Reconciliation, Not Revenge, Will Heal Uganda
What we need to do immediately is the following: to unite all patriotic, democracy-seeking Ugandans. It doesnâ€™t matter what their political party, it doesnâ€™t matter what their views, it doesnâ€™t matter what their ethnicity, all patriotic, democracy-seeking Ugandans.
Otunnu U.S. Address to Ugandans from the Greater Los Angeles Area
[Mission Hills, CA , July 17, 2010 |Unofficial Transcript of Live Address]
I am delighted to be with you this afternoon. I know that of the various Ugandan communities worldwide, there are very few places where there is a more important concentration of Ugandans, as in California, and particularly in the Los Angeles area, so I am very happy to be in your midst this afternoon, and I appreciate enormously your interest, and engagement with the home country.
It’s a two-way process, and I encourage you to get even more engaged.
Thank you very much Mr. Abdul Kiggundu, for organizing this, for welcoming me so warmly and introducing me so very generously. I will make sure by the way -- I hope somebody is recording this -- so that I’ll at least play that to my mother. [Audience laughter].
She may finally be impressed by her son. But thank you very much for your very generous introduction.
And I want to thank also Mr. Siraj Mugambe, who is representing the Uganda Community in California, and my very good friend, Captain Frank Musisi, who over the years has provided such steady leadership for Ugandans in North America and is now doing so in Uganda as well. I am very happy to see him here and very grateful for the leadership he has provided.
I’m very happy to see Mr. Richard Abuka. I went to school in fact with his younger brother; we attended high school together, and other members of the family, that I have known over the years.
Lucy Larom, thank you so much for everything you’ve been doing for those in great distress, for those who have been brutalized and dispossessed in Uganda. Your campaign has been very important and much, much appreciated.
Thank you to all of you, thank you to everybody for being here, ladies and gentlemen, thank you particularly for mzee and mama, for taking the trouble to be here this afternoon. Thank you very, very much, thank you everybody.
Now, I will make my remarks somewhat schematic. I want to share with you my observations, my commentary, about where our country is today, and give you a glimpse of my ideas about where to take the country. And then, a brief exchange of views about your particular role.
Let me say first of all to you that returning to my land of birth after a quarter century in which I was not allowed to set foot in Uganda, was a huge shock to me. I was delighted, I was joyful to link up with my friends, my schoolmates, my teachers, those who were with me at Makerere. I was very happy to see my relatives, but as I moved around the country, meeting various communities, and seeing the conditions of our people, it broke my heart. What I’d discovered in the country, what had happened in the country, in the course of 25 years.
Uganda on the Verge of Collapse
You should be in no doubt whatsoever that Uganda is a country facing an existential moment, an existential crisis. It is a country in a grave state of national crisis. I almost hesitate. I am about to say a country on the verge of collapse. There should be no doubt in your mind.
When you arrive in Kampala, Kampala is glittering, and especially the hills surrounding Kampala. You know the huge mansions, which populate the hills surrounding Kampala. There are signs of incredible prosperity, great fortunes and real good living in Kampala. And then when you leave, a few miles outside Kampala you discover a completely different universe that is disconnected with the suburbs of Kampala city, and I want to speak a little bit about what that disconnected
universe is really about.
I say Uganda is a country on the verge of national collapse, because of the unbelievable corruption, and I’m talking about corruption, which is orchestrated from on high, from State House all the way down. Corruption wanders the globe, but I have to tell you, it comes and sleeps in Uganda, in Museveni’s court.
The issue of the provision of social services -- this is the most basic of functions of any state in the world. Others may be debateable, but any state in the world justifies its existence by being able to collect taxes, and the compact, the agreement with the citizen is that in return, they deliver certain services to a citizen.
In the context of Uganda what would this mean? It would mean quality education spread across the land. It would mean reasonably accessible medical services, spread across the land. It would mean that you can access most part of Uganda on roads that will not literally break your back.
It means, those who are the backbone of the Ugandan economy, two categories of people: one are the local small farmers. That government would make it its business to support, incentivize and give a break to those farmers. In this country in fact, there is huge subvention for farmers, as you know. At the very least the government would support the small farmers, and we used to have this in the cooperative network.
And the small-time business people -- you know the women that you run into when you take the flight into Uganda and out of Entebbe? I don’t know how many of you have walked around those planes and spoken to the women who are in those seats.
Most of them are small-time business people; they are what this country calls entrepreneurs. These are housewives who with their bootstraps have started some small business and they are traveling to Dubai, they are traveling to China, they are scaling the globe to bring little things back. These are entrepreneurs -- they are taking risks.
So the small-business people, the small farmers, that is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, and the government should have policies, economic policies, tax policies that support that.
And then you have a situation where in terms of sheer repression -- again, I didn’t realize this. I knew there was great repression in the country, but until I began moving from Kampala to Masaka, to Mbarara, to Kitgum, to Lira, then I began to realize to what extent Uganda today has become a police state par excellence.
