This is the second part of UPC presidentOlara Otunnu’s proposal, setting out a radical shift in our national trajectory, “Reinventing Uganda: Agenda for Radical Renewal” which he presents as the broad opposition agenda. In the first installment, he discussed regime change and 2016 ‘elections’. Today he focuses on National Convention and Buganda-Uganda Question.
New national covenant.
There are three reasons why we need a new national covenant or compact. First, we need to reinvent Uganda. We have a broken country. We must revisit first principles, to reset our national relations on a completely new footing. We need a born-again Uganda .
Second, the present political and constitutional order was tailored to serve and perpetuate the particular interests of the Museveni/NRM regime, rather than the needs of the country for all times. We need to design a new architecture of governance and distribution of power in the country, reflecting the collective free will of Ugandans. In short, we must reconstitute the Ugandan State.
Third, there are seminal issues which have been festering on the national agenda for far too long. It is imperative that we address these vexing issues, and settle them once and for all. These issues include : Buganda-Uganda Question ; democratic governance ; federalism ; self-determination ; land ; national unity and diversity ; role of cultural institutions ; and uneven development . We must recognise and put on the table all the hard issues. However vexing, none should be considered off-limits for this agenda.
My proposal is for a National Convention - - a new ‘Lancaster conference’ , convened by Ugandans , for Ugandans - - to take up , for dialogue and settlement , the three sets of issues I have outlined above .
The National Convention has to be a democratic and representative forum, designed for free, transparent and historic national dialogue. The mandate of the National Convention will be to draw up a new national covenant, which will then form the basis for a new constitutional dispensation.
Under current regime, a National Convention would likely be blocked or sabotaged. In which case, this has to be top of the agenda in the post-Museveni era.
It’s time to settle the Buganda-Uganda Question.
What has been called the Buganda Question is the issue of the relationship between Buganda and the rest of Uganda. It is really the Buganda – Uganda Question. This looms large in any discussion on reinventing and reuniting Uganda.
In Uganda, we have been living an unnatural situation. Buganda, taken as a single national component, enjoys particular preeminence in Uganda. By whatever yardstick you measure it - - demographic size; geo-political location; or levels of economic development, education and commerce bequeathed by the colonial order - - the answer is the same. This qualifies Buganda (to borrow Ali Mazrui’s idiom) for the ‘heartland tribe’ of Uganda. Historically, this is what Prussia was to Germany.
This means that if Buganda is unengaged, sulking or outright opposed, then no national enterprise of great consequence can be realised. Because Buganda will block it. By analogy, Africa cannot embark on a major pan- African project, if South Africa and Nigeria are not on board. No major global undertaking can succeed if USA is opposed to it. Conversely, when these powers act unilaterally, they provoke resistance and resentment, a push-back from the others. But when they lead concerted efforts, their legitimacy and roles are thereby enhanced.
If the rest of Uganda is suspicious of Buganda’s intentions, saying, “There goes Buganda again, throwing its weight about, seeking to dominate the rest of the country”, then Buganda cannot achieve its most cherished aspirations. Because the rest of Uganda will checkmate its moves.
So what we have is a mutually-blocking situation. It is a zero-some game in which Buganda loses and Uganda loses. This is what I mean by an unnatural situation. And yet, from the colonial era to today, Ugandans have come to accept this paradigm as immutable. This has greatly damaged Uganda’s nation-building project.
In a normal situation, Buganda should be the natural engine of Uganda’s development, engaged and providing leadership, while avoiding temptations for domination and hegemony. After all, the original impetus for Ugandan nationalism came from Buganda. The father of Ugandan nationalism is Ignatius Musaazi.
The first nationalist party that united Ugandans across ethnic, religious and regional identities was UNC (mother of UPC), founded and predominantly led by Baganda intellectuals.
In 1953, ‘Musaazi‘s boys’ (UNC) organised successful countrywide petition campaign for the return of the Kabaka from colonial exile. Buganda was able to play these historic roles because of proactive national engagement and outreach. A Buganda that is self-absorbed and isolationist cannot reproduce this role for itself and the country.
In a normal situation, Buganda’s role should be that of primus inter pares (first among equals ) ; never acting alone , not isolating itself nor allowing others to isolate it ; but acting in national concert, to achieve balance and compromise for the common good .
The great temptation for both Buganda and the national government is, in a moment of hubris, to overplay its hand, by seeking unilaterally to impose its will and power on the other side. In a born-again Uganda, the operative principles must be concertation, give-and-take, and inclusion. In this way, both Buganda and Uganda win. This is how we move from a zero-some game to a win-win situation for the country.
I believe that a Buganda that is comfortable under its own skin, is much better for Uganda. A Buganda that is at-ease and confident is a far better partner for constructing national unity than an uncertain, embattled kingdom.
