By Nina Mbabazi
Nina: Obote didn't see the winds of change, do we now?
In response to letters addressed to her by Drew Ddembe.
I am glad to see that I can influence you somewhat. From one NRM kid to another NRM kid (you) who has gone renegade and is enjoying it a little too much, I shall labor to answer your questions. I hope I shall not sound like I too am on the verge of going renegade although it may please you greatly if that was the case. In fact, it may please the conspiracy theorists most if I indeed joined you on the other side of renegade. Before I answer your question, I would like to state that I believe that what you should have stated wass, that if NRM of 1986 met with NRM of 2011, they would wonder in amazement if they are one and the same and an arrest would occur.
Now with regard to your letter: Letter to Nina – “If the Museveni of 1986 met the Museveni of 2011, he would shot him on sight”, I have a different take. It is true UPM the pre-cursor to NRA/M scored abysmally in the 1980 elections that were widely rigged by UPC. I mean, I was there as little as I was!
My dad lost to his cousin Hon. James Rwanyarare despite our spirited UPM songs. My uncle, the villagers would later tell me; employed serious kiboko, but with hindsight and seeing endless kichupuli kiboko story about my daddy, I say my mzee lost because he was not as popular as his cousin. Many people lost that day including Mr. Museveni who trailed with 172,000 votes.
This is almost what Chairman Mao Nobert got this time round no? That shows you; don’t give up on your preferred Presidential candidate. May be he will have better luck next time.
Unlike Suubi which was sectarian in this election, the UPM stood on principles of social justice and equality for all. Very noble causes but as the book Wars, Guns and Votes reveals, they rarely win you an election. Kizza Besigye would do well to pick up the book and read it. I am willing to lend him mine when I am done. He will automatically take a chill pill and refocus his energy. I bring Suubi up because in 2011, we have seen the re-emergence of issues that had brought the 1966 crisis to the fore of our National politricks.
Anyway, I digress. That (Suubi) was Patrick’s issue; for me, I just wish to focus on the title of your lovely letter. Let us not go down tribal politricks lines but seeing that you and I are part educated outside Uganda, we need to refocus on examining whether or not your statement is true and what the statistics tell us without resorting to calling each other names and delving in boring figures.
For starters, if we were sitting in the same room as the bush war gentlemen in 1981 at my father in laws Makindye house (Hon Mathew Rukikaire); prior to them leaving to start their mischief against President Obote; who had been declared winner and to add insult to injury, the runner up to the 1980 elections Democratic Party was sharing parliamentary space with them under the leadership of Right Honourable Butagira; I think you and I would probably give the same lecture.
Where you and I would defer would be on one particular point. You would support them to go and I would urge wisdom and planning and a clear understanding on how the numbers influence an election and the need to build grassroots structures to win the next election. For me, an election is all about numbers (never mind that the statistical data shows the falsehood of my frame of mind)
Indeed Museveni must be credited for being ahead of his time and that time seeing the booby trap that DP was landing itself into. As you have probably read, elections in Africa do not necessarily yield a leader who is the choice of the people.
It did in Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, etc; all of this after many decades of struggle and dictatorship. Elections only yield democracy after people’s rights have been abused by all leaders, that is, leaders of the legislative, executive and judicial wings of government. It is only the most depraved leaders who have a tendency of politically motivated violence and deceit, who would carry the day. However, when a decent one comes along, the population asks for all they can get and most likely, he shall only serve one term and lose miserably because honest men according to statistical data don’t win elections in the world’s poorest billion people.
They can be used though as wonderful catalysts to the change that you want. I can tell you about a governor in Nigeria who elevated the standard of living of his constituents, he reduced infant mortality rate, raised their income, and then they punished him by voting for his opponent who was dishing out soap and salt.
No goodie two shoes would thrive. This is why I think that unless Morgan Tsvangrai styles up and becomes thuggish like President Robert Mugabe, he will spend all his frigging time in between jail houses and hospitals. Anyway, don’t let President Obote’s angelic facade deceive you, he is after all the one who said in 1984/5 “ I am the custodian of your ballot” He wanted to maintain himself as the keeper of peoples ballots, and by extension of the keys to State House.
There were very many imaginative rigging techniques then. Remember Vice President Muwanga introduced the idea of different ballots boxes for different political parties in the 1985 elections that never occurred? If it had occurred, do you know how much bloodshed would have flown to ensure nobody can reach the DP ballot box? Yes, Obote was shamelessly transparent and guess what? That election would have come and gone and Uganda would have had a president. Goes to show, elections are really not a standard for democracy AT ALL. You need to examine the behavior after elections to see if you are really dealing with a democrat.
As it were, Uganda at the beginning of 1980 had a leader who had been restored to his Presidency by Tanzania but before that, he was ejected by his pitbull Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada, Ssalongo, CBE, MBE, OBE, Life President (I think those are his imaginary titles. Feel free to imagine some more).
