First, congrats to the UFA UK team, headed by Akim Odong, for organizing a public debate just four months after the launch of UFA UK Chapter, I am truly overwhelmed and proud of this Action-team. I look forward to more of them cause the team has suggested that this might be the beginning of an annual UFA day in the UK.
I thank Norbert Obonyo, Daniel Opolot, Akim Odong and Edith Mpanga for their provoking, yet informative presentations, and last, but by no means least, all those that attended this big day in the life of UFA.
Belinda deserves special mention for her detailed report of what transpired during the UFA organized debate. Belinda, I still regret that you and I didn’t get to have that one-on-one when I was last in London, although I tried very hard to meet you, but I hope that an occassion will surface sooner than later for me to have a chat with you, because I found your views interesting when the Acoli Association in the UK so graciously allowed me to pay a courtesy call on them during one of their scheduled meetings, thanks to Akim.
It saddens me that after 49 years of shared (mostly unhappy) experiences, Ugandans are still tribes that can’t move on from the blame-game, name-calling and spitting venom at each other to unmask the clear pattern embossed onto the country’s political history. First, we thought the problem of Uganda was the colonialists, we fought them and threw them out, we sang and danced on independence day, thinking Uganda’s problem was solved, but was it? After a short honeymoon, trouble brewed and we thought the problem of Uganda was Kabaka Mutesa, the first president of Uganda. With him around, we thought, Uganda would never become a nation, so we threw him out, forcefully. Some people sung and danced “good thing, the wings of those arrogant Baganda have been trimmed, now Uganda can move ahead” they said, but did she? To many Ugandans, Dr Obote was a liberator while to others, he was a villain. After a very short honeymoon, the independence constitution was abrogated, Ugandans were arbitrarily served the “pigeon hole” constitution, there was a state of emergency in Buganda and the first post-independence stream of refugees went to exile.
When Amin overthrew Obote in 1971, he was a liberator to some people but a villain to others, there was singing and dancing for some (“let those Acholis and Langis also suffer” they sung) while it was wails and tears for others…. and the second set of refugees left Uganda for exile! After a short honeymoon, he had become an ogre for most, except a clique that served him…. and when he was overthrown, some sang and danced (“Those Anyanyas must go…”, they sung), and a third lot of refugees left Uganda mainly for Congo and Sudan.
On assuming power, Prof Lule immediately went for consolidating his own authority by ignoring the Moshi agreed method of selecting Cabinet, which required the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) top governing organ, the National Consultative Council (NCC) to endorse the president’s appointees. Lule evoked Obote’s pigeon hole (1967) constitution which vested all authority of the state of Uganda in the president. Lule was hero to some and a villain to the others ..blah, blah, blah, Binaisa’s “the Chair is sweet” and Paulo Muwanga’s “ensi egula mirambo” (a country is built by dead bodies) will never be forgotten, then enter Museveni in 1986, a liberator to some, a villain to others, the rest is history.
Do you notice the pattern, that in 49 years Uganda has had eight Heads of State, all of who come as heros to some and villains to others, but all leave forcefully in shame? Is it not likely that even after M7, unless something different happens, we shall just have another change of guards?
49 years down the road, eight heads of state, nine regimes, two liberation wars, two military coups, two referanda, five elections, billions of donor dollars and increduble endowment of resources later, uganda remains a troubled country and you think that just another regime change will make any difference? In UFA, we believe that the problem of Uganda is more complex than a mere sitting president and the solution more sophisticated than a mere regime change, that is why we, in UFA are examining the system of governance instead of just the president, the 9th time.
The story of Uganda began in 1874, when the British came to the region that came to be known as Uganda. The British foreign policy then was to expand the empire – go out, conquer, colonize, exploit…. and when they conquered the communities that came to make Uganda, they disempowered their traditional leaders and established a highly centralized adminstrative system through which they would exploit the colony. The system was necessarily undemocratic, dictatorial and exploitatve –
deliberately designed to govern and exploit a colony. This is the system we fought when we fought for independence, but unfortunately have never dismantled since we attained independence. All we did at independence was to substitute a black man for a white man, but the administrative system remained intact – the system that had been deliberately designed to govern a colony and serve colonial interests! That system concentrated power at the center, allowed the Governor to be the alpha and omega in the colony, laid down the law arbitrarily, ruthlessly quashed discontent… and eventually manipulated the electoral process so that the Anglican UPC / KY alliance won the 1962 elections because the Britsh would never leave the colony in catholic hands. Manipulation of the electoral process started with the British colonialists, and each successive president just carried along in a system that was designed before their time, for exploitative interests – is it surprising that the system is still exploitative no matter who occupies State House?
