DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE IN UGANDA @ 50 YEARS OF INDEPEDENCE , A PAPER PRESENTED BY NAMBOOZE BETTY BAKIREKE MP – MUKONO MUNICIPALITY/SHADOW MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AT A CONVENTION OF UGANDANS LIVING IN THE DIOSPORA IN SWEDEN STOCKHOLM .
THE PRICE OF BAD LEADERSHIP</strong
In 1987 when president Museveni was addressing elders and leaders from Acholi and Lango he had this to say; “I feel so silly that I have to address you in a foreign language as if I am a colonial Governor. This is the Price of the bad leadership we have had in the country for the last 24 years of independence. Because of the bankruptcy of our leaders we failed to coin a National language out of the Local languages we have that is why I have to address you using English”.
Today as I stand here to address you I must borrow the words of President Museveni but this time to add that I feel so hurt that @50 years of independence I after travelling thousands of miles am here greeting my own sisters and brothers in a foreign land using a foreign language not out of choice but because as Ugandans we have no local language that unites us. I know it would have been so sweet and energizing to celebrate Uganda’s Golden jubilee with words and commentaries which a Ugandan in the true sense of the word. I wish also to inform you that shortly before I left home the Ministry of Education had unveiled a plan to abolish the teaching of Luganda in Ugandan Schools. As they explained Luganda is to be substituted with Swahili understandably to equip Ugandans with a better language in order to compete favorably in the East African region. I stand to be educated by you living here if Sweden had to abolish the teaching of Swedish in order to fit into the European Union.
In Uganda the official language is English and the second official language is Swahili. Brethren are we really living the dream of the founding fathers of our Nation? Do we want to say that it was the wish of our fathers to have a country with no clear identity?
THE PERIL OF PRETENSE
I believe a number of technocrats have already done justice to the circumstances surrounding the 50 years of Independence that Uganda is due to celebrate. I believe you all concur with me that I don’t measure up to the competence required to speak after or discuss their presentations especially as their careers in Post Independent Uganda are truly commendable. They have to their names immeasurable experience as academicians, lawyers, legislators, cabinet ministers and stakeholders with firsthand accounts of the events surrounding Uganda’s Independence. However, I have an opportunity to invite you to join me explore my opinion of what I think has been our biggest mistake in the independent Uganda, a mistake which has denied us the fruits of independence a nation and also to view Uganda’s “Independence” from the eyes of the ordinary Ugandan.
Uganda as a nation is made up of a diversity of people, each so unique in ethnicity, ideology, culture, religion…..name yet wrapped in one as Ugandans. Uganda’s Independence Constitution was founded on the idea that all these ethnic entities could be merged into one body unity that was accordingly christened Uganda. The departure from appreciating this diversity has spelt disaster as has been proved over the last 50 years.
Come to think of this, Uganda was supposed to be born at independence of a relationship between the British Colonialists and Uganda. If at all it was a full term pregnancy then the baby would have been a full ‘federo’ status for those Ugandan societies that desired it, semi federal for those that didn’t feel they needed it at the time but would grow to be mature federal states themselves or in mergers with others later. One then wonders how Uganda became a Republic and the question is whether this was growth or destruction. It is widely after all that constitutions are not abrogated but just amended to fit the constitutional needs of the day. The perpetrators of this departed from the spirit and letter of the constitution. This was a breached contract which necessitated a new contract that we all in an attempt repair the past attested to through our delegates in the Constituent Assembly that culminated into the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution.
However, and unfortunately so, this contractual process was also flawed and highly defective as it sought to consolidate a counterfeit presence – the NRM- and entrench her in power in Uganda. It has been said that that the Late Wapakhabulo Francis chaired the Constituent Assembly during the day while President Museveni chaired his by night to influence the proceedings of the next day. The result has been a new Constitution under whose tenure evils like corruption prevail with impunity.
