There is a struggle between Ugandans in favor of feudalism and those in favor of federalism.
Feudalism is an economic and social system of lords or kings, knights (soldiers) and serfs (peasants). It dominated European medieval period but has occurred in other societies like pre-colonial Rwanda. The center of feudalism was the king who was also a warrior supported by knights. The king centralized power in his court and owned the land which he used to compensate knights for military service. The grant of land to knights was called ‘feud’ or ‘fief’ hence feudalism.
Feudalism was marked by hierarchy of rank (lords, knights and serfs). “In fact, feudal society was marked by a vast gulf between the very few, very rich, great landholders and the mass of the poor who worked for the profit of the nobility” (Robert Stewart 2002).
Federalism (which is federo in Luganda) simply means sharing power between central and provincial or local governments, giving the latter constitutional authority to plan their development according to their endowments, history and culture.
In Uganda the group led by Yoweri Museveni is trying to solidify feudalism with Museveni as the lord with full power to dish out land to his top ranking soldiers in return for military support reminiscent of medieval Europe.
Ugandans must understand that Museveni and his Tutsi advisers knew exactly what they wanted to do and how to do it long before they launched the guerrilla war and captured power. Grabbing land from Ugandans was on top of the list. So all talk of East African community or borderless East African community has one goal – metamorphosing land control and ownership away from indigenous Ugandans to foreign Tutsi. Once Ugandans lose land and are denied functional education, we are finished.
As soon as Kampala fell to NRA/NRM in 1986, soldiers began acquiring land immediately. Nyabushozi ranches and park lands were divided up and handed over to Tutsi. In 1989, the president was presented with a complaint that soldiers were grabbing land at break neck speed. In 1990, it was agreed that Tutsi should not own land in Uganda. This decision lacked enforcement and land has continued to be grabbed. Tutsi are coming into Uganda including from as far as South Kivu with promise of getting land even as refugees, displacing indigenous Ugandans.
People who pose as Bakiga settling in Toro, Bunyoro and other parts in Uganda are Tutsi who have been arriving in Uganda since 1959 Social Revolution in Rwanda. For humanitarian reasons some Uganda leaders allowed Tutsi to occupy land temporarily until the situation improved in Rwanda so they return home. It is reported that some Tutsi that returned to Rwanda since 1994 still own land in Uganda. This is abuse of hospitality and when we complain we shouldn’t be dubbed sectarian. This is a matter of patriotism and national security and no country anywhere else would allow such abuse.
The recent decision by the prime minister that all land in Uganda would be transferred to large scale farmers is to complete a feudal system of depriving indigenous people of their land. Ugandans are hoodwinked with arguments that large scale farmers will create jobs, use land more efficiently and more productively and transform Uganda into a middle income economy and society. This isn’t true.
There is scientific evidence that small holder farmers when facilitated with infrastructure such as roads, affordable energy and telecommunications; marketing and extension services and organizations like cooperatives as well as high yielding seeds, fertilizers and irrigation they are more productive, more efficient and more environmentally and more socially friendly than large scale farmers. That is why the international community including the United Nations and the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries has decided to support small holder farming including in Uganda.
Large scale farming is highly capital intensive in all stages of farming and doesn’t create jobs. Large scale farming destroys the environment by extensive use of tractors that destroy biological diversity (fauna and flora), use a lot of fertilizers and pesticide that pollute the environment (water and soil) and replace indigenous people to create large farms. If Ugandans accept what is being proposed we shall end up with “a vast gulf between the very few, very rich, great landholders [mostly foreigners since Ugandans don’t have enough money to purchase large chunks of land] and the mass of the poor [who will be landless, jobless or massively under employed languishing in urban slums]”.
Federalism is in a way designed to stop feudalism by reducing absolute power of the president and increasing the power of provincial or district governments to manage their resources including land ownership and plan their economic, social and ecological development. Federalism is different from decentralization or any other form of governance because once decisions have been taken on how to share power under federalism those decisions are enshrined in the constitution and the central government can’t change them at will. On the other hand, decentralization enables the central government to retain vast powers over provincial or local governments through the office of the president or minister of local government and decentralized power could even be withdrawn.
The discussions on federalism culminated in the London conference held on October 27, 2012 to which UDU was invited and attended. It was a well attended conference by representatives from all the four Uganda regions and demographics (men, women and youth). The keynote address laid a good foundation upon which to build.
It was agreed that a national working committee be established to consult comprehensively with all Ugandans at home and abroad. A national convention would follow to discuss the way forward. A flexible arrangement should be worked out so that different regions are given the opportunity to choose the kind of governance system that best suits them.
It is hoped that the NRM government which so far has shown resistance to federalism will join with the rest of Ugandans in the working committee and national convention. UDU supports federalism and will participate actively in the working committee and national convention.
Secretary General & Chief Administrator, UDU