Today, four issues predominate Buganda’s core agenda with the rest of Uganda. The first issue concerns restoration of properties that belonged to Buganda kingdom (and Ankole, Bunyoro and Tooro kingdoms) before 1967. This is the most straightforward of all the demands. Following identification and verification, these should have been settled long ago, without any fanfare.
The second preoccupation is federo (federalism) . Although Baganda have been the most vocal about this, federo is not a Buganda issue; it is a Uganda issue. The Odoki Commission (1995) reported over 65 per cent of respondents favouring a federal system of governance.
I believe that decision-making concerning resource allocation, development, and democratic governance should be made at the closest proximity to those affected by it. This provides ownership and empowerment to communities. It facilitates more equitable development, while ensuring more direct accountability.
A federal arrangement provides space for recognising and celebrating Uganda’s diverse ethnic and cultural heritage. Done right and for the right reasons, this can prove a more effective vehicle for building national unity in diversity.
The third issue concerns land and land-grabbing. Again, not confined to Buganda. Under the Museveni/NRM regime, we have seen extensive land-grabbing in many parts of the country. We must oppose all schemes for land-grabbing, under whatever cover they may come.
Another very ominous development linked to land, is the regime’s on-going systematic efforts at demographic engineering. Not very different from what Josef Stalin carried out in the Soviet Union. You deliberately transplant communities from one region to another, forcibly displacing the natives and grabbing their land.
The purpose is to manipulate and radically alter demographic facts on the ground, in order to achieve ulterior ethnic, political and economic objectives.
I strongly support that any Ugandan should be free to move and settle anywhere in the country. A family from Masaka may choose to relocate and settle in Chua, and in time they will become Acholi. This is normal migration; it has always been there.
One of the women leaders spearheading the struggle to protect land in Amuru told me that her family came from Bulemeezi. They are now citizens of Amuru. And their stake in that land is as much as any of their neighbours.
Government may also, for reasons of development, demographic pressure or natural disaster, relocate and resettle communities. But this must flow from transparent national policy, not subterfuge and force.
Role of kingdoms
The fourth issue is the role of the Kabaka (and the other kings) in modern Uganda. We must settle this issue once and for all.
It would be instructive to probe more successful and stable dispensations elsewhere in democratic Africa.
In Ghana, the Asantehene commands great influence and moral authority among his people. His authority is not conferred by the constitution; it is a cultural artefact. It flows from and depends on the affection the Ashanti have for their culture and institutions. And the special bond that binds them as the Ashanti people.
The Kabaka (and the other kings) should be free to exercise similar cultural and moral authority among their peoples without hindrance from the national government. The kings in turn, like in Ghana, should not interfere in the domain of political and democratic governance.
These issues, together with the non-Buganda preoccupations, belong to the National Convention that we must convene.
What renewal seeks
• Removal of the Museveni regime.
•Undertaking an independent Truthtelling, Accountability and Reconciliation process , to pave the way for genuine healing .
• Convening a National Convention to adopt a new National Covenant.
• A return to the national project. I mean a conscious return to the mission of reuniting the country, of rebuilding the broken sense of common belonging and shared destiny.
• The fifth plank is a long term challenge, namely rebuilding and transformation. Because beyond regime change , there is the far more daunting task of overcoming the Museveni system and legacy -- this edifice of ruin, deformations and mindsets, spawned by 28 years of NRM’s toxic brews of policies and practices, indoctrination and conditioning . • And, finally, and most critical of all, we must embark on a far-reaching moral revival in our country.
The quest for opposition coalition
Uganda’s electoral process.
DP, however, deferred the issue of whether to join the inter-party political corporation to the National Executive Committee-NEC, which would examine it before handing it to the national council for action. The delegates had earlier complained that joining the IPC could result into the loss of the party’s identity.
Zirimala Kigundu, one of the delegates instead argued that DP was capable of getting to Statehouse without the support of other parties.
However, early this year, Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao has blamed former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president Dr Kizza Besigye for the failure of the now defunct Inter-Party Coalition (IPC) to unite all opposition leaders and parties against the National Resistance Movement in the 2011 general elections.
“IPC failed because Col Besigye didn’t adhere to the agreed protocol. Summit members were to get support for the positions they were aspiring for but Col. Besigye undermined people like Micheal Mabikke and Muhammad Mayanja who should have been supported under the protocol,” said Mao.
“If you are not faithful in small things, will you be faithful in big ones? That is why Olara Otunnu quit the IPC in protest. I do not agree that if you are a leader in the opposition then you should not be criticised,” Mao added.
Mao also accused Besigye of having a hand in what he called ‘confusion’ in DP saying, “I have heard him publicly criticise me in the media. I also know that he has a role in the current confusion in the Uganda Young Democrats. In 2011, he encouraged individuals in DP to back him and today his strategy is the same,”