What you need to know:
- The NRM has spoilt this group’s potential, appetite and propensity for effective, independent leadership, struggle, activism and war in many ways.
Every February 6 marks the day the NRM/A launched a guerrilla war against the government of Apollo Milton Obote in 1981. Their grievance was that the 1980 election had been rigged. That the environment was not conducive enough to correct this through civil means of dialogue or the courts of law.
Violence, a type where the intelligentsia would lead the plebs and the peasants in a protracted struggle, was the most viable option.
Like happens, the order of wrongs orchestrated by the government grew taller with time. It happens to emphasise and justify an action and accommodate more and more people who feel short changed by the status quo.
The stolen election was now joined by corruption, abuse of human rights, arbitrary arrests, detention without trial and state inspired violence that led many to scamper into exile for their lives. To this was added nepotism, tribalism, sectarianism, the lack of constitutional order, economic neglect and near collapse with dilapidated infrastructure. So was the charge of misuse and failure to harness Uganda’s resources both natural and human, prompted by neo-colonial agency.
It was eloquently argued that all these ills put Uganda’s viability and independence at risk and was a recipe for total collapse. Very bad it was, that the country had an external debt of a whole US$ 2 Billion tied around its neck! All these were non-negotiable and thus the justification of the Bismarkian option of blood and iron. It came with all manner of promises as a sweetener. The litany of remedial measures included restoration of traditional monarchical rule where it was desired as it had been before the 1966 crisis. The ugly head of the military would be removed from politics where it had stuck out like a sore thumb for almost two decades.
The first cut they say is always the deepest. It was the first time in Uganda’s history what would (to some) later turn out to be an indecent proposal, was tabled to a relatively unschooled population.
So, they gave their support, wealth, and in very many cases their lives for the cause which succeeded five years later. With the NRM government in place it was time to taste the pudding. A lot has happened over the years. The dead are gone for good. Many of the living have not been compensated as they thought they would.
If you got the list of ills for which Obote and all Uganda’s past leaders were condemned and put them on the NRM government of President Museveni, you would understand the French saying ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same.’
You still have very bad, incredible violent elections, human rights abuses, nepotism, impunity and corruption.
The interest repaying national debt has moved from what now appears a mere US$ 2 Billion around the neck to a whooping US$ 25 Billion loaded over the entire stretch of the hapless, perspiring Ugandan body.
The state from the Executive to the Legislature and most importantly the Judiciary is firmly in the hands of the NRM. So is the Mazuruian ‘walking stick’ of the President; the army and other coercive instruments 40 years later, still stand out prominently.
The Martin Luther Jr. promise note is yet to be cashed. It is impossible to consider any other option just as was the case after 1980. But would that be viable? That may never be an option again. When the NRM arrived almost all the things it did and continues to do, banish the idea of a return to the bush.
The most important one was to discourage the now wiser population that you should never trust a politician with your life and property. The poverty and despondence in some parts of Luweero and other areas where the war was fought for five years is alarming. You would be special to allow an invitation to war, once again.
Most of the economically prosperous, pre-1986, sections of the population are struggling. Agriculture that sustained many rural folks to the extent of having the capacity to support and endure a rebellion against the state, is stressed. Without the support of cooperatives and agricultural extension systems, which collapsed right in front of the NRM, the farmer is now on the brink.
The business community has followed suit. The exorbitant taxes, high interest rates, a population that offers poor effective demand due to low incomes, etc. means that they are also on the edge. It is hard to see them sponsoring an uprising without collapsing.
Then you have the all-important intelligentsia who have always played a pivotal role in leading all the successful violent revolts in Uganda’s history. From the independence struggles, to the war liberation war of 1979 and the Luweero Triangle war of 1981-1986, they have led.
Most of them did so because they could work and prosper in agriculture or business and moonlight in the anti-government schemes. What situations blighted the ordinary people affected them too.
The NRM has spoilt this group’s potential, appetite and propensity for effective, independent leadership, struggle, activism and war in many ways. NRM has the state in its firm grip that you can hardly operate in Uganda without its approval; tacit or otherwise.
A lawyer, doctor, teacher, accountant, engineer etc. needs a licence. They will have to work in a state system infested with elements staged to perpetuate the NRM government and counter those who threaten it. So many are cowed to complain on social media in-boxes. A business or any entity that seeks to profit from tenders or doing business with the largest spender in the economy suffers the same threats. They may even be trapped into doing deals where they sink because they are not paid for a long period or at all, on completion of work done using borrowed money.
For the opposition politicians, pastors, traditional leaders and anyone with a huge following whose livelihoods have not been muted using the methods above, carrots have been dangled in their faces. They have the perks of huge salaries, foreign travel with allowances, payments of their debts, offers of payment of school fees for their children and their hospital dues when the body malfunctions with age.
With these feathered nests, they do not empathise with the grievances of the masses that they would have otherwise led. They only resort to constantly speaking out strongly to give a false impression of doing something about the predicament.
This ‘pacifies’ and comforts many that leaders are doing something. They develop a false hope that bars them from falling for the temptation to entertain NRM’s 1981 idea.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues