Uganda: The Fox And The Wolf

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[Global: Africa]

The passion and vigor with which Dr. Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) attacks Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) may lead one to think major differences exist between FDC and NRM; however, a closer look will reveal there are really no serious ideological differences.

If any differences exist at all, they emanate from the fact that Museveni has been President and Dr. Besigye and General Mugisha Muntu, who recently ran for the FDC's top position, have not. Being President placed Museveni face to face with reality and so forced him to discard the illusions he had embraced during the bush war.

There are two ways of transcending illusions. One, is theoretically-- i.e., by studying and reaching a point of realizing that a belief that one holds is an illusion. The other way is by practice-- i.e., going through an experience and realizing that whatever one believes in does not work.

Just like Museveni who could not realize that his bush war ideas were illusionary, and had to become President before that realization, both Dr. Besigye and General Muntu are not capable of theoretically transcending the ideas they embraced during the bush war.

They can only transcend those ideas through practice. They still believe the ideas behind the bush war were correct but that Museveni abandoned the correct path the NRM was on when he became President. Dr. Besigye has said this numerous times.

When Museveni and the NRA were in the bush, they embraced the illusion that they were fighting to bring about a Cuban-type revolution in Uganda. Many of them may not admit this today, but this is what they preached to each other.
It is General Salim Saleh, the president's brother, who once gave a clear exposition of this aim. In an article published by The Monitor on Wednesday, November, 2006, Saleh clearly stated:

"A small group of fighters, with 27 guns, without external assistance for much of the time and without a rear base in any neighbouring country, defeating a government that had a force of almost 60,000 soldiers in a record time of five years, is almost un-paralleled in the history of revolutionary warfare.

The only similar case in the world is that of Fidel Castro in Cuba. After the initial setback of losing most of his fighters to the Batista Air force, he gathered 12 survivors with whom he headed to the Sierra Maestra Mountains from where he, eventually, defeated the dictatorship."

President Museveni also betrayed this motive a bit in January 1986 when, while being sworn in as President, he declared that theirs' was a "fundamental change not a mere change of guard" by which he meant revolution. Incidentally the Cuban revolution used to refer to their revolution as a "fundamental change".

While talking about carrying out a revolution in Uganda, the strategists and ideologues of the NRA did not realize that a revolution only occurs when specific circumstances obtain.

As the famous revolutionary Lenin, once wrote: " is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution. What, generally speaking, are the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms: (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the "upper classes", a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth.

For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for "the lower classes not to want" to live in the old  way; it is also necessary that "the upper classes should be unable" to live in the old way; (2) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in "peace time", but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the "upper classes" themselves into independent historical action.

Without these objective changes, which are independent of the will, not only of individual groups and parties but even of individual classes, a revolution, as a general rule, is impossible.

The totality of all these objective changes is called a revolutionary situation."

The situation Lenin is talking about did not obtain in Uganda in the 80s when Museveni and his NRA were waging their so-called "war of liberation." Because of that deficiency, when they arrived in power in 1986, they faced the situation which another famous revolutionary, Fredrick Engels once described thus:

"The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over government when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which he represents and for the realization of the measures which that domination would imply.

What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the sharpness of the clash between the various classes, and upon the degree of development of material means of existence, the relations of production and the means of communication upon which the clash of interests of classes is based every time.
What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not upon him, or upon the degree of development of the class struggle and its conditions.

In power Museveni soon realized what Engels is saying. He had not made a revolution in Uganda.

He shed off the illusions of "fundamental change" or revolution and adjusted to reality. This is what Dr. Besigye calls abandoning the course of struggle.

The very first taste of reality was the budget of 1986. Under the illusions that they were revolutionaries and Uganda under their leadership was not a neo-colony subject to IMF superintendence, they thought they could circumvent the IMF.

To this effect they drew up a budget and gave it to the then Minister of Finance to take to Washington, DC to the IMF. In Washington, D.C., Dr. Kiyonga was told in no uncertain language that the budget was unacceptable. The IMF team then drew up a budget which was faxed to Uganda. The faxed budget is then what constituted the Uganda budget.

Museveni and NRM were to meet a number of other setbacks and soon adjusted to working under the superintendence of imperialism. Over time they simply became puppets of imperialism.

In politics too Museveni had to make adjustment. The NRM --and the FDC too-- does not represent any of the historically constituted grievances and aspirations of Uganda. That being the case the NRM, just like the FDC too, has no political or social base. Without a political-social base, the NRM had to resort to using the state to organize its politics.

It is such adjustments to reality which Dr Besigye and other members of the FDC who came from the NRM call abandoning the original course of the revolution; they don't realise that Museveni had simply discarded illusions and adjusted to reality.

In Dr. Besigye's view Museveni should have continued prosecuting the illusion of the bush war days. Faced with this kind of mind-set, I am forced to conclude that Dr. Besigye may need to become President of Uganda like Museveni in order for him to discard the bush war illusions. This is why I think there is not much difference between the FDC and NRM.



The article was first published by

Adhola is a former Editor-in-Chief of The People, newspaper of Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and the party's leading ideologue. He can be reached at

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