And again, in Kampala we know about repression. We know about the arbitrary arrests, and we know about the safe houses, but they don’t begin to tell you the magnitude of the police state which has been established around the country.
Not just through the LC (Local Councilor) system -- which, by the way, is a method of control. L-5, L-4, L3, all the way down. You don’t just have administrators. As you know now, corresponding to those units of administration, are security units and apparatus, complete with intelligence services, going down to the village.
But what happens in the countryside, people tell you: here we are completely at the mercy of the authorities and NRM (National
Resistance Movement) functionaries. They can dismiss us from our job.
They can kick open our door at night, they can take and detain us, they can shut down our business if we are accused of fraternizing with the opposition; they can do anything. Intimidate, brutalize, victimize; we have no recourse, we have nobody to turn to, and if we raise our voice, we receive more victimization.
That is what is happening across the land in the countryside. They feel a sense of complete helplessness and are completely at the mercy and control of petty local functionaries and NRM officials.
Dying Institutions Under NRM
Then, our country today is an institution-less state. All the institutions that you knew about, practically all of them -- Uganda
used to have a wealth, a network of institutions. Development, economic development institutions: Coffee Marketing Board, UDC, Uganda Commercial Bank, a whole network of those institutions supposed to stimulate and support development activities.
And then, governance institutions; to give an example, the Criminal Investigative Division (CID), this was the pride of the whole of East Africa. Mr. Hassa, who was then the director of CID, there was barely any crime that Mr. Hassa could not crack, and the business of CID was to crack crimes and to investigate and apprehend criminals.
When you look at an institution like Mulago, in the area of health, people could travel from all over East Africa to come to Mulago. Today, Mulago is a sad, tragic, pitiful shadow of what it used to be. Today the CID does one job. The job of the CID is to take directives from Museveni to harass the opposition, to follow the opposition, and to try to get trumped up charges against the opposition; not cracking criminal activities.
We have an institution-less state. A state with no procedures. A state in which somebody can call up the Central Bank and say “ tomorrow we are going to ‘x’ place, we need so much in US dollars,” and it will be delivered. No papers signed, no procedures followed; that is the way the country is being run today.
We have one institution left standing, in the midst of all this ruin. The rest are gutted, or they have collapsed. In the midst of this ruin, one institution remains standing. Bloated, exaggerated, omnipresent, omni-powerful -- it is the presidency – that is the only institution that is standing.
So whether you are talking about promoting or dismissing a police officer, I think it was in Natete, the President goes and says, “I strip you of your rank, because I heard that something happened here.” No business of the President!
The land in Shimoni College, it is the president who takes or gives it. It is somebody who should be given a tax break; completely arbitrary, so and so, investor Mr. ‘X’ we will not tax anything he brings into the country.
Scholarships, you’ve now heard of something called State House scholarships. Isn’t that an oxymoron, as they say in this country? What is the connection between State House and the award of scholarships? Scholarships are from the Ministry of Education. And at the Ministry of Education is supposed to be a commission, a regular commission of experts who receive applications, vet the applications and they award scholarships.
What business has anybody got to do awarding scholarships at the kitchen table in State House, in a manner which nobody understands? No criteria, you simply see them popping up and they are being given scholarships.
And that then comes to the issue of not just the cronyism -- it is a combination of cronyism and nepotism in a manner in which we’ve never seen in Uganda. Forget about equitable opportunities, forget about expertise, forget about saying I’ve got this qualification and this experience, I sent in my application.
Everybody knows most appointments, most promotions are done on the basis of cronyism, and the most unbelievable level of nepotism. This is the country that we are talking about.
Entrenched Ethnic Divisions
And to add to that, I’ve never seen in our country a situation in which, how should I call it? In which, the level of where does so and so come from, what last name does he bear? Does it begin with an ‘m’ or does it begin with an ‘o’? Does it begin with a ‘zed’ or, does it begin with I don’t know what other common names begin with in Uganda.
The way in which this regime has deliberately made it a policy to fragment the country, to set people against each other as a way of divide and rule; as a way of gaining and retaining power.
So today, by and large, I don’t know here in the Diaspora, but by and large, in Uganda, somebody meets you and the first thing in their mind is likely to be, “Where does he come from?” “What language does he speak?” “What does his first or last name begin with?” then other things follow. I don’t recall any other time in the history of Uganda when we had this.
You know, when I was at Makerere, I don’t recall an Acholi, ethnically I’m an Acholi. I don’t recall something called the Acholi Student Union at Makerere. I knew the (Student) Guild, and I knew NUSU and then various professional groups. But the other day, somebody calls me up from Kyambogo to invite me to come and speak at the annual meeting of the Lango Student Association in Kyambogo. The same thing exists at Makerere, and another day, something even more interesting happened. I
saw in the newspaper a photograph of a function, who were the people holding the function? The Acholi Medical Student Association at Mulago.
