Uganda: To Determine Our Future We Must Embrace Our Past

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Museveni -- lying about "fundamental change" with a bible in his hand 28 years ago

[Post-Museveni Uganda]

Part One of Essay Looking Beyond Museveni Era

Boutros Boutros-Ghali former United Nations Secretary General once wrote “Without knowledge of history and of one’s own past it is impossible to conceive the path to the future”.

Without understanding Uganda's  history which is complicated, it will be difficult to conceive a smooth and sustainable common path to the future.

Pre-colonial history was marked by wars of territorial expansion, slave trade and plunder to accumulate wealth. Colonial period was characterized by religious conflicts, annexation of territory, economic exploitation --growth poles versus labor reserves--  indirect rule where chiefs, their families, relatives and friends benefited at the expense of others, and so forth.

Uganda attained independence in difficult circumstances. The Democratic Party (DP) was cheated. Uganda People's Congress (UPC) and Kabaka Yekka (KY), or "King Only" entered into a fragile UPC/YK marriage of convenience.

Our leaders could not agree on the head of state so we ended up with the Queen as head of state represented by a Governor-General. They could not agree on the name of the new country so they settled for “Sovereign State of Uganda”.  The leaders could not resolve the “Lost Counties” territorial dispute issue between Buganda and Bunyoro that became so divisive and led to the 1966 Mengo war and the Republican Constitution of 1967 that has pitted Buganda against Obote and UPC since then.

The problems got worse and we ended up with the externally-assisted Idi Amin coup of 1971. Military rule turned out worse than Obote's first regime (Obote I) and Uganda was invaded by Tanzania in 1979 following Amin's annexation of Tanzanian territory. This ended up with Yusuf Lule who was imposed on Uganda; then Godfrey Binaisa who landed at state house. Binaisa had been refused entry at the Moshi conference 68 days earlier when the transitional leadership was composed; now he was president.

Then there followed total anarchy that opened the way for Obote to return because there was a political vacuum. Some Ugandans vowed to oust him and entered into a marriage of convenience that was bound to rupture. The alliance ended even before Kampala fell to the guerrillas in 1986 when Yoweri Museveni refused elections to replace Lule who had passed on a year before the capital fell.

Museveni became president by default. Baganda were thus cheated because a Muganda, be it Protestant, Catholic or Muslim was expected to replace Obote. Museveni like Amin had external assistance as well as mercenaries.  

This time around we should not make another mistake of just joining with any group for the sake of overthrowing Museveni and then plunging the country into anarchy again.

We need to form an all inclusive transitional government but led by people with impeccable character. Those with suspected dirty hands from any group be it Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), UPC, DP or any other party or organization should not be permitted to join the transitional government.

We must vet every aspiring leader who is to be part of the transitional government. We therefore call on Ugandans to come forward with information about those positioning themselves to form the next government.

The government must be led by a presidential team with each of the four regions represented to prevent one person from becoming president and then refusing to leave office.

The security forces must be led by Joint Chiefs of Staff, not by one person, representing the four regions.

The public service commission must be led by a team representing the four regions to stamp out sectarianism.

The transitional government must have a clear mandate and duration. It should last up to three years.

It should conduct a comprehensive population census to determine who we are and how many we are so that no more ghosts are voting.

It should convene a national convention so Ugandans debate and decide how they want to be governed.

It should then conduct free and fair multiparty elections and form parliament and cabinet on the basis of proportional representation. That way the winner-take-all mindset is eliminated and none is excluded from the political, economic and social processes.

Parliament should then become a constitutional assembly and draw up a new constitution.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be established of independent Ugandan and foreign experts to investigate violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms since independence so that such practices are not repeated.

Those who participate in the transitional government should not participate in the next elections because they will have the advantage of incumbency.

These are concrete proposals. Let us discuss them, adjust them or provide alternative. We can’t debate forever. Time has come to act.

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