Readers must be wondering why I am writing prolifically about Uganda on a wide range of topics. There are three main reasons.
1. Uganda is at a crossroads and we must decide quickly which development path we need to take and the kind of leadership required. It is now recognized that the principal constraint in Uganda’s development is the background and quality of leadership. We need to examine economic and social performance under civilian and military leadership since independence in 1962 and draw conclusions.
2. I have been covering many topics in an inter-connected manner in economics, politics and regional/international relations because development is multi-dimensional. I have introduced a seminar on Radio Uganda Boston, USA on political economy to show how politics and economics affect each other and shouldn’t be treated as separate entities in policy formulation. The NRM government’s approach is virtually one dimensional. For example, in increasing crop production and livestock herding especially with introduction of commercial goats, the government has not taken environmental degradation seriously into account. Also, education has not been linked with employment opportunities to the extent that over 80 percent of Uganda youth are unemployed.
A year ago, on July 9, 2011, United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) was born in Los Angeles, USA. One of the topics that dominated the brain storming and other formal and informal debates was restoration of political and civil rights so that Ugandans can associate, march and assemble freely; express opinion orally and in writing without harassment; campaign, vote, count the ballots and announce results without interference. Delegates also expressed the importance and urgency of restoring presidential term limits, establishment of a truly independent electoral commission and keeping the military out of politics as well as taking the recommendations of international observer missions seriously (in 2011 the Commonwealth Observer mission reported that the electoral process lacked a level playing field, implying declaring the results null and void). One of the strategies to effect the necessary changes was UDU’s interaction with the international community – at government, United Nations and human rights organizations levels.
Thankfully, UDU’s work was made relatively easy because many of the officials we met with were largely aware of the human rights violation in Uganda which was unacceptable to them. They therefore welcomed our initiative and the National Recovery Plan which contains information about deficits in democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms and governance (corruption, sectarianism, cronyism and non-accountability; lack of transparency and mismanagement of public funds). Our working methods have varied depending on circumstances but have produced positive results.
I know that change is coming to Uganda. But what kind of change: peaceful or bloody change; change from below or from above? Although some readers have distorted my message for whatever reason, I have consistently pleaded orally and in writing for peaceful change – to the discomfort of those who want war – so that every Ugandan lives in peace, security, equality, prosperity and happiness. I have encouraged mixing at all levels – political, economic, social and cultural – to minimize conflicts. But to make appropriate changes we need to know what is happening in our society first. It is reporting the findings of what is happening that has caused discomfort in some quarters. And from these quarters we are getting name calling, intimidation and distorted messages. But the impartial analyst has to report research findings. And that is what we have been doing in the great lakes region. Hopefully we shall all end up on the same page.