Uganda is hungry for political change

Uganda is hungry for regime change even by progressive and well placed members in the NRM government and security forces. Some senior police officers have resigned, others fired for refusing to apply disproportionate force against peaceful demonstrators presenting to the government reasonable demands like ending corruption, sectarianism and cronyism so that national benefits are distributed equitably. Some army officers are complaining openly about injustices in the military. Some religious leaders are opposing the government in broad daylight.

Thankfully, the donor community is beginning to hear the voices of dissent and to act appropriately by issuing statements from their capitals or missions in Uganda, calling on the government to respond to the needs of the people. That some donors are demanding return of their stolen (donor) money is a sign that there is a wind of change in the donor community. It is estimated that over $30 billion has been donated (free money not loans to be repaid) to NRM government but there is virtually nothing to show for it. Add on $1 billion annually sent home by Ugandans in the diaspora, the revenue from exports, taxes and now oil and you have an idea of the magnitude of money that has been stolen by Museveni and his collaborators.

It must be stressed that donor money has been stolen from all sources. We therefore ask all donors to demand return of their stolen money without exception. And no new money should be released until corruption has been routed out and all the money returned. The argument that the poor will suffer even more by withdrawing donor funding doesn’t make sense because the money never gets to them in the first place. And using NGOs should be carefully handled from selection of NGOs and monitoring constantly how the money is used because some of the NGOs have been established by the same officials that are stealing public funds.

That Uganda is ready for change can be understood from commentaries and images in the media that show how far Uganda has decayed and convey a sense of urgency for regime change. That NRM has failed in all areas of human endeavor is no longer a matter for debate. What is to debate is how to change the regime.

The president who used to boast about poverty reduction no longer does so because absolute poverty is so widespread and so deep that everyone sees it on the streets witness beggars and homeless people that Uganda never had before and unemployed youth roaming the streets aimlessly because they have nothing to do as well as insane people who have lost their neurological sanity because of poor nutrition and stress; in homes witness eating one meal of maize or cassava with salt water to give it taste in one or two days and domestic violence; in churches witness the status of clothes poor people wear – shoes which Museveni promised every Ugandan are a luxury.

Museveni stopped talking about healthcare because of the re-emergence of diseases of poverty that had disappeared including scabies and jiggers. Women dying in child birth including in referral and teaching hospitals and rising maternal and child mortality have embarrassed the president. He stopped boasting about conquering HIV & AIDS because infection is on the rise. He can’t talk about championing restoration of peace in the Great Lakes region because of his alleged involvement in the overthrow of Burundi government in 1993, Rwanda government in 1994, Zaire government in 1997 and genocide by Tutsi committed against Hutu people in eastern DRC and support to M23.

He has confined himself to aggregate statements of Gross National Income (GNI) and per capita income, energy production and domestic revenue collection to confuse non-technical people who don’t understand the meaning of these terms. He is now reporting that under his presidency Uganda population has increased rapidly but he doesn’t disclose the contribution to this growth of migrants and refugees that have flocked into Uganda since he came to power in 1986. He has stopped criticizing his predecessors because Obote’s performance is way ahead of Museveni’s and some people believe Amin did better than Museveni.

Although he has denied that a coup was in the offing, there is a silent coup taking place. He wasn’t talking about a military coup because the international community wouldn’t allow it. The coup he has undertaken is to transfer responsibility from the government to the ruling National Resistance Organization (NRM) and the military. That the next budget will be prepared by NRM is a major coup against the ministry of finance. Who will read the budget speech on behalf of the president: the minister of finance or secretary general of NRM? The minister should not read a speech she hasn’t had a hand in preparing. In fact she should resign because the action taken is a slap in her face. Since the ministry of finance isn’t going to prepare the budget it follows that the secretary general of NRM should read the budget speech on behalf of the president.

The issue of identity cards (IDs) has been assigned to the military and taken away from the government. There is a reason for that. IDs are to be issued to Uganda citizens only. But Museveni has come to rely on foreigners in many ways that he wants to regularize their status by issuing them with IDs and the agency he trusts is the military. It is likely that foreigners might get IDs before Uganda citizens and some may be left out. Here is a hint why the military might issue IDs to illegal immigrants and refugees overwhelmingly Tutsi.

Under Uganda law immigrants and refugees are not allowed to engage in political activities including casting a ballot. “However, ‘politics’ is never defined leaving the legality of many activities open to interpretation by police and local authorities. Many young [migrant and refugee] people I interviewed … are in constant fear of being arrested … due to inadequate identity documents”(C. R. Clark-Kazak ). With IDs issued to them by UPDF (Uganda Peoples Defense Forces) the fear of arrest and participation in Uganda politics will be over. At the next population census they will register as citizens of Uganda. That is why UPDF is asked to issue IDs and within the military officers to issue IDs will be carefully screened to get those that may work against the interests of real citizens. This is a potentially dangerous development to national security and Ugandans and our friends and well wishers must fight and defeat it. This is a situation where silence is suicidal.

Thus, Museveni has taken an administrative coup against the government of Uganda of which he is the head and against Uganda of which he is the president. That is why it is urgent that the regime must be changed without further delay before the country is taken over by immigrants and refugees that have been flocking to Uganda in very large numbers but the records are hidden from the public. This will require participation of every patriotic Ugandans from youth to women to civil servants to religious leaders and to security forces.

My view is that we should effect regime change by peaceful methods and apply force only as a last resort should the military apply excessive force but there are Ugandans who are bent on military force as a first step.

As Voltaire said “I hate what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it”. Voltaire was a strong believer in freedom, justice and tolerance. And what Voltaire meant was “the idea that even the views that you despise deserve to be heard” (Nigel Warbutton, 2011). The people of Uganda will decide which option they prefer and rally behind it with all the repercussions.

In the coming weeks we shall discuss the respective roles of religious leaders, the military, women and youth in changing the regime by peaceful means in Uganda. I shall make introductory remarks for each theme. Meanwhile, I urge you to prepare for an interactive debate. This is part of UDU’s civic education.

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