Now, it gives you an idea the level of fragmentation in the country; to what extent the people have retreated if you like, to their
primordial wounds, and the way they see themselves.
Lack of Solidarity
So, that is the country that we have, and I’ll say finally, that there is alongside with this, a palpable lack of solidarity within our
society. The sense of “it’s me, it’s my family, it’s my job, it’s my house.” But the sense of common belonging, the sense of helping out each other has been greatly weakened, I have to tell you.
It is a very, a highly atomized society, which is partly why it has been very difficult to organize political activities in Uganda,
because people tend to look at themselves very much in isolation and what they can do to benefit personally, benefit their family, but not what can be done to benefit the community, to organize as a community.
So this is partly what I mean by a country in grave crisis, a country on the verge of collapse, a country which is a shadow of what it used to be.
Now in the light of this, what is my idea of Uganda? What is my vision of Uganda? Where would I want to take Uganda? Where do I want us to take the country? I’ll give you this in segments. The first segment is, what is it that we need to do immediately?
Creating Unity and Democratic Space
What we need to do immediately is the following: to unite all patriotic, democracy-seeking Ugandans. It doesn’t matter what their political party, it doesn’t matter what their views, it doesn’t matter what their ethnicity, all patriotic, democracy-seeking Ugandans.
And this, by the way, includes Ugandans who are within the NRM. Because there are patriotic Ugandans in the NRM, there are democracy- seeking Ugandans within the NRM. For various reasons, they have taken refuge in NRM; for various reasons they may stay there for the time being, but they exist.
So we need to assemble, we need to bring together all these Ugandans, united over the issue of what? Over three issues. United over the issue of effecting democratic change in the country. Regime change, but more than that, democratic change.
Secondly, with the change that I’m talking about, creating a genuine democratic space in Uganda. A space within the various ideas can compete, within which the various political formations, whether it is DP, UPC, it’s FDC, can compete, but they are competing in a democratic space, a genuine multi-party democratic space.
And thirdly, in the light of what I said earlier, the incredible, grave existential malaise that I described schematically earlier;
creating the opportunity to begin a serious, fundamental transformation of our society. So it’s what we need to do immediately.
And it is in that context that by the way, that I have been, even before I became a political leader, even before I jumped into the
political fray. Even before I became leader of UPC, I had already been pushing for what I call the democracy-seeking parties to come together. I pushed for this in 2006, when I was not personally involved. I wrote to all the leaders of the parties, asking them to come together.
The reasons for pushing for the parties to come together, are exactly what I have given you now, so that we can effect change, much-needed, create genuine democratic space, and begin a process of fundamental transformation of our society.
Reweaving the Fabric of National Unity
Now, the second thing I want to say. What do we transform our -- you know what we are transforming our society from -- I described that to you. What do we want to transform it into? Where is this journey going? What is the hill we want to capture? What is the hill we want to reach? We know the valley where we are now, but what is the hill where we want to go?
The following things are very important to me: we have to reweave; we have to restitch the fabric of national unity. We are either Ugandans who belong together, or we are not Ugandans. It can’t be halfway. No country can move forward if there is simply a boundary that has put the people together. So we need to rebuild a sense of national cohesion, a sense of common belonging.
We are a very diverse country in every way. It is a wonderful thing that we are so diverse. Being diverse, celebrating our diversity, does not in any way contradict a sense of common belonging as a country. You are living here in the US, this is one of the most diverse countries in the whole world.
Most people in the US have at the very least, double identity; Jewish-American, Polish-American, Irish-American. And they are very, very proud to be Irish. At the same time, you touch their American-ness, and you are in trouble. They are equally proud to be an American.
They see no contradiction. They are very proud to do their non- national day celebrations. Some of them, they do more here than in the land from which their parents came.
In India, which is the largest democracy in the whole world, multiple identities is the norm. We are very familiar with the Gujarati
community, because they are big traders; they are very big in Uganda. And Gujaratis are very, very proud of the culture, civilization, language and religion that belongs to them as a community. At the same time, they are very patriotic Indians.
So there is no contradiction in this. I want to see a Uganda in which a Muganda can be a fiercely patriotic Mugandan. Can be very proud to be a Mugandan, can be very proud to be Musajawa Kabaka [Audience applause].
Very, very, proud of that, and at the same time, be a very patriotic Ugandan, without feeling uneasy within his or her skin.
Without feeling that somehow, there is something awkward about this, that there is a contradiction in this, because there isn’t.
There is much to be very proud of in the culture, history and civilization of Buganda, and one should celebrate that. So we must
rise to a new terrain, in terms of our identity, in terms of the sense of our country, and the communities from which we hail.
Secondly, it is very important to me, it makes me very, very sad that the ordinary Ugandans now have been left on their own. They have been completely abandoned by the state. I want to see a Uganda in which the well-being, the development, the health, the education, the economic upliftment of ordinary Ugandans, ordinary families, become front and center of the concern of the state; of the program of the state, the planning, the investment, the expenditure of the state.
