Opinion | Uganda will need another transition by Moses Khisa

Posted May 5, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 6,028 views



Weekly Observer — Last week, a leading member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) told me he fully agrees that the country has gone ‘astray and needs to be redirected’.

This view is held by Ugandans across the political divide, including those in support and who are direct beneficiaries of the current regime, and those in opposition. In a word, there is some minimum consensus, at the very least.

What hasn’t yet garnered sufficient consensus is what needs to be done to turn around the country. Many Ugandans, especially the middle class, demur the suggestion of change of leadership at the top, arguing, instead, that mere change of personnel cannot deliver structural and institutional change. There is valid skepticism in this argument. But there is also a great deal of escapism.

The escapism is in shying away from confronting the problem head-on even when it is staring in our faces so conspicuously. It is inconceivable how there can be a change of direction for our country without a change of the top leadership.

Let’s face it, General Museveni has presided over a decidedly-corrupt and highly-incompetent government. The longer he has held fort, the more rotten the system has become.

It is General Museveni who must take ultimate responsibility, precisely because he is the chief executive. There can’t be two ways to it. Whoever else comes into power will be held to the same standard; you are in charge and the system rots under your watch, it is you we, as citizens, must hold responsible.

The challenge at hand, therefore, for all who stand for change is to marshal resources and bring together forces to free the country from the rule of General Museveni, who has become so convinced that he alone knows what the country needs. How this change should be realized is a matter that should occupy the minds of all progressive-minded Ugandans without prejudice to class, ethnicity, region or religion.

It’s apparent that the current electoral system cannot permit free, fair, credible, and transparent elections for the president of Uganda. There must be a big overhaul in the electoral mechanism and the legal regime governing elections if we are to have an election whose outcome will be credible and, therefore, acceptable to all.

But it is also clear that General Museveni and his courtiers remain adamant to ceding ground for meaningful electoral reform because they are clever enough to know that reforming the electoral system means paving way for their likely defeat! Yet for those aspiring for change, planning and preparing for 2016 elections without pushing for electoral reforms is to be naively over-optimistic.

Should boycott be an option? No, because it never achieves anything transformational. Ethiopian opposition parties burnt their fingers in 2005 when they attempted a boycott. Only recently, with the opposition boycotting elections, Sudan’s General Omar El-Bashir coasted to a 94 per cent ‘victory.’

While a boycott would be ill-thought, Uganda’s opposition forces, nevertheless, cannot afford to once again escort General Museveni to the polls and continue to legitimize his misrule. But they should also not sit idly and wait for a miracle from heaven.

The starting point is to mount a united front and speak collectively about the change we deserve as a country and how we want to realize it. Secondly, a framework of engagement must be worked out through which forces for change can work and a new post-Museveni Uganda reimagined and popularized.

But getting Museveni out of power will be just the start of a long and onerous process of redirecting the country on a path that will serve the interests of majority Ugandans and not the narrow agendas of those holding state power.

This process of redirecting the country, as far as I can see, will inevitably entail a transitional period, during which time, a government of national unity will work out the necessary legal and constitutional changes to usher in a new government where the will of the people, and not the rulers’, will prevail.

Although having a national unity government will be a key sine qua non to establishing an acceptable and democratic system going forward, it will be the same old blunder if the unity government will merely mean an elite power-sharing arrangement – where positions will be shared and a new crop of players get their ‘chance to eat.’

Instead, the post-Museveni government of national unity must be comprised of competent, eminent, and credible Ugandans chosen not because they represent a certain ethnicity or religious belief but because they can diligently and selflessly serve the country. It must also be a lean government whose primary task is streamlining and rationalizing the running of public affairs away from the current nepotistic and bloated system.

If we make the mistake of returning to the ‘broad-based’ politics of 1986, and have individuals given ministerial appointments because they supposedly represent certain constituencies, we shall be recasting the same patrimonial rule, which ultimately and inevitably produces a corrupted, bloated, and incompetent public sector – rent-seeking and corruptly-living off the tax payer.

The author is a PhD  candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University, Evanston/Chicago-USA

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

One Comment


    Well said. We need to control foreign investment gone soo bad that the wealthiest few in Ug are European and Asian making decisions about what Ugandans need ie our education, healthcare, social & economic livelihoods and land use! They can even get to be mayors after only a few years as residents. Don’t think a Ugandan can just become MP or mayor in Asia or Europe. Or anyone with money can build a university in the middle of a residential area next to local homes! Only in Ug it seems Nobody seems to be in charge of protecting the rights of the everyday day guy ie the voter.
    Our leader’s article on alshabab terror criminals has some curious messages about training the pples army!

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