After NAM meeting prepare for conflict

Author: Okodan Akwap. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • By now we should be clear about whose side we want to be on. We should also be attentive to what we stand to gain in the event of another world war. 

Delegations from mostly weak nations calling themselves the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) are due to gather in Kampala for a summit. They will meet and talk about things that are neither new nor game-changing. In fact, no matter how long or loud they will talk, the name of the game will remain pretty much the way it has been seen since the end of World War II in 1945: Dependency of weak nations on the economic, political and military protection of the big powers that call the shots.

Many of the NAM members, including Uganda, are highly dependent on external financing to balance their national budgets, to equip their armed forces and to fund their limping education and other social and economic programmes.

The hopeful outlook after Covid-19 was wiped away when Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago. The energy and food crises that hit Third World countries the hardest quickly exposed the fragility of their economies. The words “imported inflation” started ruling the airwaves. 

The worst is yet to come. At the time I was writing this article I heard on BBC Radio that Russia was sending more troops and military hardware to Ukraine. On the opposite side, some Western countries, including the US and Germany had announced their intention to supply Ukraine with war tanks. Indeed, there are claims that the US is now fighting Russia in Ukraine. 

My understanding of the situation is that there is perhaps just one more step to inch closer to a world war. That step may be taken if the West supplies Ukraine with the deadly fighter jets it is asking for. If this happens then Ukraine will have the capacity to take the war to Russia by hitting targets deep inside that vast country.

While the war is escalating, other news coming through indicate that Russia is deepening its economic relations with China. This is a sure sign that the two Eastern superpowers are ready to face off with the US, which has lost its hegemonic status. It’s a multipolar world now, different from the unipolar sort it became after the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1992.

What all this means is that after we have hosted the NAM meeting, we should aim at preparing for the likely escalation of a superpower conflict that could very well lead to World War III. So, those welcoming the NAM delegates should choose their words carefully when talking about non-alignment in this new Cold War era.

Re-alignment should be the game, not non-alignment. Re-alignment is realistic; non-alignment is idealistic. The world is a dangerous place; it’s far from an ideal space. But dark clouds can have silver linings. By now we should be clear about whose side we want to be on. We should also be attentive to what we stand to gain in the event of another world war. 

That said, the government should do something about the rampant sleepiness and idleness in the countryside. There’s something sinful about letting groups of able-bodied men sit around little wooden boards playing cards or some other games all day long.

One leader from Teso bought and distributed materials for chance games for his people to loaf around in trading centres, have fun and get used to poverty. I find that kind of thinking very problematic. 

The government should find ways of tapping the dormant youthful energies in the villages in anticipation of dispatching young people to Europe – once again the likely theatre of a world war – to undertake auxiliary (support) duties. 

Take them to the National Leadership Institute and give them a few lectures before they go. Create fancy titles such as sanitary engineers for in-door cleaners, landscape specialists for outdoor cleaners, executive chefs for public cooks and site excavators for grave diggers.  Ugandans taken overseas by the Kings African Rifles (colonial army) during World War II did auxiliary work.

When they returned, the authorities encouraged them to start self-help projects in their villages. It worked so well that in 1952, the first Department of Community Development was created and this marked the beginning of formalised community participation in Uganda.

Okodan Akwap (PhD), Associate consultant, Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism and Communication Management, Uganda