The failed Moshi conference model is being repeated

When Ugandans in the diaspora sensed that the Amin administration was about to collapse with no clear successor government, everyone rushed to fill the gap. At that time I was living in Lusaka, Zambia, the second hub of Uganda refugees after Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. People who were not talking to one another in the same town, people who could not agree to attend the same reception, people who had not contacted one another for years began forming groups overnight overwhelmingly along sectarian lines to form the next government.

As Kampala was about to fall, the Tanzanian government hurriedly organized a meeting of Ugandans in the diaspora at Moshi to form a transitional government. Debates ensued about who should or should not be invited. In the process Obote, Binaisa, Tiberondwa, among others, were left out.

We all know what happened after the transitional team arrived in Kampala. The National Consultative Council (parliament) led by Rugumayo as speaker could not agree with the National Executive Committee (Executive) led by Lule as president. They could not agree whether the functioning of the government should be based on the Moshi spirit or the 1967 constitution. Sections in the military started fighting and recruiting for a possible showdown. Lule was forced out within 68 days. Binaisa who had been locked out of the Moshi conference was sworn in as the next president but lasted less than a year and was gone. The military commission had its share of problems. Museveni rejected Muwanga as chair of the commission because he was not a fighter. But Muwanga stood his ground and eventually became the de factor head of state although a presidential commission of three people had been created with representatives from western, central and northern regions. There was a civil war and many people lost their lives.

The 1980 elections were contested and resulted in a five year guerrilla war that left an estimated 700,000 dead in the Luwero Triangle alone and subsequent overthrow of the Obote regime and the northern and eastern civil war that lasted over 20 years with massive losses in human lives, properties, infrastructure and institutions.

Now Ugandans this time at home and abroad are sensing that Museveni government might collapse without a clear successor government in sight. They are repeating the same failed Moshi process of forming groups overnight by people who earlier could not talk to one another in order to form the next transitional government.

In December 2013, out of the blue Freedom and Unity Front (FUF) was created with Amii Omara Otunnu apparently handpicked by Sejusa becoming chairperson and Sejusa crowning himself the founder of FUF. They rushed with a manifesto that talked about mobilizing Ugandans along ecumenical lines without an indication about what to do with the mobilized people. Sejusa and his chairperson talked boldly about using military means as the only alternative to oust the NRM government. We pointed out to them in detail the difficulties of taking that road to state house.

They attempted to write a situation analysis covering three or so months but ended up writing a short history of Uganda and its problems. It didn’t go down well with commentators.

To crown it all, differences in ideology, personalities and methods of implementation became so overwhelming that within six months FUF was dead. The marriage of convenience was abruptly and permanently terminated and the founder made the sad announcement apparently without consulting his colleagues or staff.

What is even more baffling about the behavior of some Ugandans is that within two weeks of the burial of FUF, a new organization called FADDU/FUF was announced yesterday on August 3, 2014 with Amii Omara Otunnu as one of the co-chairs. This has raised serious questions.

1. When was FADDU formed? Was there a conference? Who attended the conference and what does FADDU stand for? Who are the leaders? Could we get their profiles? When we raised these questions we were referred to the website.

2. How could a terminated or “dead and buried” FUF be a joint partner with FADDU? Those of you who followed my debate with representatives of the new organization know that eventually they recognized that FUF doesn’t exist anymore but insisted that without FUF the struggle to oust NRM from power will continue. Ipso facto, FADDU/FUF as an organization doesn’t exist. It died on arrival.

Another meeting along the lines of the one that created FUF in December 2013 is being organized in Europe for opposition groups from Uganda and the diaspora. The meeting was not announced, the participants are not known as well as the organizers and the purpose of the meeting.

Frankly, one wonders about the real purpose of these meetings and hurriedly formed groups. Is it to destroy the good work being done in the diaspora or are people genuinely trying to prepare to fill a gap when NRM regime collapses but are doing it the wrong way. Whatever the reason, the manner in which meetings are being held and groups formed reminds us of the failed Moshi conference model that should not be repeated.

Since a few people have criticized UDU and the newly created THP (The Hague Process), let me say a word or two on both.