The end result of all this has been in Ugandans not being true to themselves, pretence. In this sense of pretence many of us have failed to speak out against evils that would bedevil this national for life. The Baganda for example looked on in the Constituent Assembly and the issue of federo was only brought up by Hon. Cecilia Ogwal from Lango and seconded by Eresu from Teso. The belief by the Honourable Buganda delegates was that to appear nationalistic they should not spear head to fight for what Buganda cherished !! In his bitterness against UPC, Besweri Mulondo also compromised by Museveni endorsed the death of the federo issue. Where were the Baganda delegates then? They had hidden themselves in pretence and a golden opportunity not only for Buganda but for the whole country was lost!!
A similar event was when I was illegally arrested and tortured by the government. The Buganda caucus sat to consider my after and that of the Owek. Charles Peter Mayiga. Owek Medard Lubega Segona. They resolved that it would not be Hon. Hussein Kyanjo but Hon. Kaddunabbi Lubega to present the matter before Parliament because the former would be viewed as Opposition. Even when Hon. Kaddunabbi Lubega made it to the floor of Parliament, he didn’t have the motion with him claiming he had forgotten it somewhere and indeed there has never been a Parliamentary resolution on the matter. Such are the seeds of pretence.
Political pluralism has been reduced to political parties which are tribal or ethnic in nature. Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) is viewed as Lango, Democratic Party (DP) Buganda, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in a way may become a party for Eastern Uganda and may be so soon National Resistance Movement Organization (NRMO) will officially be Western. Mind you this is not a weakness of the party but one a reality the difference in aspiration by our people.
I have been labeled tribalistic for this stance but this comes through like that because I am not a hypocrite myself. As you can see I am wearing a stripped Multi- colored gomesi so can’t avoid talking about colors and their diversity. In addition I know that this Gomesi cannot be bleached for you never ever apply a bleaching agent to a coat of many colors because coats of many colors are not to be bleached. This is inherent and at the appropriate moment it will always surface. Why suppress identity with a misplaced wish for unity. In my view recorginising our diversity cannot jeopardize the unity of the Country. Ugandans must own up and answer the question asked of our generation; how do we live in peace and harmony in a country that have Kingdoms and chiefdoms? The Presently leaders seems to be occupied with answering a non- marks fetching self- set question of How to do away with what we are and live in a country without a history.
It has been said that Ankole doesn’t subscribe to traditional leadership but this was until the Omugabe Barigye approved away. His death engendered a debate from across the country on the undesirable sate of this Kingdom which many said was in need of being recognized. In fact he was given an official burial by the state; why give a man you denounced in life a state burial?
The Batoro have paid allegiance to King Oyo as thier legitimate King eeven when he ascended the throne as an infant. While drumming up support for Hon. Winnie Kiiza in the recent Kasese by-election, I realized that the Rwenzururu anthem was sung at all gatherings and rallies with a lot of passion than the national anthem of Uganda. All people of Uganda have a diversity of things dear to them and which form their identity which if not recognized, it would be evidence of bad governance in Uganda. It is after this that campaigns against poverty and other evils will be successful.
The Independence Constitution of 1962 would in the actual sense have marked the birth of the Independent nation of Uganda because it was made with a substantial spirit of responsiveness to the diversity in Uganda, then perhaps it would strengthened with relevant amendments to put all regions at the same level. My view is premised on the fact that every citizen is primarily defined in terms of their ethnicity; first then as Ugandan. One is a Musoga, Acholi, Mutooro, Langi, Vonoma, Munyoro or Muganda first then Ugandan. The Constitution was however abrogated a few years later by elements claiming to be Republican and Nationalistic. This meant from the start that the “Contractual” value in the Constitution had been breached and all transactions that would follow therein would have devastating effects on the Political and Constitutional Health of Uganda.
In view of the above wouldn’t be prudent for us to reflect on the fact that the Uganda celebrating as having been born 50 years ago may in the reality be a non existing entity or that if Uganda was born in 1962, then parents absconded on their role and or defiled own child and that it is quite absurd for such parents to celebrate this child’s birth day in pomp?
