In an attempt to situate the agenda for President Museveni if he were to set a durable legacy, you summed up your overview in your May 12 editorial, thus: “rise to the challenge, seize the chance for national dialogue ……… and agree to correct what is wrong with Uganda and serve wananchi without discrimination”. And this is where your overview takes a slippery path.
A national dialogue can be an effective mechanism for resolving the things that have gone wrong in the country. But the gravest condition that makes dialogue necessary is the collapse or delegitimisation of political institutions and government. This has not wholly happened since the overthrow of Idi Amin in 1979.
Secondly, politics has been unashamedly commercialised and such a dialogue would only provide a perfect opportunity for the political class to flip their wings and confuse the gullible even further.
Thirdly, the preparation and holding of a national dialogue and the implementation of recommendations can be very difficult, rigorous and intricate.
National dialogues are also very costly and demand a lot of honesty and integrity. In Uganda, we posture as having capacity to find solutions to our problems by own ingenuity and resources without any interference from foreign meddlers, especially the so called international community! Do we really and honestly have that capacity?
Fourthly, our politicians are generally very selfish, belligerent and hence love to play to the gallery partly because of the said commercialisation. Hence each party and politician is mostly engaged in winning power and once worn, retain it for as long as possible at any cost. Most political parties and politicians are as a result largely locked in endemic intraparty polemics.
Indeed political organisations and politicians are a major stakeholder cluster. However, given this background, can our politicians engage in a healthy inter-stakeholder dialogue? Won’t they instead turn the occasion into a debate of each other’ ideas; into an opportunity to win rather to explore issues objectively and come up with a consensus on what is right. And for sure the ruling party will seek, by hook or crook, to dominate the process including the outcomes and their implementation.
In the circumstances, if for nothing else, but to turnaround and consolidate his legacy, Mr Museveni must eat humble pie. He must humbly apologise for what has gone wrong during his time and set a timed programme for reform and redress. This doesn’t require any ambiguous national dialogue!
You have mentioned some of the more contentious issues that Mr Museveni must have the humility to address including but not limited to: runway corruption, bloated public administration amid poor service delivery, poverty and joblessness, restricted democratic space and human insecurity, restoration of term limits, land evictions and grabbing. There is also the problem of bad leadership styles and, inadequate or laid back management practices and processes.
A common convergence for most, if not all, of these problems is the existence of “sacred cows” and other “big fish” in our midst. This tends to perpetuate cronyism or impunity and other forms of favouritism. Quite embarrassingly, this is a legacy we have taken from Idi Amin Dada, a man we love to call a buffoon.
The state has many times failed to bring perpetrators of omissions and commissions to account for their misdeeds, whether criminal, civil, administrative, disciplinary or other. Sacred cows and other big fish perpetrators are not subjected to any inquiry or serious investigations that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and forced to make reparations including to their victims where so applicable.
In cases where investigations have been carried out, these perpetrators are simply shifted around and about until they are ultimately left scot free. Ugandans need to be assured of their inalienable right to know the truth about misdeeds and their perpetrators and to be assured that such perpetrators can and, indeed will be punished. They need to be assured that other necessary steps can and, indeed will be taken to prevent a recurrence of violations and resurgent sacred cows or ordinary Ugandans. All these things call for a turnaround leadership practice from within and not a national dialogue whose recommendations might necessitate much more complex operations to implement than the dialogue process itself.
Mr Robert N. Kizito is a business turnaround consultant and retired journalist.