The birth of UDU: United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) was created in July 2011 at the Los Angeles conference. The conference was widely advertised in the media and on radio munansi. The working document for the conference was a synthesis of views collected from Ugandans and published well in advance of the meeting. We obtained many constructive comments which were incorporated into the final document which was again circulated to maximize transparency and participation. The conference formed UDU and elected a committee to run its affairs. There was a brainstorming session of what UDU should do until there is a regime change. The secretariat or committee was instructed to prepare a National Recovery Plan using inputs from the brainstorming session and submit it in draft form a month before the Boston meeting took place in October 2011. We wrote a summary report of the conference and provided a list of committee members available at UDU website

The draft of the Plan was ready and widely circulated a month before the conference as instructed among Ugandans at home and abroad and among Uganda’s development partners. The document was discussed at great length in Boston on October 8, 2011 and adopted. It was agreed that the committee should continue to serve UDU and report progress periodically which we have done through the UDU website.

The committee was instructed to publicize the plan through civic education. We were also instructed to engage in diplomatic networking and to conduct analytical studies of Uganda’s political economy.

As noted above to keep members and others abreast of developments the committee records its work at which everyone is free to visit.

As executive Secretary-General of UDU I was mandated to serve as spokesperson for UDU on all matters to avoid duplication or sending conflicting messages. Our record is known and we have many followers. This is an organization that has acted transparently and inclusively.

The birth of THP: The meeting of November 2013 that brought together participants from home and the diaspora created The Hague Process (THP) for peace, security and development in Uganda. It was well publicized through radio munansi and on the internet. The meeting was well attended across regions, gender, ethnicity and demography. The outcome of the conference was published in The London Evening Post by Henry Gombya. We wrote a report of the conference which contains the list of participants who attended and will continue to do so in their individual capacities.

It was agreed that after consultation with fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, a follow-up meeting be organized to prepare a roadmap and a strategy for its implementation leading to the ouster of NRM government, formation of a transitional government led by a presidential team since a one person presidency has created tremendous difficulties.

The London conference of June 28-30, 2014 was widely publicized on the internet and on radio munansi. Mindful of costly travel and accommodation expenses so soon after The Hague conference, we decided to provide a range of facilities to facilitate participation by those not able to travel to London. First, we submitted the conference document well in advance for comments. We received very useful comments. Second, we undertook comprehensive consultations thanks to inexpensive technology and communication facilities and obtained useful inputs into the document. Third, we provided skype facilities during the conference.

Consequently, the conference was well attended (By the way attending conferences through remote arrangements has become standard practice and less costly including meetings organized by the United Nations organizations). The London conference produced a roadmap and provided a wide range of methods to implement it according to specific location circumstances so we overcome a one-size- fits-all model. There was a high level of transparency and none was left behind in this process. The next meeting will take place in New York.

The principal purpose of UDU and THP is to facilitate the work of parties and organizations at home and abroad to harmonize the message in order to avoid duplication or conflicting reporting and to join the dots among groups and parties for smooth coordination and coherence.

At the diplomatic level we have achieved a lot, albeit more remains to be done. The record is there witness for instance reduction in donor assistance and the action of the Constitutional Court on the Anti-Gay Act, in part because of outside pressure thanks also to the work of Milton Allimadi of New York-based Black Star News.

UDU civic education has shed light on Uganda’s political economy and its complex connections historically and geographically. In terms of mobilizing Ugandans along People Power Model, we have called on various groups including security forces, religious, women, workers, youth, civil organizations etc to come together as Ugandans and take our country back by peaceful means in the first instance and lay a strong foundation for peace, security and development for all Ugandans in present and future generations.

I am therefore calling on all Ugandans at home and abroad to avoid rushing into marriages of convenience for the sake of removing NRM from power and after that we turn against one another because nothing binds us after NRM is gone because we did not think in advance about what to do together the morning after.

In most cases revolutions are accompanied by bloody civil wars because the groups that came together to overthrow the authoritarian regime did not have anything else in common.

Let us learn from these lessons and not repeat them in Uganda in post-NRM regime. That is why UDU and THP are proceeding cautiously, explaining in part why we did not join FUF and FADDU. We must also realize that leaders are not created overnight; neither can they be picket off the street or jump out of a corn field or cattle ranch. What is clear is that Uganda has potentially capable leaders. All we need to do is to pick them carefully with a particular focus on character of the individual because character and impeccable record matter more than anything else. Bless you all.

Eric Kashambuzi