Specifically what do I mean? We want to have, I want to see, quality education provided to every child in Uganda regardless of where they come from. I want to see again that a child born in Mucwini, which you cannot find on anybody’s map. Even if you get magnifying glasses, you won’t find a place called Mucwini.
That a child born in that place, in the middle of nowhere, where there was only what, I think it was only primary one, in my days to primary four, that was the highest level you could go in Mucwini, thereafter you had to go to the nearest town. But that, that child will receive quality education in that village.
A thatched roof, mud hut, but good teachers who can give that child a quality foundation. And from that foundation the next level that child can go to Gulu High School, can go to Budo, can go to Makerere, can go to Oxford, can go to Harvard, can go to United Nations. Why not? There is no earthly reason why any child in Uganda should not be given that opportunity.
[Audience applause.] No earthly reason.
And in a similar way, if we are now in a situation where women in labor have to bring gloves, have to bring water, are to survive the most humiliating situation when they go to a hospital for labor. In the midst of all the pain of labor, they have to be worrying about all these things.
And I went from one place in Uganda to another, what we used to call hospitals, they are still there. The outer structure is still there. God forbid you enter the hospital, there are no drugs, you are lucky if you find some lonely doctor there, no nurses, it is derelict, it is abandoned, it is there only in name. So what happens to a bulk of Ugandans? Literally, they have no access to medical care, as simple as that.
Those who have money of course, there is now a burgeoning, private hospital, so they can have that access. Just like in schooling. You know when I went to school, the son of the minister, the daughter of the most successful businessperson, the son of a peasant from the middle of God knows where, the one leveler, the one democratic space where we all met and mingled was the school. It was a big social engineering process in Uganda. That is now gone.
So what we have is a segregation. If you come from the very well-off class, you have your own schools, your own classmates, your own group. If you come from the not-so-well-off, there is a separate side. There is no common ground anymore; so apart from anything else, socially, we are creating a segregated society.
The farmers who used to benefit from cooperative support, extension services, cooperative loans, the cooperatives are all collapsed. The Busoga cooperative union, Ankole, all these have all collapsed. Now the Bugisu cooperative union is slowly trying to revive itself.
I want to see a situation where we can revive the cooperatives and modernize it, but at any rate make sure we are supporting the backbone of Ugandan society. I want to make sure that instead of, there’s something called "investors" in Uganda--it is not what you understand by "investors" in America. The Ugandan investors take no risks, they don’t invest any capital, they haven’t come up with some bright idea like Mr. (Bill) Gates. They are not entrepreneurs, they are just sweetheart partners of people in government; and that’s how they make their money, through good ‘ole corruption.
That’s how they make their money, they’ve never invested in anything, they’ve never sweat to try to in any way build any business concerns. In the meantime, these women who populate the aircraft when I’m traveling, who really are working so hard, they are punished. We have a tax structure which punishes those small-scale business people, and rewards the fraudsters who go to State House.
That is the system we have. We have got to change that, and reward those who are taking risks, those who are growing the economy, those who are really doing something to make our country move forward. So I want to see a government which again can make it its business to deliver social services, to have an economic and tax policy which rewards those who are working hard, and who are really trying to grow our economy.
Managing Uganda’s Resources, Stemming Corruption
I want to see a situation in which corruption -- see, corruption is linked to the absence of social services. There is a lot of money in Uganda by the way, a lot of money. If you look over the last 25 years, barely any African country has received more infusion of foreign aid than Uganda. On top of it, direct budgetary subvention, which at one stage was about 53%. I think it is still somewhere about 50%, unheard of that a sovereign country can be subsidized to that rate. Direct budgetary support. And the tax revenues, looking at the official figures -- huge burgeoning tax revenue -- the tax burden in Uganda is
unbearable. So a lot of money has been collected from Ugandans. The question is what is done with that money?
And on top of it, the loot out of the Congo. You all know that the loot was so extensive, so unbelievable that for the first time in the history of the world, the International Court of Justice sat for three to four years, looking at the evidence, and for the first time ever, pronounced a verdict which said the government of Uganda not only committed aggression, but it committed extensive plunder of Congolese resources; committed extensive crimes of war, crimes against humanity, for which Uganda should pay Congo. Hear this, Uganda should pay Congo $10 billion US dollars. That is serious money, isn’t it? That’s real
dollars we are talking now.
And these monies which came into Uganda was not used to build roads, all this money from tax, from budgetary subvention, from traditional development aid, the loot from the Congo, what is supposed to go in the North to help with reconstruction to help the displaced people there, all these end up in private pockets for a tiny, little elite who have accumulated fortunes. You must believe me this; they have accumulated fortunes, which are impressive by world standards, in Uganda.
That is what we have, so we must find a way to fight corruption; beginning -- the beginning is actually quite simple. It is our
leaders, beginning with the President himself or herself, setting an example. If the president, his family, his ministers, his commanders are doing the opposite, if they are fueling the machine of corruption, then they go and tell the people, please stop corruption, people laugh at them. It is a mockery. But if people see that they are setting an example of public [probity], and then they say in addition we put in place mechanisms to fight corruption, and in addition they say if we detect, we will prosecute you, people will begin to respond more seriously.
