Political movements and their impact on Uganda

Sunday November 18 2018

Former FDC president Mugisha Muntu announces

Former FDC president Mugisha Muntu announces the birth of a new pressure group, The New Formation, that he says will be registered as a political party by Christmas. FILE PHOTO 

By Henry Lubega

Some have come and gone, leaving no trace of their existence, while others metamorphosed into political parties.
From the time the first political movement was formed in 1918, their influence on the politics of the country both in pre and post-independence Uganda cannot be underestimated.

The beginning
According to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, a political movement is “a social group that operates together to obtain a political goal on a local, regional, national, or international scope”.
A political movement in what came to be Uganda was formed 100 years ago, in 1918. The Bunyoro Mubende Committee (BMC) was a Banyoro political movement started to fight for the rights of the Banyoro.

Buganda had annexed part of Bunyoro and had gone on a terrorising spree of the locals. The demand for the return to Bunyoro by the locals was as a result of the Baganda mistreating them to the extent of banning the practice of the Kinyoro culture in the annexed territories. BMC also campaigned for the return of Bunyoro land to their kingdom.

BMC also demanded the return of the Bunyoro ruler, Omukama Kabalega, who had been exiled in Seychelles. They also wanted the restoration of their cultural freedom, and an end to the suppression by Baganda chiefs who were imposing Ganda tradition on them, such as forcing the Banyoro to drop their names and adopt Kiganda names.

In a communication in 1960, BMC observed that, “The suppression of our mother tongue hurts beyond imagination. Our children are taught in a foreign language in the very first year of their education, and our language has been banned in courts, offices, and churches in addition to schools.”

Uganda National Movement
Years later, Buganda was rocked with riots. The 1959 riots, commonly referred to as the economic riots, was led by Augustine Kamya and his Uganda National Movement (UNM) concentrated in Buganda. This was against Asians who had dominated almost all aspects of the economy.

The riots were not purely economically motivated as Kamya’s political ambitions were known and he only used the prevailing circumstance to advance his political agenda. The pre-independence political movements were regionally based and were advanced on tribal sentiments.

Writing in Racial Discrimination against Overseas Indians: A Class Analysis Prakash Chand Jain says there were instances when Indians’ success in business was used as a scapegoat for political reasons.
“Their business success was a source of envy to the natives who became jealous of the Indians. To achieve political powers to take away the economic success of the Indians, they accused the Indians of economic exploitation,” Jain writes.

‘Made a mark’
Retired Makerere University professor Phares Mutibwa says political movements have made a mark on the history of the country.
“Political movements like KY [Kabaka Yekka] played a vital role in Uganda getting independence at the time it did, and the type of independence that we got,” says Prof Mutibwa.
Mutibwa adds that had it not been for the emergence of KY on the political scene at the time it did, chances were high that independence would have been delayed.

“Mengo traditionalists like Masembe-Kabali and others who had been in Kenya on return to Mengo were behind the formation of KY to mobilise public opinion with the view of stopping DP from taking power in Uganda. There was a possibility of independence being delayed because of the political wrangles that were between UPC and DP. When KY came in and made that important decision to side with UPC, that broke the impasse and the journey for independence was made clear,” Mutibwa says.

Unfortunately for UPC and KY, their alliance was short lived. Because it was traditionalist-leaning, KY suffered following the abolition of kingdoms in 1966. Even then, majority of its Members of Parliament had crossed the floor to UPC. Those who remained resigned their political positions.

Post 1966
Until 1980, there was no active Opposition political party in the country. In the same year that the elections were announced, some of the traditionalists previously allied to KY reappeared on the political scene, this time under a new political party -- Conservative Party (CP) under the leadership of Mayanja-Nkangi, who was the Buganda prime minister at the time of the abolition of the kingdoms.
CP fielded candidates in the 1980 general elections. “CP was not a revived KY though the new party had some of the Mengo diehards in its membership,” says Mutibwa.

There was no active political Opposition within the country from 1971 when Amin took over until his fall in 1979.
However, according to Mutibwa, Front for National Salvation (Fronasa), a Museveni creation, was no different from the Agustine Kamya’s 1959 political movement which boycotted the Asian shops.
“Both were political but not putting politics at the forefront of their agenda,” he says.
Just like former KY leaders did years later to declare their political agenda through CP, Fronasa came out in 1980 with Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), as its political front.
Unlike CP, UPM managed to win a seat in the 1980 parliamentary elections. But soon after the elections the party was no more as its leaders became rebels.

In 2000 following Dr Kizza Besigye’s fallout with the NRM government, together with others he started a political movement. Reform Agenda, as it was known, galvanised support from politicians against the NRM regime.
“Reform Agenda, which is the forerunner of Forum for Democratic Change FDC, was a very important springboard for FDC. I would want to believe that without this political movement called Reform Agenda FDC wouldn’t have been born at the time it was born,” explains Mutibwa.

Just like NRM from which the Reform Agenda came, the political party thereafter has given birth to another political movement, the New Formation. Gen Mugisha Muntu and his adherents in FDC decided to start a new political movement with the aim of forming a political party by December 25.
Mutibwa also clarifies the ‘People Power’ craze as a political movement, though unlike other political movements before this, it’s trying to find its way in the political arena.

What cannot be disputed is the role of political movements and how they have influenced politics in the country.
“Political movements formed after independence have had an impact on the politics of the country,” says Mutibwa.