Uganda: MANIFESTO OF THE FREEDOM AND UNITY FRONT

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At the launch: Gen. Sejusa, Prof. Amii Omara Otunnu, FUF’s Chairman, and Oxford don Prof. Kaveh Mousavi. Photo: Henry Gombya

[Op-Ed]

On December 14, 2013 the Freedom And Unity Front launched its manifesto before a group of invited Ugandans at The London School of Economics. Over the next four days The Black Star News will publish the entire document, in four-part series, beginning with the below:

Part One

MANIFESTO OF THE FREEDOM AND UNITY FRONT

PREAMBLE

The major problems that have bedevilled Uganda and retarded the process of growth in all spheres of national socio-political and economic endeavours are essentially moral and political. The stark nature of the problems has been brought to the fore by the actions of the current regime over the decades.

The manifestations of the outstanding problems can be seen in President Yoweri Museveni’s encouragement of massive corruption, ordering the assassination and torture of his political opponents, muzzling the press, perpetrating military adventures into neighbouring countries and within Uganda itself. These have been compounded by the regime allowing public services to deteriorate to such an extent that they are the worst inthe region, giving rise to myriad health crises, including, most recently, outbreaks of famine for the first time in living memory.

If we are to confront what is at the core of the problems, we need to tackle not only the failures of the current regime, but also of its standards of what has been retailed as success.

The challenge then is to fashion a new socio-political system based on the principles of equality of treatment, social justice, unity of the country, economic empowerment, political emancipation, and inclusiveness. To fulfil this task, we must appeal not simply to the conscience and reason of all Ugandans of good will, but also to the greater spirit of national renewal in all areas of national life.

In October 2013, a group of Ugandans with diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds, working within and outside the country, came together to share concerns about the erosion of basic freedoms, the fragmentation of the country, the misuse of the military and security services and the epidemic of corruption in all spheres of national life. We resolved to form an ecumenical organisation, the Freedom and Unity Front (FUF). This is our Manifesto.

A principal mission of FUF is to reawaken and inspire the people of Uganda to emancipate themselves from the abuse of power, corruption and poverty that President Museveni’s regime has used to exploit and shackle them in fear. The overarching long-term objective of FUF is to build institutions and systems that are sufficiently strong and self-sustaining, and that would ensure accountability.

In the tasks ahead, the FUF leadership pledges to work in solidarity with all Ugandans of good will to facilitate the total emancipation of our people that will be supportive of, and conducive to, the values of national unity, rule of law, social justice, political freedom, economic empowerment and human dignity. It will work relentlessly to transform the organs of the current dictatorship that have been designed for the control and repression ofpeople into strong institutions that facilitate empowerment and self-realisation. In the arduous struggle for liberation, the leadership of FUF will draw on, and be fortified by, the African communitarian ethics of Ubuntu, the ethical values of various traditions of the world and the memory of all those gallant compatriots who have died in the service of the country, whether they were politicians and activists fighting to defend the Constitution or peasants fleeing for their lives in the villages of Luweero, Gulu, Soroti or Kabale.

The leadership of FUF is conscious that after the dictatorship of President Museveni is removed, the legacies of deep divisions and antipathies and corruption will require individual and collective commitment to transcend narrow self-interests for the common and greater good of the country and Africa. To confront the pernicious legacies, as an African country and people, the leadership of FUF is committed to mobilise and harness, first, African resources that are informed by the values of truth telling and discovery, reconciliation and forgiveness, peace and justice. And second, but equally critical in an increasingly interdependent world, and on the basis of reciprocal respect, solidarity and shared values on the rule of law, human rights, equitable justice, peace and human security, the leadership of FUF will partner with all people of good will to ensure that the institutions that safeguard the rights of people are in place. In particular, FUF will ensure that independent and impartial institutions of the rule of law, and of peace building and conflict resolution, which it considers to be a necessary condition for the process of national healing and stability, as well as for the enhancement of the dignity and worth of people, are established and maintained.