I know this culture has now gotten so ingrained, so deep, because it has been orchestrated from above, so deep, it will be one of the most important fights for Ugandans to mount if they want to recover their country. We have to fight the corruption, the level of corruption, which has been ingrained in the country.
And then you see, I see the issue of institutions, which I spoke about earlier. No country in the world can develop without institutions. How is that possible when there are utterly no institutions? It’s a vacuum. And then, one man, who happens to be the president, will make ad hoc pronouncements and those pronouncements become policy, they become directive, they become plans, they become programs.
In the area of agriculture you’ve heard that Museveni has gone to experts and said don’t grow this, grow vanilla, that becomes policy. The peasants abandon whatever they were growing before, and they go to vanilla. The following day, don’t grow vanilla now, I want you to grow---I don’t know what. There are no studies, there are no discussions, experts have not examined any of these things at all, it just comes straight from the head of one man, and that becomes the policy.
So we need to revive institutions within the country, procedures within the country and a mode of governance, which is serious, where you actually have a panel of experts sitting down, examining issues and developing plans. When did you last hear about a development plan of any kind in Uganda? Or a plan to do with youth, saying this is the youth program for Uganda for the next 10 years. Or this is a program to do with higher education. It does not exist. When you go to the libraries, what you will find are dust-collected programs from way, way, way, way back.
So we are a country of which there are no plans, no debate, no scientific methods of arriving at any kind of policies, it is all
[inaudible]. You ask the Ugandan intellectuals, all the well-educated people when they were last called to be a part of a committee to look at this sector, that sector, to come up with papers, it has not happened. So this is [inaudible].... situation in a country with so much intellectual capital, so much expertise; we’ve got to reverse that situation.
No Rule of Law
And let me tell you the issue with the rule of law. I spoke earlier about the police state par excellence. Well, I don’t need to dwell on this, but Ugandans now, I don’t know when they last heard about the rule of law, about an independent judiciary, about actually telling a policeman sorry, this is against the law, or you can’t do this NRM Mr. So and So, because it is against the law. I don’t know when Ugandans have last heard that. They don’t know what you’re talking about when you say a directive from the president, from a minister, from a commander, is against the law, and therefore it should be challenged.
So, it is a state in which the rule of law has collapsed and we must reintroduce the rule of law. Without institutions, without the rule of law, with corruption being so rampant, our country can go nowhere. It is clear, it can go nowhere. So we’ve got to tackle those things and tackle them head on.
Let me say one word about -- I spoke earlier about a child from the middle of nowhere being given an opportunity. I feel very strongly about this. If we do not have equity opportunities, if we don’t present equitable access for our citizens, for our youth, for our women, we have no country to speak of.
First of all it means that our talent is being wasted. And what I want to offer the youth of Uganda in particular, is not envelopes of money, which is what Museveni does. For every problem, and every complaint there’s an envelope with some money inside.
You silence that constituency, you silence that group, literally, there’s money being doled out.
I have no money to offer Ugandan youth, and I should not offer them envelopes of money. What I want for Ugandan youth is something much more important. I spent many years working for youth, working for women all over the world. I think they’ve benefitted in some measure from my contribution.
I want to bring that experience, that network, that expertise, that resource, bring all of it and put it at the benefit of Ugandan women and Ugandan youth. And the way to do that is to provide them with quality education. That’s the beginning of the solution, which doesn’t depend on where you come from, what kind of family you are born in.
And then to provide them equity of opportunity, so that when you leave Makerere, they don’t ask what family you are from. It is your hard work, your paper, your experience that will be taken into account, when you are applying for a job.
If we have quality education for most Ugandan children, and then when they are being recruited and promoted it is done on the basis of their expertise, we will begin to recover our country.
So really, I want to say to you that these are some of the things, which in my mind constitute elements of the transformation that I’m talking about. I can say a lot more and there are a lot more issues, but these are the main ones.
Now, there is another thing I should mention to you. The struggle in which we are engaged, is of course a political struggle; it is an economic, social struggle, of course, but it is more than that. It is much more than that.
This struggle is about the very soul of our land, the very soul of our country. There is an aspect of this struggle, which is not political, not just economic; it is a moral struggle. Let me tell you why. If we live in a country in which apparently there is no sense of outrage anymore, no sense of shame, especially on the part of those who lead us.
Let me give you an example. I had been in Kampala only a few days, when the massacre of September 10th last year took place. 33 Ugandans were gunned down on the streets of Kampala in one day. Unarmed Ugandans -- 33; and hundreds of Ugandans were wounded and taken to hospitals, some were rounded up and taken to prison.
The following day in Kampala, and in the country, it’s business as usual. The whole week, the following week, business as usual, as if nothing had happened. How is that possible? How is that possible?
