What to do about Uganda

I joined Uganda politics because I was convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that NRM was driving the country in the wrong direction. I also accepted the post of Secretary General in UDU to participate in civic education and diplomatic networking. I was fully aware that the silent, voiceless, powerless and suffering majority of Ugandans needed some people to speak on their behalf. I was equally aware that to do so would involve one in dealing with sensitive issues like sectarianism, corruption and violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms – issues that Uganda’s military dictatorship wouldn’t want discussed.

The hurdle we are facing is that we are dealing with a regime that thinks we are still in the feudal age of lords and serfs or an era of absolute rule and divine right. NRM hasn’t realized that we have entered the Age of Reason (Enlightenment or Intellectual Revolution) that has enabled us to develop a questioning mind and won’t take anything at face value. Charles I of England didn’t accept that change had occurred when he conflicted with British parliament but James II did and allowed the Glorious Revolution to occur. Later on Louis XVI and Czar Nicholas II didn’t understand that there was a wind of change.

People like Socrates in ancient Greece died for their principles. Intellectuals like Locke, Voltaire, Marx, Lenin and Paine went into exile to escape being silenced. Some of their ideas contributed to the American, French and Russian Revolutions and Latin American and Haitian independence.

NRM government must accept that things have changed in Uganda and beyond. The barrel of the gun is being challenged by the forces of democracy. Stealing elections might be entering the final phase. Bribing voters may no longer be able to produce the desired results. Thankfully, fear seems to be on the retreat.

Time has come to have a truly independent electoral commission and presidential term limits. Separation of powers must be restored so that the legislative assembly legislates on the basis of people’s demands and interests, the executive branch implement decisions of parliament instead of dictating policy and the judiciary interprets the law and acts independently.

Desperate and angry people unable to adjust may commit serious crimes against dissenters including taking their lives. But as they say people who live in glass houses should avoid throwing stones. We should remind ourselves why Lenin became a revolutionary and what he did when he captured power or what happened to the Gang of Four that harassed Deng before Mao died. You may be on top today and at the bottom tomorrow. When that happens, you want to be treated with respect but to get that you must have treated others the same.

In our discourse we must draw a clear distinction between public and private matters. Private and family matters should be left out of public discourse. But Ugandans have a right to discuss commissions and omissions of public officials. The latter should defend themselves substantively and in a civil manner rather than use AK47 or something else with the same effect.

Those who have followed my contribution to the debate may have noticed two things: reporting facts and giving hints. When I give a hint I want you to find out and report back findings and recommendations. I also believe that when there is no meeting of the minds the dispute should be resolved through an independent investigation. By and large and unless absolutely necessary, I avoid mentioning names of individuals unless I get permission in advance or I have a credible source. I believe that nobody has a right to decide for Ugandans. What we do is to provide information or hints or state personal position on important matters like national border inviolability to encourage debate and take informed decisions.

Let me end with the issue of Batutsi. I issued a note recently through Ugandans at Heart Forum in which I mentioned Batutsi men and women in Rujumbura who helped me as I grew up. I still have some close friends. But this does not mean I shouldn’t comment about their wrong doing, if any. As human beings we all make mistakes and pointing them out is because we want a frank discussion and a mutually acceptable solution so that we can all live together in harmony and happiness. That has been and will remain my goal. I therefore get baffled when I am attacked for inciting genocide. I am one of those demanding that Uganda problems must be resolved by peaceful means and I am very opposed to unseating NRM government by military means in the first instance. Distorting things to score a political point isn’t going to help us.

The sad part is that people who make these reckless remarks use fake names and we don’t know who they are so they are not held accountable for their actions. I am told that situations may arise when modern technology may help to trace them. We may resort to that if recklessness continues.

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