England was against feudal exploitation and war costs. The mob in Paris in 1789 was a protest against poverty, unemployment and rising cost of living. The Peasants in the French Revolution were against feudal exploitation and injustices. The Cairo Revolution was about unseating Hosni Mubarak.

3. There must be a spark for spontaneous demonstrations. The 1973 famine in Ethiopia sparked Addis Ababa demonstrations, introduction of Afrikaans language in Black schools in South Africa sparked Soweto student uprising, enforcement of a poll tax in England in 1381 sparked peasant uprising in southeast England. These demonstrations and revolts were leaderless and spontaneous precluding application for police permits. This is what is likely to happen in Uganda when peaceful demonstrations occur against illegitimate presidential, parliamentary and local elections.