And then the regime begins to craft a narrative, which Ugandans buy, so they begin to say well, there were these Baganda rioters. Or, they are not Ugandans, they are Baganda rioters, and immediately the papers pick this up. So suddenly they are isolated, they are no longer Ugandans, they are Bagandans, so it is a Buganda affair.
Two, they are rioters, implying somehow they must have done something to earn being massacred on the streets of Kampala.
Several days later, something similar happened in Conakry, Guinea. This was a major event. The Guineans poured out on the street; they began the process which brought down that government. They yelled all over the international community; there were headlines all over the place.
It was a very different response from what happened in Kampala in Uganda. How is this possible? How is this possible?
Or when you have, you’ve now seen this series of schools being burnt, in Budo Jr., young girls were burnt to death in their beds in a boarding school. Primary schoolgirls. Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing happened! Another school was burned down, and another one. Nothing happened, business as usual. What has become of us?
Or, when you read now in the papers, if maybe one occasion in five years you heard about this thing of child sacrifice; I don’t know how many were familiar with that term growing up, it is now a common thing. Every other day you pick a paper, some child has been kidnapped; some child has been killed, dismembered, certain organs taken away, and again, no outcry. People are not marching on the streets saying what is going on? And what is the government doing about this, and who are the culprits? No, it comes and passes; it is no big deal anymore, not to mention what happened in Kanungu, even earlier.
So we have in Uganda a series of unbelievable outrages, which are going on, and they have become routine, and the people of Uganda are accepting these outrages as normal things.
So, it appears we have lost our sense of outrage, our sense of taboo. It appears we’ve lost that. And if a society doesn’t regain a sense of outrage and taboo, where can such a society go, if there are no boundaries, there are no things, which you say this is beyond the pale. But that I fear, is what this regime has reduced Ugandans to.
Related to this, I must tell you I’m shocked at the money culture which has been inculcated by the Museveni regime. Money is important everywhere in the world, you know as the song goes, money makes the world go round. It’s true, everywhere in the world, but I’ve never seen a situation in which money is on a pedestal and king, as in Uganda today. Which is very ironic, because most people in Uganda have no money. The bulk of Ugandans have no money.
So what drives the country is precisely what 99% of people don’t possess. That is what drives the country. Which therefore means that you’ve got a tiny group on top, for whom money is no object, and that becomes the means of corrupting people and the means of controlling.
So the money culture has become so deep; everything is buyable. Everything. Money can open your way everywhere, can buy everything. We’ve got to find a way to address this.
So, in addition to the political, social and economic transformation, we have a moral struggle to recover the soul of our land.
Buganda’s Issues are National Issues
Let me mention another issue which is very important to me; it is the issue of Buganda, the issue of Buganda, the issue of Buganda. We are in Uganda, living a very unnatural situation. Buganda is the largest single entity. It is the most important single community by far, by whatever indices you use, whether you look at population, you look at geographic location, you look at endowments of education; economic development, commerce. However you look at it, Buganda is the most
important single entity in Uganda.
Which therefore means that if Buganda is unhappy, Buganda is opposed or even just stunted, very little enterprise of great consequence can be achieved. It’s a little bit like the US, the US in the world, it’s a similar kind of role. If the US is unhappy, the US is opposed, very little of great international enterprise can happen, because the US will block it. The US will make it difficult for that to happen.
Buganda’s role in Uganda is not dissimilar, maybe not quite at the level of US superpower-dom, but nevertheless, in the context of Uganda, is proportionate.
Then you’ve got the rest of Uganda. Now, if the rest of Uganda is suspicious of Buganda, if the rest of Uganda says ah, the Bugandans are throwing their weight again, or they want to dominate, they want to take everything; they want to be in charge. It also means that Buganda cannot achieve its most cherished, important aspirations, because it will be counter-manded by the rest of Uganda.
So what you then have is a zero sum game in which Buganda loses, the rest of Uganda loses; so this dichotomy is unnatural, not to say unhealthy, for all concerned, and yet for most of Uganda’s history, this has been the dominant paradigm. That you’ve got Buganda, and you’ve got the rest of Uganda.
It expresses itself differently. At one stage, as we know in 1966, the day of the Great Rupture, you had the Kabaka on one side, you had Prime Minister Milton Obote on the other. You had the president on one side, you had the prime minister on the other side. You had Buganda on one side, you had the Central government on the other side.
You had UPC on one side; you had KY/Mengo, on the other side. Nowadays we are seeing it expressed in various ways; so however it expresses itself, a situation in which the current, the status quo, what has been for most of Uganda’s history, the situation is unnatural, it is unhealthy for the country, it punctures and compromises Uganda’s political, social and economic development.
We must move to a situation of win-win. Which means, we must once and for all recognize the issues which are at stake on all sides, for all concerned. Which is why, for example, I as -- even before I became the leader of UPC, I said it is very important that UPC as a party, the rest of Uganda as an entity, and Buganda should address the issue of this dichotomy.