TRUE DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
Viewing Democracy and Good Governance in the eyes of an ordinary Ugandan I wish to strongly agree with C. Kaheru of CCEDU that it is time for us to start measuring democracy and good Governance through simple values like;happiness, satisfaction,fulfillment,harmony,mutual respect,love,hope,peace rather than complex philosophical terms such as Democracy, elections, multiparty system, rule of the law , transparency and accountability among others. These composite descriptions as he argued have lately become subjectively mutilated and seem to remain farfetched for the common citizen to associate with.(Daily Monitor 18 November 2011).
Any attempt to analyze Uganda now will dwell prominently on the NRM because they have been at the helm of power for more than half of the time Uganda has been Independent. Besides, we may pin it on the other past governments and as usual castigate them for many evils like civil war, dictatorship, one party rule and the violation of human rights. I am of the view that we spare them for now since we decided to punish them and we did this by rallying behind the NRA/NRM to oust them. In so doing we were entering a contract with the NRM which has since been breached.
We have seen a past of Europeans enacting laws to keep Africans from going beyond Clock Tower in Kampala and this partially formed the impetus for the quest for self rule among Ugandans. However, 50 years later, poor Ugandans are being thrown out of Kampala in “cleaning” exercises like they were garbage, purportedly to decongest the city. Even when Government should be organizing them and regulating their activities the banishment of the poor is not an issue to consider in policy reviews of the nation. No alternatives are offered for such Ugandans who seek to make an honest living.
It is true that an ordinary Ugandan will want to view independence, democracy and good governance in an ordinary manner. How does it feel for them to “kwefuga” especially if they cannot be in full control of the forces that govern their livelihood? All they are faced with are national budgets that are unintelligible to them and elections that don’t meet the basics of their creed. Free and Fair!!! Independence unfortunately becomes meaningless to them.
It is therefore not surprising that many Ugandans would rather identify with their ethnicity than their being Ugandan. They know they are members of their ethnic group naturally and collectively Ugandans with other ethnic groups artificially. They have made political decisions along such lines, for example in the seventies there was the notion of “twagala Lule oba tufa tufe”. We have witnessed celebrations such as when Tito Okello came to power. It is for that same reason that many people would rather be ruled by people of the same family line instead of elected leaders. In the same way we have seen Ugandans use their vote as condolence for a dead relative. The case of Usuk and the election of Hon Proscovia Oramait Alengot (Usuk County MP) is evidence of this. Likewise the people of Kyaddondo voted for Hon. Ssebunya Kasule after the death of his late father Dr. Kibirige Sebunya just like those of Busiro South voted for Hon. Joseph Balikuddembe after the death of Hon Patrick Musisi. In the same courage, the people of Rubaga South voted for Hon. Nampijja when her father Hon. John Ken Lukyamuzi was dropped from Parliament for not “adhering to the leadership code”. Am not saying that the members elected to replace their fathers don’t measure up to the job but what I wish to empathies is that the republican notion that “no person should ascend to office because of birth” does hold a lot of water for an ordinary Ugandan.
It is in fact surprising that if asked to take options, many Ugandans would to go back to the days of colonialism. After all many of the facilities that the British Colonial masters established are still operational and to them nothing has been added to date. The question after independence then is whether Uganda has surely been born alive, still born, born and stunted, miscarried or it is still a case of post maturity pregnancy. It should be known that If it is a post maturity pregnancy, then a normal delivery is impossible and the only option is surgery and an emergency one that must be done immediately.
THE REALITY OF INDEPENDENCE
The pertinent question today is whether national independence means anything for most citizens of Uganda. Apart from the formalities that will form the 50th Independence anniversary celebrations, October 9th 2012 should be a day to reflect about how Independent they are and resolve if they should go on living the way they have living, in the thought that they are independent. In the true sense, when the Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the Black, Yellow and Red flag that we have today, it seemed like a new dawn of self government yet it was a moment for the re-colonisation of Uganda, this time under Ugandans themselves.