We carry in our minds and hearts the power to influence our destiny. The time is here for the people of Uganda to rise up in unity and break free like a tidal wave to sweep aside the corrupt dictatorship that has shackled them in fear and poverty.

MARCH OF HISTORY

Uganda, a country richly endowed with abundant natural resources, has been described as the pearl of Africa. In the past four decades, this pearl of Africa has been more than tarnished; it has been ravaged by a multitude of crises. Some of the crises can be attributed to the uneven development and deliberate disintegration of social and political systems during colonial rule, which over time became structural imbalances in a neo-colonial state.

To a considerable extent, however, most of the glaring problems have been generated by unethical and personalised ruler-ship (not leadership in the proper sense) and by poor governance, which have in turn bred a perverse and pernicious value system. As such, there are three fundamental issues in Uganda that deserve critical attention and must be tackled if the country is to be emancipated and redeemed.

The first is political: it is about unbalanced and unhealthy power relations between agents of government and the great majority of citizens. The second issue, which has bearing on the first, is structural in nature. This came about as a result of colonial policies that sought to divide and rule the people, in order to exploit, emasculate and oppress them. In the post-colonial period, the inherited imbalances engendered structural bottlenecks in the neo-colonial state, which have in turn made it difficult to function properly.

Thus far, it has handicapped attempts to devise durable mechanisms to check the power of leaders and hold them accountable. The third fundamental issue is about values; more specifically, it is about the lack of political morality in governance.

When political processes in the country are viewed from the perspective of today, without balanced historical knowledge, it would seem that crises have been a permanent feature of Uganda. Yet the plain historical fact is that the crises that have plagued the country and caused so much human suffering cannot be considered either inevitable or preordained. Rather, the crises have been compounded, if not brought about, mostly by people who have wielded public governmental power without accountability.

In the contemporary history of the country, there was a period between independence in 1962 and the Crisis in 1966, when effective institutional checks and balances on power fostered conditions for robust and unfettered application of rule of law by independent and neutral judiciary, which in turn nurtured social peace and coexistence, and competitive multi-party democracy. During this period, people enjoyed relative freedoms and the country recorded impressive economic growth, which was evidenced by the fact that incomes grew faster during the era than they had in the previous half-century. This era of political and social flowering, during which peace, prosperity, scholarship and the arts flourished, might be regarded as a golden period in the country’s history. Certainly, this was a period not only of buoyant hope and great expectations, but also of manifold achievements. It is a period that might serve as a model for the renewal of the country, not withstanding some of its other limitations.

To refer to the period between 1962 and 1966 as more or less a golden era is not to ignore the historical distortions inherent in the country at the time of independence, as exemplified by the adhoc nature of the distribution of power between the centre and regions and inadequate leadership.

These left many issues unresolved and were to lead to a number of frictions in the country. On balance, the post-independence period has been an era of no effective institutional checks and balances on power. As a result, the country has continuously experienced a multitude of crises, which have desecrated institutions, with devastating impact on the lives of the great majority of people.

Since 1986, one political organization, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), under military strong man Museveni, has ruled the country without interruption. When the NRM first assumed power, the promises made by its leadership for a fundamental change in the country excited the population. In a speech he gave on assuming power, President Museveni raised the hopes of people for depersonalisation of power when he said, “The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power.”

He promised Ugandans a new constitution that would restructure the neo colonial state and remedy the inherited colonial imbalances and also empower the people and limit the powers and the time a president can serve.

However, within the past two decades, President Museveni has not only reneged on the promise and destroyed virtually all independent institutions that should safeguard fundamental freedoms and rights of Ugandans, but has also established a dictatorship with heavy concentration of powers in his own hands. To compound the multitude of crises in Uganda, he has now embarked upon a political scheme to create a family dynasty.

 

The above is first of a four-part series. Readers can send their reactions or comments on the FUF's manifesto to milton@blackstarnews.com to be considered for publication or post them directly to the website.

 

 

 

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