Uganda: For Salvation, Country Needs A National Unity Conference

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Mugabe Robert

[Commentary]

In order to encourage a national debate on Uganda's problems and to explore solutions The Black Star News invites nationals to submit essays of reasonable length addressing the topic " Where Uganda is Today And The Changes We Need."

Once again, Uganda is in a transition conundrum with little hope for peaceful transfer of power from the current regime to a democratically elected regime by the people of Uganda.

For serious politicians or pundits, the writing is on the wall, Uganda is slowly slipping back to political instability occasioned by mainly two extreme political interests, one fighting for regime change at all costs and the other, fighting to retain power at all costs. In both cases unfortunately, the interests and aspirations of the people of Uganda are relegated far away and only feature when it helps to serve or advance the parochial and selfish political ends of the political group in question. Certainly, regime change per se does not necessarily translate to political change and or transformation of a people or country.

Evidently, those fighting for regime change have tried to achieve it through a number of ways; elections, courts of law and lately, mass action. All these however, have not yielded fruits. On the other hand, those fighting to maintain the status quo have used the State and its coercive instruments to brutalize those who oppose the regime’s continued stay in power. The Walk 2 Work demonstrations and government’s response speaks to this fact.

Consequently, the people of Uganda have been polarized into two adversarial political camps. Radio, TV and newspaper commentaries about Walk 2 Work demonstrations bear testament to these fissures. Certainly, the demonstrations have disrupted peace and business, and caused anger, mayhem and death. Government is to blame, but the organizers of the demonstrations too, must be blamed for these unfortunate incidents. Obviously, the cumulative anger and violent radicalism from those for and against the regime has culminated to a volatile political environment that presents a potentially calamitous scenario for our Country.

It is therefore of paramount importance that the people of Uganda commence a new conversation about the future of this Country. Regime change or regime retention will not deliver the political change (not mere regime change) that this Country needs, neither will street demonstrations, nor shambolic elections, court verdicts or political party alliances. In fact, the extreme anger, pain and frustration on the side of those who want regime change and the use of violence, fear and resentment of change by those who are in power, is a political powder keg that cannot be managed merely by the winner-takes-all psyche that our electoral system is, should there arise a Syria, Egypt or even Kenya-like situation.

In other words, the question of political transition is bigger than an election, a political party or a mere change of regime. It is about genuine reconciliation and forgiveness, it is about changing the political culture, it is about restoring the hopes and aspirations of the people of Uganda, it is about the dignity of Ugandans, it is certainly about the welfare of Ugandans and indeed, the destiny of our Country.

The people of Uganda must thus come together urgently and converse about the future of this Country in order to avert the looming calamity that the prevailing political situation presents – kleptomania, massive poverty, sectarianism, poor health and education services, lame-duck institutions including parliament, obese public administration costs, fused state organs, weak political parties, partisan electoral body, etc, etc. It goes without saying that these ills in our governance are a recipe for political disaster. 

Incidentally, over the years, it has been very difficult for opposition political parties to impact the governance and democratization processes of this Country, let alone avert the governance ills that have characterized the NRM regime. In fact, one could easily misconstrue the continued participation of the opposition political parties in the NRM political processes as a collusion to deny the people of Uganda the efficacy of good governance and democracy. Take Parliament for instance. One wonders why opposition MPs would be comfortable with salary increment in a country that is choking with the cost of public administration.

One wonders too, why opposition MPs continue to legitimize decisions of a parliament that uses numerical superiority of ruling party members, rather than logic, to transact business as was in the case of Celina Nebanda, Aronda Nyakairima, the draconian and repressive Public Order Management Bill POMB) legislation, and so forth.

In the case of Celina Nebanda, the late Member of Parliament who was critical of corruption by government officials, the ruling party NRM's lawmakers used their numerical superiority to block a meaningful investigation of her mysterious death. In the case of Aronda Nyakairima, a general of the army was approved as minister of Internal Affairs, which is unconstitutional.

Why legitimize a lame-duck parliament? Certainly one wonders why the opposition continuously participates in elections organized by a partisan EC. The question therefore is, are opposition MPs, unlike many of their NRM counterparts, ever concerned about the wellbeing of those they purport to lead?

The presence of opposition MPs in Parliament has served majorly three reasons in my view. Foremost is self aggrandizement, second, is legitimization of the regime and third is putting stuff on record. There is certainly very little to show for the presence of opposition MPs’ in Parliament.

Ugandan leaders therefore need to reflect more deeply about the future of this Country. There is need to start anew and make reforms that will make a new and firmer foundation for peace, unity, democracy and prosperity. To achieve this, we need to congregate ourselves into a Unity Conference that will chart the way forward for Uganda and undertake serious reforms before the 2016 General Elections. Areas that need reforms, include, but are not limited to; electoral laws, political systems, presidential powers, party funding, special interest representation, impartiality of the speaker of parliament, appointment of MPs to be ministers, size of parliament and cabinet, etc.

We cannot make these reforms by demonstrating, making alliances to defeat the regime or, fighting to maintain the status quo, neither can we make these reforms by participating in sham elections. These are serious reforms that call for the people of Uganda to come together on a round table to collectively forge a new future for Uganda.

I therefore opine that, Ugandans must come together in a Unity Conference (UC) irrespective of their shade of political opinion, religious belief and tribal or ethnic grouping and honestly discuss a new future for the Country.  A future that will renew our hope in the Country, a future that will restore our Ugandaness and promote love and respect for all citizens, a future that renews trust in our leaders, and a future that will engender genuine unity, reconciliation and forgiveness for our Country.

If we are compassionate, humane and patriotic politicians committed to the actualization of the message enshrined in our National Anthem and we believe in the tenets of democracy and good governance, respect the Constitution and other governance instruments, believe in entrenching institutional rule other than personal rule and believe in transforming our Country and the lives of fellow Countrymen, we must then rise to the occasion, subjugate our pride, ego and parochial partisan interests to the common good of all, momentarily shelve anything to do with elections or demonstrations and embark on organizing a Unity Conference that will craft a new future for the Country and ensure that there is a smooth and peaceful transition that will give birth to a new nation.

This I believe, is the only way of salvaging Uganda from sinking deeper into the abyss of poverty, misery, kleptomania, disunity, underdevelopment and political instability.

 

Mugabe Robert (mugsrob@gmail.com)Research and Doc. Dept, People's Progressive Party (PPP) Secretariat, Kampala

 

Feel free to submit to milton@blackstarnews.com your own commentary, accompanied with a high resolution headshot photo, if you're interested in contributing to this debate.

 

 

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