We should recognize what is at issue, recognize what went wrong, and find ways of healing. Certainly since becoming president of UPC, I’ve been even more insistent on that issue, and I cannot say too strongly, that this is one of the biggest challenges facing Uganda, to normalize these relations, and as I said earlier, make a Muganda feel very proud to be a Muganda, and equally, fiercely patriotic, as a Ugandan, and vice versa.
Now, today as we speak, there are some issues on the Buganda agenda, the issue of federo. My own view is actually, contrary to common misconception. Buganda may have been the one at the forefront of raising the issue and promoting it, but federo is a Ugandan issue, not a Buganda issue.
The notion that you should have decisions made, resources allocated, there should be accountability, and this therefore means that decisions, resource allocation and so on should take place at the closest proximity to those who are affected by it. That’s what really federo is about. That is a Ugandan issue, because it makes for more democratic accountability, it makes for more transparency, it reduces corruption, but also reduces petty functionaries throwing their weight around, as I was describing earlier.
It is a misnomer to attach to this issue the label this is a Buganda issue. Which is why I strongly support the idea of having a national compact; having a democratic forum -- not one which is imposed -- in which one can flesh out the particulars of exactly what this federo arrangement would look like, and what would be accepted by all Ugandans.
Secondly, the issue of land is very important to Bagandans, but again, this is not unique to Buganda. Buganda has genuine land issues that need to be resolved; and the business of land grab, under whatever guise, we must resist, we must in fact fight against that.
You see, let me give you an example, I went to Luweero, I met a gentleman called Kamya. So as we, I was now leaving the meeting, he said a few words in Luo, so I said, so where did you learn your Luo? Did you live outside Luweero? He said, no, but my grandfather, or maybe his father, came from Lango. Okay? So this man has now become a Muganda, including his very name. His name was not Okello, it was Kamya, but his folks came from Lango.
Okay, I go to Mityana. There is a lady who comes to me and speaks fluent, fluent Luo, so I ask her her story, she is a Muganda, lived most of her life in Lira, and then decided because of some family elderly relatives, to come back to Mityana. But all her life, she lived in Lira. She belongs to Lira.
So, it is one thing to have an Acholi come and settle in Buganda and to have a Muganda go and settle in Gulu, and these are all over the country these criss-crossings, all over the country. That’s one thing, and that should be encouraged, it should be the freedom of all Ugandans to do that.
But it is another thing to organize demographic engineering. No differently, when like Stalin used to do in Russia, you deliberately organize groups of persons to be sent in an area to displace the people there, takeover the land, and change the demographic composition for economic and political manipulation, that we can’t accept, imposing that kind of arrangement, we must reject.
The freedom of movement among Ugandans, absolutely, and we don’t need a policy of government to regulate that. Ugandans are all over the place, they are settled all over the place. So the issue of land, land grab, and demographic manipulation for political purposes, we must reject. [Audience applause.]
Then comes the issue of the status, the role, the place of the Kabaka. Well, either we have genuine restoration of kingdoms and kingships, or we don’t. If we do, then we should have the kind of arrangement that we have in Ghana and Nigeria. And incidentally, I had the opportunity to discuss this with the Kabaka, then Ronald Mutebi, before the restoration, several times, when there was no prospect of restoration in sight, we were just discussing. And I said to him, in Uganda, we should look at the prospect of restoring kings and kingdoms and take the model of Ghana, the model of Nigeria.
Let me explain. Today in Ghana, if not in Africa, there are few leaders more powerful than the Ashanti head. He’s got no political
role. His authority is not conferred by any competition or politics. It is a cultural, moral authority. It is the respect his people have for him. It is the bond which brings the Ashanti people together, which gives the Ashanti head that power.
When he comes to New York -- I’m sure he’s been to Los Angeles. When the President of Ghana arrives in New York, there is no commotion, nobody knows he’s in New York. But when the Ashanti head arrives, you cannot miss the fact that the Ashanti head is in town. Not just in New York; in New Jersey, all over the place. It is a cultural phenomenon. [Audience applause.]
And we should allow all Ugandan communities, and certainly the biggest, the most organized is the Buganda Kingdom and
the Kabaka of Buganda, complete latitude to exercise this role and to have whatever sway, whatever authority, moral authority, whatever influence he can bring to bear on his people, and they in turn back to him.
In a similar way, by the way, I believe that the Kabaka is of course the Kabaka of Buganda, but by that fact, he automatically becomes, one of the most pre-eminent Ugandan citizens, by that very fact. And that is why in Gulu, at a big, big public gathering, I said I am speaking now, as a son of the Chua clan. My father happens to be Chua. [Audience applause.]
I am speaking, as I said, as a citizen of Gulu and as an ethnic Acholi. I said, in these three capacities, and in that order, I want to invite the Kabaka of Buganda of Uganda to come and visit Acholiland. [Audience applause.]
