This year marked 52 years when Uganda’s first executive president and his party Uganda Peoples Congress UPC started preparing for the Move to the Left. The official announcement was made during the Labour Day celebrations in 1970 in what came to be known as the Nakivubo Declaration. The Declaration was the culmination of a process which started during the party’s delegates’ conference in June 1968.
How it started
The June 1968 UPC party annual delegates conference held in Kampala, was a special conference in that it was addressed by two foreign presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. In his opening speech, Obote told the delegates that the two main topics of discussion were the country’s economic development and the adoption of the new party constitution. The economic development was more important to the rest of the country than the party constitution.
Uganda’s economy was to be developed on socialist principles, hence “The Move to the Left”.
Even before it was implemented the plan for the move to the left was first announced in November 1968 by Obote during his address a visit to Busoga College Mwiri his former school.
Though the resolution for the move to the left were made by the delegates, their implementation was left to the national council, party officials and the central executive committee. Different stages of its implementations were numerically documented. In the Foreword to Document Number 1 also known as The Common Man’s Charter, Dr Obote wrote, “….officials of the party and myself have produced a document proposals for National Service document number two on The Move to the Left to implement some resolutions of the conference resolutions.”
“We the members of the annual delegates conference of the Uganda Peoples Congress, assembled on this twenty-fourth day of October 1969 in an emergency meeting in Kampala…….do hereby adopt this charter for the realisation of the real meaning of independence, namely that the resources of the country, material and human be exploited for the benefit of all the people of Ugandan in accordance with the principles of Socialism,” stated the Common Man’s Charter’s first paragraph.
The charter before being made public was discussed by the different organs of the party. These were the Central Executive Committee and the National Council chaired by John Babiha and Shaban Nkutu respectively.
The socialist ideas stipulated in the charter, did not get the support of all party officials. During its launch at an emergency delegates’ conference in October 1969, the party president made it known that he was aware that some members were not comfortable with the charter, and it is going to split the party saying, “some leaders who owned big houses and other property and thought socialism should apply to others and wanted themselves to remain capitalist, felt that what we are doing in this conference was childish. There would be divisions within UPC.”
The Uganda the charter wanted
In the charter, the UPC government was making a statement of how and where they were leading the country economically, as an independent state, no longer under the colonial bondage, capable of making independent developmental decision without the influence of the British colonialist.
“What was planted in Uganda during the era of British protectorate appeared in the eyes and minds of our people as the final word in perfection, regarding the development of our material resources and human relationship. Consequently, both before and after independence, our people have been living in a society in which all alien way of life had been embedded. The result has been that most of our people do not look into the country for ideas to make life better in Uganda, but always look elsewhere to import ideas which may be perfectly suitable in some other society but certainly unfitting in a society like ours.”
On October 8, 1969, the Charter was presented to a selected audience which included journalists, Diplomats, cabinet ministers and senior civil servants. He told the gathering “read it understand it and present your views.”
Document number 1 also known as the Common Man’s Charter combined both political and economic systems the country was to take. Politically, the charter was making Uganda a unitary, democratic and republican kind of government. Article three of the charter stated: “We subscribe fully to Uganda always being a republic and have adopted this charter so that the implementation of this strategy prevents effectively any one person or group of persons from being masters of all or a section of the people of Uganda, and ensures that all citizens of Uganda become truly masters of their own destiny.”
Economically, it was taking Uganda onto a socialist path, with social-welfare recommendations. In article 21 the charter states: “…. Conditions must be created to enable the fruits of independence to reach each and every citizen without some citizens enjoying privileged positions or living on the sweat of their fellow citizens.”
To tackle the economic issues the framers of the charter went on to warn about the growing gap of the haves and the have-not. In article 22 it stated: “The emergency and growth of a privileged group in our society, together with the open possibilities of the group assuming powers of the feudal element are not matters of theory…..we are convinced that ….the attitudes to modern commerce and industry and the position of a person in authority in or outside government are creating a gap between the well to do on one hand and the mass of the people on the other. As years go by this gap will become wider and wider…. This charter aims at bridging the gap and arresting this development.”
In bridging the gap collective, ownership was thought as the beast avenue. The collective ownership was only going to be possible through the nationalisation of private enterprises. “We affirm that the guiding principle will be that the means of production and distribution must be in the hands of the people as a whole. The fulfilment of this principle may involve nationalisation of enterprises privately owned….. The issue of nationalisation has already been determined and therefore it is a settled matter….. Therefore, no citizen or person in private enterprise should entertain the idea that the government of Ugandan cannot, whenever it is desirable in the interest of the people nationalise, any or all privately owned enterprises, mailo and freehold land and all productive assets….”
Besides wanting to deal with the economic and political future of the country, the charter also paid attention to the tribal and religious division and wanted a one united country. To this effect article 19 of the charter says : “We reiterate the fact that the struggle for independence was not a one tribe struggle nor was a struggle confined to people professing one religion. The colonial powers heard voices from all corners of Uganda. The struggle, however, was not that different parts of Uganda should return to the days of tribal quarrels, disunity and wars but….to regain our dignity as human beings.”
The charter was not shy of its socialist nature when it was advocating for a stance against exploitation of the poor by the rich. In article 26 it says: “there is also the danger that economic development could be unevenly distributed as between regions of the country…… In such a situation political power will be in the hands of the rich and the maximum the government will do for the poor will be paternalism, where the lot of the masses will be not only to serve the well to do, but to be thankful on their knees when opportunity rises...”
The Common Man’s Charter, which was published for comment in October 1969 and approved by the Party on 19 December, was the first major document that attempted to give definition to the Move to the Left. It stated that «the heart of the move to the left can be simply stated. It is.... that political and economic power must be vested in the majority», typifying the mixture of socialist and nationalist motivations the policy represented. The first step was to establish the state owned Uganda Commercial Bank and to require foreign banks operating in Uganda to re-incorporate in Uganda itself.