At the hands of fellow Ugandans, the word and therefore state of independence have lost meaning to the ordinary Ugandan. At this rate, one fears to think even a little about the fact that we have lived 50 years of self deception since October 9th 1962. We have instead lived through budgets that have meant nothing to the ordinary citizens and been subjected to all this talk about GDP and GNP. To the ordinary man, any performance of the economy should instead reflect in their homes. This is in the ability to put food on the table for their people, maintain healthy families and educate their children. If there was a way, it would seem more reasonable for the economy to be measured in terms of happiness among the people i.e to measure the Gross National Happiness (GNH)
It is unfortunate that after half a century, many of Uganda’s citizens would rather not associate with their Motherland. It is not rare that they have sold land to be able to find a visa and an air ticket to go and try to make a living abroad. The shame in this is that not many people from Europe would do the same with Uganda as the destination on their mind. The same spirit is visible in the way Ugandans will not stop at enjoying foreign soccer at best at worst they could as well support another team playing against Uganda.
As the world races to the pace of advancements in medicine and technology, women in Uganda still give birth to babies whose fathers are alive in the banana plantations. I have come across many of these cases and I have been faced with questions during the course of my legislative duties which are hard to answer.
For instance, when I realized that in my constituency, Mukono Municipality, just a few miles away from Kampala the Capital of Uganda, women and children were dying of very preventable conditions, I decided to give up part of my Parliamentary privilege for a car and bought an ambulance to ferry such cases to referral hospitals. The ambulance owned by the district was rotting away for lack of tyres. Little did I know that this would bring me to the reality of Independence in the Ugandan sense.
At Mukono Health Centre IV, we have one resident Doctor and an operation theatre. One Nnaku Susan was admitted at the facility with labour pains only for the doctor to discover that it was already complicated and required a bigger hospital since the facility in Mukono didn’t have the necessary “equipment” for the surgery to be conducted. They lacked sucheters (Ewuuzi) The ambulance crew after a bit of deliberation with Nnaku’s relatives decided on Kawolo Hospital, 20KM away as a nearer Hospital since the distance would have an implication on the amount of fuel burnt driving her there. Nakku on her side had on 20,000/= (US $8). Kawolo is a hospital that though not very big serves four districts. The story in Kawolo was similar in that they too didn’t have the necessary equipment and none of the resident doctors was on site at the time. The other option was to drive her back past Mukono then to Mulago in Kampala but along the way; her relatives opted for the Catholic Church owned Naggalama Hospital. I left Mukono before hearing from Nakku but I wonder where she will get the 680,000/= required at Naggalama if I were in Uganda she would by now by sending me requests to contribute as her Member of Parliament.
The other case in a few days was that of one Nalongo of Nasuuti Village who was found anyway to be expecting twins and the facility at Mukono could not handle a multiple birth with complications. She was driven to Naggalama where it was found she was badly in need of blood. She was unfortunate that none of the little blood available at the mission Hospital was of her group. One of the twins also died in the process just before Nalongo was put back on the ambulance to be driven to the National Referral Hospital in Mulago. At Mulago, we were told that the person with the keys to the store where the blood was kept wasn’t anywhere to be seen so Nalongo died.
Every day I face similar cases, some people are lucky and survive others are unlucky and they die. And inside I know that it won’t be easy for me to sustain the ambulance for years and anyway an ambulance is only useful when you have good hospitals where you are delivering the patients.
I still wonder what independence would mean to these “two” Women (One dead and another one in Hospital with a huge bill to settle) and their relatives because it is only a few days ago that these things happened, at a moment when Government is embroiled in the preparations for the celebrations. It is amazing that we are celebrating 50 years of Independence at a time when Women (Official report) are dying per day while bringing life into the World.
Despite all flashy statements made and statistics presented in reference to Uganda being a “Model” economy, serious economic and political problems still afflict this nation. We seem to be haunted as a nation once again by the very mismanagement of the economy that characterized our past. As such, poverty has risen to such alarming levels that some place is Uganda are standards for poverty, where there is no per capita income to talk about. Gross inequalities have impacted on the education, employability and well being of Ugandans at a rate which is far below average. These are reflected in different poverty levels, and disparities in health and education indicators between communities and regions. The economic and social disparities are widening. Assessments on progress around the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which the government signed up to, have highlighted the unevenness of how the benefits of growth have been shared.
