Politicians have always been the ones known to echo sentiments on secession, of late this year the Acholi members of parliament, reignited the debate on the issue, which has been treated overtime with entrenched suspicion within the ruling NRM and various sections of the country.
This writer would like to add his voice, to this intricate question that has been around as old as this country (Uganda). A section of politicians has chosen to treat this subject (secession) in ethnic lenses from Buganda’s demand for federalism and now the much touted Nile republic (stretching from northern Uganda to South Sudan).
According to Wikipedia, the term “secession” refers to separatism which includes autonomism and self determination/greater autonomy. A clear example has been the agitation by the Scottish nationalist party (SNP) which on winning a majority in the Scottish parliament in 2011, intends to hold a referendum on independence —- in the autumn of 2014.
This would mean that the 1706 treaty of union agreed upon between England and Scotland would come to an end. Meaning the later would seek self determination which is enshrined in the U.N.charter resolution 1514(XV).
The Scottish may seem to have advanced beyond issues like chronic poverty, bad governance but they too like any other society have genuine grievances, which are popular within themselves. Uganda can borrow a cue from such, since we belong to the common wealth of nations.
This does not make us act exceptional, fore stance under the federal agreement that created Uganda, on independence in 1962 between the 14 communities, could be revisited in case of dissatisfaction with the marriage that created Uganda.
Therefore the talk on separation or autonomism, should not be treated with acrimony but accepted as part of the several opportunities, that could heal certain historical problems in our country. The NRM must choose either dialogue as enshrined in article 29, of the constitution or simply repressiveness, postponing the trouble.
It has been propagated by some individuals, that if some regions are granted autonomy or semi-autonomy the country will descend into anarchy. This has been argued in a defeatist manner that seeks to silence even the slightest deliberations on a possibility of regional autonomy (federal system).
In my opinion, this would be the best model for this country. We have been at war within ourselves for over the last 50 years. From the 1962-66 till today we have endured a centralized system of government that has absorbed all resources for the ruling elites, while suffocating the county governments.
This has been coupled with endemic corruption, nepotism and incompetence at the top affecting service delivery at the lower levels of the polity. For us to cure the problems created by the powerful presidency and mal administration.
We need a paradigm shift as a country and this would be federation of the country. Those who argue for secession may not do it out of hate, greed or chauvinism but they try to give the centre chance to reform and ensure equity, effective service delivery and rule of law but much of their effort is instead misconstrued by the suspicious rulers to be anti-nationalists and myopic.
A case in point since 1986 the northern part of this country has been at war (either victims of a war they didn’t start or the perceived marginalization). Its only of recent after the cessation of hostilities between government and the LRA that normalcy started to return, but with all this, came the problem of land grabbing, nodding disease and even the little affirmative programmes geared towards alleviating social deprivation like the peace, recovery and development programme funds (PRDP) were embezzled by corrupt officials in the office of the prime minister.
Such scenarios are what motivate people, to wonder whether they should continue to be under a corrupt, unjust and intolerant NRM government? Instead they opt to determine their destiny but out of frustration amid several opportunities for reforms not forth-coming.
The Museveni administration should not abdicate its constitutional duty of ensuring that equitable development, justice and service delivery is for all. Efforts at silencing secession talk will be treating symptoms, while running away from ameliorating the injustice and maladministration.
Our elites should learn to speak from informed views, one wonders as if this country is the only one where secession is being discussed? Right next to our door step in Kenya, a nationalist group based in Mombasa is demanding separation, citing issues like unfair distribution of land.
This takes us to learn a few from embattled Mali once a vibrant democracy 5 years ago, the MNLA (Tuareg nationalist group) on citing alleged inequality waged a rebellion against the several successive governments in Bamako based on failure to address historical aspirations of the Tuareg people .
The result has been instability in that Sahel country as of late.
No one can claim that all is well in the country; due to perceived injustice it’s a danger for the political elites to celebrate oil discoveries around Albertine grabben and Amuru. in those regions the locals may feel it’s an opportunity to demand for secession, with intent to put more pressure on the centre for reforms and equity. Since they believe the corrupt who have before stolen money for malaria, tuberclusis will not spare the oil resource.