Ugandans must unmask the enemy, stop fighting his / her shadow

During Uganda’s 27 years of Museveni, the opposition have battled against extension NRM’s undemocratic term beyond 1990, Federo, presidential terms’ limit, sale of UCB, Land Amendment Bill, Oil and Gas Bill, recall of parliament, State House budgets, rebel MPs, Lukwago / Musisi, Nantaba / Aronda appointments. It does not require sensory nerves to sense President Museveni’s overbearing interest in these controversies, hence, no surprises when his side won all the battles. Surprise is that the opposition lose no sleep over their successive defeat, but soldier on with undiminished gusto, regardless of the predictable outcome of the next battle. With typical Ugandan complacency, we pat each others’ back at every weak punch thrown at Museveni, including deliberate concessions he makes, like the rejection, by Parliament, of Ssebaggala and Mbabbaali for Ministerial positions! “Thanks for the struggle….” is all over the place, though nobody seeks to know “the struggle’s” destination. A walk-to-work enthusiast once said to me “…we must keep them on their toes” – and I said to myself, is that why someone’s baby died, why a poor vendor lost all her tomatoes, her life’s worth, during a demonstration, just “to keep them on their toes”?

Ugandans must unmask and face the enemy instead of fighting his shadow, which comes in the form of the above named controversies. Anyone bold enough to unmask the enemy will see “excessive power of the President”

By authority of the Constitution, the President of Uganda appoints the Vice President, Prime Minister, Ministers, Chief Justice, Justices, Judges, Ambassadors, leadership of the army, police and prisons, heads of Govt Institutions and Statutory Bodies such as the Electoral Commission, Bank Of Uganda, Uganda Revenue Authority, Permanent Secretaries, Chief Administrative Officers, RDCs, Presidential Advisors, Judicial Service Commission, Health Service Commission, Education Service Commission, Public Service Commission, Human Rights Commission, Law Reform Commission, Local Government Finance Commission, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Forestry Authority, Uganda Investment Authority, Uganda Coffee Development Authority, Uganda Cotton Authority, National Agricultural Research Organization, National Environmental Management Authority, National Planning Authority, KCCA, National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Uganda Electricity Regulatory Authority, Uganda Roads Authority, National Drug Authority, IT Authority, Insurance Regulatory Authority, NAADS, Auditor General, Inspector General of Government, Attorney General, Solicitor General, and the Oil Sector Regulatory Authority. The President constitutes the Supreme, Appeal, Constitutional and Judicature Courts. S(he) has the prerogative of mercy, keeps the key to the National Treasury…… and while holding office, is not liable to proceedings in Court!

Uganda’s Constitution entrenches patronage by anointing the President sole employer, provider and benefactor i.e. enough authority, power and influence to win any battle.

The solution to Uganda’s political problem is to trim the constitutional powers of the president, by so doing, enabling institutions to function, instead of chasing elusive mirages, as we have done these fifty years!

No-one is asking anybody to re-invent the wheel here. When the Philistines of Biblical times realized that there was more to Samson’s strength than muscle, they sent Delilah to cajole him in order to find the source of his strength and when she discovered it was his hair, defeating him was easy. A similar tale exists in Greek mythology, where, after failing to defeat Achilles, his enemies discovered that his power lay not in his punch, but in his soft heel, which they then used to destroy him, hence “Achilles’ heel”. History and legend are littered with stories of battles won only after discovering “Achilles’ heel”

Surely, if people who lived centuries ago knew the essence of unmasking and taking on the real enemy, how can Ugandans of the 21st century fight shadows for decades?

Beti Olive Kamya-Turwomwe


Uganda Federal Alliance

0783 438 201 / 0751 590 542

For the first time, someone has put her fingers on the right point – that the opposition has been fighting the right battles the wrong way i.e. focusing on form rather than the substance of what a democratic struggle should be like. And it had to be none other than Beti Kamya. While I agree with her on the prognosis, I disagree with her on the medicine. In fact Ms Kamya’s solution begs the question: why is the president so powerful? Is it because the constitution gave him those powers? Or is it because he is very powerful that he used the constitution making process to arrogate himself more powers. Indeed, the challenge for Uganda is to develop a self-enforcing constitution.

What do I mean by a self-enforcing constitution? It is one where there are strong incentives (rewards) for upholding its letter and spirit and equally severe costs (evil that would be visited upon you) for violating its rules. If it is easy and costless to remove term limits, leaders and ruling parties will do so. For example, both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton ended their second term when they were very popular and both openly said they wanted a third term. However, there was no a chance in hell that they could marshal the necessary politically weighted majority to achieve an amendment – so their statements were empty. In other words, the structural and political conditions in America do not allow an individual president to manipulate the political process to their personal advantage. This means that the challenge for Uganda is how to build the necessary political capacity to hold leaders to account. If that capacity exists through political organization and mobilization, then it will be easy to organize the constitutional movement to trim the powers of the executive.

Why has the opposition been unable to marshal sufficient political support for its objectives. First, the opposition has put the cart before the horse. Its objective has been regime change in the hope that it can re-launch the democratic agenda. Yet power cannot democratize itself. Once in power, any other leader or ruling party will find that the laws and institutions NRM has been using to retain power are an advantage to it as well. So it will not remove them. Remember Kibaki had promised to run for one term and immediately he was elected, he wanted to run for a second term. Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia had promised to run for only one term and changed her mind. So we cannot rely on the goodness of the individuals in power. Neither can we rely on laws written on a piece of paper without grounding in political reality. A law restraining a president will be meaningless if there is no capacity within society to restrain the hand of the president if he violates it. In Egypt, we are seeing the incipient signs of effective political accountability. Popular protests may be paralyzing government and making it difficult to govern the country. But they also show us that rulers in that country cannot do as they wish.

In our case, the opposition needs to make regime change a secondary objective. Its primary objective needs to be social reform – this includes political, economic and other forms of reform. The opposition needs to position itself as the spokesperson of the ordinary citizen. But our citizens are not homogenous. But in their multitudinous numbers, they have interests – as farmers, teachers, vendors, taxi drivers, small and medium scale entrepreneurs, students, unemployed youths, boda boda riders, professionals etc. By being the voice of these individual and collective interests, the opposition will convince many to join them – not in a struggle for regime change but social reform. These reforms will mean fighting the government when necessary and working and compromising with it when it is also necessary. It will also stop the opposition looking at government/NRM as “enemies” and begin looking at them as strategic allies in the advancement of the good of our citizens. This way, the opposition will be a democratic opposition that recognizes the legitimacy of the government and the need to fight it when necessary and work with it when necessary.

But most critically, by championing social reform, the opposition will be able to build an infrastructure of support within society based on people’s actual needs – wages, prices, services, etc. May be, may be, the opposition will have a chance.

Andrew M. Mwenda

Strategy and Editorial Director,

The Independent

Uncensored News, Views & Analysis

Strategy and Editorial Director

Independent Publications Limited




P.O. Box 3304

Plot 84/86 Kanjokya Street

Kampala, Uganda

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