And I said I want him to come as the Kabaka of Buganda, as a free citizen of Uganda. He is a free citizen of Uganda, is he not?
He can move anywhere in Uganda, without any hindrance, and I said, as one of the most prominent and progressive African statesman of our era, which is true. The Kabaka is a very modern leader, very progressive, and one of the most preeminent leaders in Africa today. In these three capacities, the royal dancers, the Bwola dancers, will be out there waiting to receive him, and to welcome him. [Audience applause.]
So really, the notion that a central government should go out of its way, with one mouth to say we accept the role of traditional leaders and with the other move to radically undermine it; or even as we’ve seen recently, more than undermine, work to humiliate the Kabaka, is completely unacceptable, and it should not just be a matter for Buganda, it should be a matter for all Ugandans. It is part of that agenda that I referred to earlier, for having a natural win-win situation.
What does the rest of Uganda lose when Buganda is confident, when the Kabaka is a confident leader, relating well with his people, when there is no problem of Protestant/Catholics in Buganda. What does the rest of Uganda lose? That makes Buganda actually a healthier, bigger agent of development for the rest of the country. Just like if the US is so unhappy within its skin, you know what happens to the world?
So the notion that somehow a united Buganda, a strong Kabaka, one in which you don’t have Mengo vs. [inaudible] or Protestant versus Catholic, somehow this is bad news, this is retrograde. This is completely backwards. We should want a win-win situation. On the issue of the role of the Kabaka, on the issue of the land question and on the issue of Federo. Those are my views.
Truth-telling and Reconciliation
Now, let me say, concerning one other matter, which is quite involved. I’ve spoken quite a bit on the issue of truth-telling and
reconciliation. It is has gotten me into a lot of trouble. I’ve said we should have truth-telling concerning some of the most egregious, traumatic episodes in Uganda’s recent history. And top of the list, I’ve said we should have truth-telling about Luweero, about what happened in Luweero. I’ve said we should find out what happened to the Moslems in Mbarara. We should find out what happened in [inaudible]. We should find out what happened in Northern Uganda over these last 20
years or so.
Let me explain to you. I have no interest whatsoever in retribution and revenge. In fact, my own faith, I happen to be a Christian. My own faith says explicitly, that revenge is not for us. Revenge is for the Lord to decide. I’m not interested in revenge, not in retribution. No amount of retribution can take away the suffering of those who suffered in Luweero or other places.
What I do say is the following. It is critical that we know the whole truth about any of these situations. And I say, let the chips fall where they might. I have no bridge for anybody, I don’t want to protect anybody in any of these situations, I want all those who committed crimes and atrocities, that all that be exposed and drawn out in the open. First, because it would set all of us free. The Bible is right about this. Knowing the truth about this situation will set all of us free.
Secondly, when people have gone through what the people of Luweero went through, or the Muslims went through in Mbarara, one of the worst things that can lock up their souls is knowing that there is no acknowledgement of the trials they’ve been through. You don’t acknowledge; it has been swept under the carpet. There is no truth, people don’t know what happened, and it is not acknowledged.
In South Africa, one of the reasons why the hearts of those who suffered under apartheid was set loose, was the acknowledgement, in Argentina, El Salvador, that oh my God, the world now knows what I went through.
It is like the old Negro song. [Singing]: “Nobody knows, the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, Glory, Alleluia.”
That is a very big song, because they were saying nobody here knows, nobody cares, nobody knows what I’ve been through,
but the Lord does.
So if we know what the people of Luweero went through, if we acknowledge and say ‘yes, we went through this,’ that sets loose the souls, which are now so tightened with tension, with passion, with hatred. And from that, the acknowledgement, yes this happened, comes who did it. ‘Yes, I know so and so did it.’
And better still, if the perpetrators say ‘yes, I did it,’ like they did in many countries. In South Africa, Argentina and other places
they came forward and acknowledged it. ‘I am the one who did this.’ That is the road, which leads to reconciliation and healing. So the purpose of truth telling is to set us free, to set our hearts that are locked in this free, so we can walk this road, and end up on the hill of reconciliation.
That is why. That is why. It is not for revenge, it is not for retribution. And that is why I will insist and continue to say, we
must know the truth about Luweero [Audience applause].
I don’t care whether Museveni or Tinyefunza will crush me, as they’ve said “we’ll crush you.” Well they’ll crush me, but they’ll crush me on that road as I inch my way on that hill working towards reconciliation. But the path for reconciliation, the way to
reconciliation, it passes through truth-telling, it passes through acknowledgement, it passes through accountability.
You don’t achieve reconciliation by pretending nothing happened, or let us not speak about this, let’s simply move forward; we shall never move forward. So I want you to understand, I’ll continue to speak about these traumatic episodes because I want healing and I want reconciliation. You hear me? [Audience replies “yes.”]
You hear me?
Question and answer session follows--available on YouTube.
To view Otunnu's Los Angeles area appearance, please visit this link: http://www.youtube.com/user/usanduganda2011