This situation was not unique to Uganda but was the same in all former british colonies, including the USA, Canada, Australia, India, S. Africa, Nigeria, Hong Kong etc – all formerly governed under the centralized unitary system, which they dismantled on realizing that it was not suitable for an independent state that aspired for equitable governance in a diverse environment. After bitter conflict and civil wars, just like in Uganda, each of these former British colonies designed its own, customized system which happens to be a customized brand of federalism. Kenya was the latest of these, when last year, in June of 2010, they held a referendum and unanimously voted to change their political system to majimboism, the Swahili synonym for power devolution, or the Kenyan brand of federalism.
Incidentally, even Britain, the chief architect and beneficiary of the centralized unitary system, after the collapse of the British empire and faced with the Northern Ireland insurgency, changed their own political system, devolving a lot of power to Northern Ireland and Scotland and if you want to know how customized peace deals can be, read the Northern Ireland Peace Accord – am sure that could never happen in Uganda, but the British had a serious British problem which needed a practical British solution – as did the USA when they were faced with a civil war and serious problem which threatened the cohesion of USA as asingle unit, they designed a practical solution for USA, hence federalism for the USA.
Uganda has unique Uganda problems arising out of Ugandas unique histrory. Those problems will not be solved by a prescription from Libya, Sudan or Kenya, but rather by Ugandans first “ceasing fire” and sitting together to find a Ugandan solution to the Ugandan problem, and bickering is not a solution!
That’s why UFA is not fighting auxilliary wars, blame apportioning and promoting the hate campaign. We are discussing the bigger question – why is it always that the head of state in Uganda seems to be the problem who must be forcefully evicted from State House? Why is it that all former heads of state have come as fiery revolutionaries but leave as shameful despots? Surely is the problem of Uganda not more complex than a mere head of state, who, incidentally comes as a liberator but always ended up as a tormentor?
Someone asked why Beti Kamya is not on the streets with W2W, condemning M7 and generally being seen as one of the crowd (presumably meaning that am an NRM sympathiser) but I don’t have to just join the crowd to prove any point or to be seen as “one of us”, I will join any crowd which will be fighting or demonstrating for a change of system, but one fighting for a mere change of regime, in my opinion, is just fighting for a change of guards. Mind you, I was at the forefront of demos in
in Reform Agenda and FDC when Dr Besigye was in exile, and, indeed, led the biggest of all, when Dr Besigye was arrested.
For that matter, UFA has formally declared that we shall evoke Article 74 of the constitution of Uganda to cause a referendum come 2015 for the purpose of changing Ugandas political system to federalism, a system we believe is the most equitable governance system for Uganda. Federalism is the key that will give back to the people of Uganda their power that was taken from them by the colonialist about 130 years ago, Mzungu left it in State House, it has never been returned to the owners, but rather, the power is inherited, intact, by any incoming head of state, whether he has come by the ballot or bullet, and when they invariably leave by the bullet, they have all left that power intact, in state house.
Our view is that once we generate concensus on the principal of power devolution through the referendum, a “Federal Commission” for lack of a better description, will be established, consisting of all interest group – experts, academicians, economists, historians, geologists, finacial experts, political parties, culturalists, etc to design a
system for Uganda, by Ugandans, in Uganda, in contrast to the unitary system which was designed in London, by the British for a colony Uganda. The Commission will need to go back to the drawing board and agree on a common assessment of Uganda’s problem. This is an exercise that will take not less than five years, it is not proposed for political expediency but for posterity.
Incidentally, we happen to think that things like electoral malpractices, human rights abuse, corruption, etc are more of CONSEQUENCIES rather than the causes of the problem, the problem being bad leadership, the genesis being a flawed political system.
Fellow Countrymen / women, I beseech you to rise above petty differences and galvanize our strengths to finding the real enemy of Uganda – the inappropriate system of governance.
I apologize for writing so much but I wanted to makle UFA’s position clear – God Bless you all, and Bless our country Uganda
Beti Olive Kamya
Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA)