Taking bias out of politics will help Uganda design a correct path

As we head for London to attend the Uganda Peace Conference at the end of June, 2014 participants will need new lenses that seek and tell the truth. Uganda which is overwhelmingly a religious country and increasingly becoming enlightened has failed to shed bias and tell the truth, the principal quality of religion and enlightenment traditions.

Because of deep-rooted bias we Ugandans have failed to determine the respective roles of religion and ethnicity in Uganda politics and conflicts; the roles of UPC and KY in the breakup of the alliance; the roles of UPC and KY in locating the central government in Buganda; the roles of the Lukiiko and UPC central government in the 1966 and 1967 crisis; the roles of Obote and Ibingira in the emergence of Amin and Museveni as Uganda leaders; the roles of the military and non-violent resistance in regime change etc. Let us look at the evidence.

Religious conflicts and wars in Uganda since independence

Some Ugandans and others have continued to argue that Uganda instability and wars since independence have been caused in large part by religious conflict over political power. There is no evidence of that. What we know is that when the largely Catholic-based DP lost the argument at the London constitutional conference in 1961 and the subsequent elections in 1962 and 1980, it opted to form an opposition instead of going to war.

Ethnic conflicts and wars in Uganda since independence

Regarding ethnic conflicts pitting Bantu people against Nilotic people, there is no evidence of that either. After independence the struggle for power has been waged among the Nilotic people. Ibingira and Museveni who are Nilotic are the ones that fought Obote, a fellow Nilotic. Amin who wrestled power from Obote in 1971 was not from the Bantu ethnic group. Okello who wrestled power from Obote in 1975 was Nilotic, like Obote. Museveni who wrestled power from Okello in 1986 is Nilotic, like Okello was. So where is Bantu versus Nilotic conflict? So far there hasn’t been inter-ethnic conflict but intra-ethnic.

The respective roles of UPC and KY in the breakup of their alliance

From the start the KY and in particular Katikiro Michael Kintu resented the deal struck with UPC in London in 1961 at the constitutional conference because the deal did not put Kabaka and indeed Baganda on top of everyone else. It was KY that declared that peace and prosperity will not occur in Uganda unless their demands were met.

It was KY led by Masembe-Kabali and Katikiro Michael Kintu that blocked negotiations for a mutual solution to the lost counties issue as Obote had promised. Presumably on their advice, Kabaka of Buganda who was at the same time president of Uganda refused to sign the bill authorizing the holding of the referendum and transferring the counties to Bunyoro at the end of the referendum. The referendum which Buganda never expected would be held or lose if it were held ruptured the UPC and KY alliance.

The roles of UPC and KY in choosing the location of the central government

It was KY that demanded that the seat of central government and national assembly or parliament be in Buganda and UPC complied.

The battle between Lukiiko and central government

Following the humiliating defeat in the referendum and dismissal of Michael Kintu as Katikiro, the battle with the UPC central government shifted from Katikiro to Lukiiko. On May 20, 1966 Lukiiko led by three Saza chiefs hurriedly adopted a resolution calling on the central government to relocate outside Buganda by the end of May. Some Kabaka’s ministers did not support the ultimatum issued by the Lukiiko.

The UPC central government interpreted the ultimatum as an act of rebellion by the Lukiiko and acted by military instead of political means in part because of suspicions that arms had been obtained clandestinely and stored in Mengo. That the fighting with the national army led by Amin lasted some 12 hours of intense exchange of fire could mean that Mengo was prepared. The sad result was the ending of the 1962 independence constitution and the adoption of the 1967 Republic Constitution and abolition of kingdoms.

The emergence of Amin and Museveni as Uganda leaders

Because of endemic bias, some Ugandans have maintained that Amin and Museveni were groomed by Obote as his agents during and after he exited. The evidence doesn’t support that. Without Ibingira attracting Shaban Opolot, Uganda’s army commander, to his side in Ibingira’s efforts to wrestle power from Obote by military means, the latter (Obote) would not have leaned on Amin shoulder, the deputy army commander, for survival. Thus, indirectly, Ibingira groomed Amin.

Similarly, it was Ibingira who again indirectly groomed Museveni. When Ibingira became Secretary-General of UPC in 1964 defeating Kakonge who had a large support of youth wingers, he (Ibingira) dismissed them including Museveni, to pre-empt a rebellion within the party. Museveni then decided to fight UPC that ejected him. Therefore it was not Obote who groomed Museveni but Ibingira.

Military as the only solution to Uganda’s political problems

Contrary to evidence documented since 1900 that non-violent resistance has caused regime change many more times than the military, some Ugandans still believe the NRM can be removed only by the military invading Uganda. Consequently that group refuses to acknowledge the efforts being made by non-resistance struggle and the progress made so far. Even without firing a shot so far, those who believe in the military option have refused to join hands with non-violent resistance groups to forge a common front. This is reminiscent of what happened in Ethiopia whereby the civilians waged a non-violent struggle against the imperial government. When the imperial regime was about to fall, the army which had done nothing up to that point stepped in, completed the job and formed the next government. The civilian population objected, demanding it forms the government because it had done the job. When the military refused the country collapsed into a long drawn–out bloody civil war. Ugandans should keep this lesson in mind. We all need to pull together as patriotic Ugandans, not fighting for personal or group gain but for the entire population.

This information has been compiled as part of civic education on the eve of the London conference.

Eric Kashambuzi