Ever since President Museveni’s January 2 letter suspending the activities of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) emerged, rational minds have asked an array of questions:
How does a poor country like Uganda disrupt the flow of hundreds of billions of shillings into its economy?
Why is the NRM government acting now yet the fund has been active in the country since 2011? What happens to the job opportunities and the incomes created by DGF funding?
Others are where does this action leave the CSOs, political parties and government entities that DGF has been funding for the betterment of skills, education, health, justice, law and order plus accountability?
Is this a subtle affront to good governance, democracy, human rights, plus free speech that this fund supports? Won’t the relationship between Uganda and the European Union plus all the countries that support the agency be soured to Uganda’s detriment?
Answers to these and many more questions would lead many into concluding that this action was ill-advised and timed. But when one empathises and looks at the NRM, especially its military background, you see where it all comes from –and probably where it is going.
The NRM is a child of war and subterfuge. Many times the approach of governments that rise out of these circumstances, also known as revolutionary governments, is to look at every challenge as a war. The preparedness and execution puts them on a war footing.
In any war, it is very important to have a clearly defined primary objective. This should be separated from the secondary objectives to help maintain focus so as to quickly achieve what is desired.
The challenge that comes is that often times, to achieve the objective, you may have to forego many things along the way as you march on regardless. Many people will die and there will be a lot of doom, death and destruction along the way. Whatever the case one should never lose sight of the end.
Now coming out of the rather controversial 2021 General Election are many issues to deal with for the NRM. There was a block vote against the NRM in the central region, which hitherto was a stronghold of the ruling party.
The beneficiary of this voting pattern, including in Luweero, which is known as the ‘Mecca of the NRM,’ is a six-month old political party, NUP led by Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine.
Bobi Wine, a musician-turned politician is himself a political novice having been on the scene for about three years. He was dismissed as a drug addict not known beyond Buganda. Yet Bobi Wine pulled such huge crowds across the country wherever he was allowed to campaign amid violence and obstruction from security agencies. NUP managed to put more than 60 MPs in the August House, which no single political party has done against the NRM.
NUP, like all other political parties, is one of the beneficiaries of DGF activities in the country. Was it the funding and support that catapulted them to this phenomenal performance? Now NRM’s objective is to hold onto power, make gains in new territories like northern Uganda and not yield any ground to the Opposition.
After security agencies putting one hurdle after another in the way of the Opposition to scuttle their campaign, the other trick in the book is to cut off their supply lines in terms of finances.
The trouble here is that you may not succeed if you do it selectively by singling out NUP or political parties. Just like it happened when the government wanted to stop the use of especially social media during the election, a total ban was inevitable to rope in users of VPN.
In a state of war, this amounts to a scorched earth policy to exclusively annihilate the opponent.
The unintended consequence of such an act is that even those who are not involved in the contention suffer. Entities like the CSOs and others in the DGF conundrum, are suffering. The same way those who lost out when the Internet was switched off, yet they were ‘less concerned’ with the political activities.
In the case of stopping funding to political parties, the blanket action affecting the other beneficiaries is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the unwanted bath water.
The term that we came to learn watching the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan is ‘collateral damage.’ If the target of a NATO, American or Russian missile hides in a children’s hospital or busy market, everyone in the vicinity dies. Compensation may be considered later because the war can’t wait.
I am sure the sentiments about investment, jobs, incomes, projects and relations with the West are well known to the letter writer. It is just that at the moment, the most important issue for NRM is the viability and political survival of a project that looks very shaky after holding fort for 35 years going onto 40.