Levels of poverty in the rural areas are more than twice the ones in urban areas, and have fallen less rapidly in northern and eastern regions of the country, which have much higher poverty levels than the rest of the country. Unemployment and underemployment is growing, especially among the youth who should otherwise be the most productive group in society. This is made worse by the fact that many people continue to graduate from tertiary institutions annually, adding to the pool of unemployed and this situation gets worse with the majority who drop out even before reaching this level.
National unrest is growing as the cost of living keeps rising and public resources are redirected towards containing the unrest rather than addressing the underlying disparities that are causing the adversity and dissatisfaction among the populace. According to a 2012 Afro barometer survey, a considerable number of Ugandans have lost confidence; to them the future tends to get worse a situation that the government seems to have lost control over. The failure on the part of government to reduce unemployment and poverty is indicative of a grave governance crisis.
One wonders where the notion of a fundamental change stopped especially as more and more people devise means of expressing their discontent everyday as evidenced in the increased activism among the citizens and some of their leaders. It is obvious that policies have gone wrong right from the levels of formulation to implementation. Such a situation only spells further doom as peace and stability are threatened. Even when taken to task, government won’t ably present cases of the presence of sustainable rule of the law where the highhandedness of some individuals is visible in every sector of society in Uganda. An inventory of the 50 years of Uganda’s independence only uncovers inequalities that are in favor of a very small section of society.
There is no secret of the class of a favored minority amassing untold wealth due to patronage, rather than entrepreneurship. As multitudes of Ugandans wallow in persistent poverty which is even worsening by the day, there are a few who are sprawling in luxury. Government priorities for public expenditure have also featured gross insensitivity to sections of society like the teachers and health workers who earn peanuts even when they are required to be on call 24 hours, let alone the importance of the services that they offer which are imperative for any society.
Society in Uganda is now judged by the weight of the connections one has and the height of influence they can garner to push a project home. While there are tales of an economic crisis in the country, a few individuals will command the transfer of billions onto their accounts fully sanctioned by the signature of the President in apparent being compensated with hefty sums of taxpayers’ money for deceptively made contracts that have gone wrong. It beats common sense and understanding that gross mismanagement and dubious awards still find consideration on the balance sheet of the country.
The vocabulary is taking on the use of sugarcoated misusing public funds, causing financial loss and others when all we should tell the world is that corruption a stealing of public funds is the order of the day. Individuals that have been cited in such notable scandals as CHOGM thefts, Global Fund, oil deals, markets, national identity card project, bicycle deal and others at the expense of public services like health and education, and a ever soaring cost of living are walking of free or with insignificant fines that it is even evident will be paid for them by the government.
Military expenditures are increasing by the day with the leaders being captured in press statements that defense spending should be set above all including health and education where the women and children are victims. It has gone as far as government doing everything possible to vulgarize and compromise Parliament into evil schemes which is a blatant show of how the Constitution is being rendered useless and ineffective in its role as a guiding document for the nation even as we preach patriotism.
The number of Local Governments is also growing and being doubled with the view to creating jobs for some of the cadres of the ruling system even when the sustainability of these entities is not within reach. How does one explain this with an average of eighteen women dying every day due to childbirth-related complications, at a time when government spends at least $150m on treatment of top government officials abroad?
CREATE HOPE FOR THE CENTENARIANS
At this time therefore, it is imperative for us to come to terms with the bitter truth that Uganda, Independent Uganda at that has not been born yet. However, we are so fortunate to be living at a time when we can be the birth attendants to a mother that needs to be delivered safely of a Post – maturity baby called Uganda. One that we shall nurture ourselves and rear into the kind of nation we want her to be; i.e. responsive to the diversity of her people and committed to the rule of law and furtherance of any such badly needed practices as democracy and good governance. Let’s stop pretence and answer the question of our Generation, How do we live in harmony and peace with all our diversities? We must accept and embrace what we are; the United Nations of Uganda and give ourselves a constitution that recorginises this relationship. It is only then that we shall be able to leave behind a legacy and hope for our children. This we must do to make those who will celebrate Uganda’s next 50 years of independence (centenarians) proud of our Generation.