President Obote had tinkered with the 1962 constitution and replaced rule of law with the pigeon hole constitution as my facebook note from the magazine “Transition” clearly shows. Then what happened in 1966? Waaaaiiiiiit for it,…….the UPC Secretary General Hon Grace Ibingira assisted Obote pass the detention without trial act which was meant to lock up noisy men who didn’t want to hear of the pigeon hole constitution, like Abu Mayanja, Neogy (Transition chief Editor), Binaisa, and that category. By the way, how did Professor Mazrui survive?
President Obote’s paranoia got the better of him and he in turn locked up Ibingira. It was clear in 1966 what Obote’s character traits were. Do you remember what Ibingira said in his book about this incident? (Well I didn’t remember but Charles Onyango Obbo was quick to remind me): He said “Fate is a double crosser”. Ain’t that funny?
Unfortunately for Obote, the very man whom he conspired with (Idi Amin) and raised funds to overthrow President Muteesa had realized that “entebbe ewooma”. I mean, do you remember how much money President Amin was accused of making on the Congo gold scandal? Money that facilitated the overthrow of Muteesa? The reason why Amin assassinated Hon Daudi Ochieng? So all of these characteristics were very evident before 1980 and really people still voted for him. by a landslide of 57%. Remember UPC had 73 out of 126 MP seats?
As a matter of fact, I would say opposition was strong those days. They managed to get 42% of seats in parliament. Do you remember why ordinary wanainchi accepted Obote? Because the British who funded Nyerere told them that we didn’t have another visionary leader. Forget that at that time there was a budding leader David Oyite Ojok and his Military Commission. Fate must have double crossed Ojok and all those leaders. We are lucky Ojok was not ambitious. If he were, we would have seen a new coup, but he was the definition of total loyalty to the main man Obote and the principles of why they fought Amin.
Just to recap; do you think that a leader who overthrew his own government to become President, who arrested the legislative wing of government until they passed his pigeon hole constitution would yield to free and fair elections? It was simply the entire bush group deluding themselves and giving Obote the legitimacy he needed to win. We should have arrested them at that point for being dreamers.
Now after they participated, then they wanted to go to the bush? To repeat your words; the more things change, the more things remain the same. To be honest, it is the NRM of 2011, that would shot the NRM of 1986 calling them a bunch of simpletons and treacherous because what they were planning was total treason to the state, yet a state can’t develop to first world in one day and with politically violent individuals. Rome was not built in a day but centuries.
Here is why I think NRM 2011 would finish off NRM 1986 saying development takes time. It is the wisdom you learn with age. With time, NRM has realized that not all of us citizens think the same. Some are brainer than others, some are more violent than others and some are more productive than others, some just want to kulembeka, and others want to get free lunches. What was the preamble to go to the bush? That the election was rigged and Obote was not a legitimate President. Obote was not yet a monster because he had not yet started killing people. Democracy takes centuries to build like Rome.
People had breathed a sigh of relief that Big daddy Amin with his Malyamungu were gone, but as soon as the “bandits” (for that was what Uganda newspaper archives of 1980-1985 used to refer the NRA/M members as)went to the bush after the Kabamba attack and beginning of war, the death traps of Idi Amin came back. See fear is a very bad disease. It eats at mans’ capacity to do good and he in turn becomes a monster.
Again, if only our leaders had seen this, they would have seen Uganda was following in a predictable trajectory. Did Obote underestimate the power of the bandits? I don’t think so and this is where the story changes and where I believe NRM can safeguard themselves. The winds of change were blowing and Obote didn’t see them. With mobile telephony, youtube, facebook, twitter, flickr, googlegroups, etc; the winds of change are out there and only a blind man can’t see it. Have I not digressed again? Obote, underestimated the dangers in not building systems.
You say that NRM has underestimated the current level of dissatisfaction with their leadership. I am assuming all of them because it is collective responsibility for the party right including your mummy and daddy? How can one living in this global village not see the signs? If one sees them, will they not work towards fixing the problems?
Mark you, what is happening today in Uganda is a typical cycle of development. It is just that we as Ugandans don’t know how to deal with change, but every new generation brings change. Our parents were more progressive than their parents, and we in turn are more progressive than them. They grew up in the village, we grew up in the global village (via TV) our aspirations are different, our demands different. Growth includes taking new steps and accountability.
In ancient India, a man was not considered educated until he was 45 years. This is because he would have learned astology, astronomy, mathematics, the art of governance, arts and science, etc; then they would declare him educated and he can then rule. This they did so that he can measure his decisions carefully. In Africa, we have parents that educate their kids and don’t understand that you can’t turn around to tell them to switch off their brains.
Life doesn’t work like that, but that was the African chiefs mentality so, we are experiencing cultural clashes of ideas between the generations. I think this is what happened with NRM 1986. They were on a different wavelength than Obote who was an old gentleman, so the clash was inevitable. This is the only instance that is reverse where NRM 1986 would certainly arrest NRM 2011 because the mentality change is significant.
Anyway, let us hope that your cry and those of others is loud enough for even the people who suffer from hearing impairment. Do you think your staunch NRM parents are blind to the fact that all their kids have gone renegade? Maybe it is us young people who are underestimating the capacity of the party members to read the signs. Have you thought about it in that way?
NRM and Obote cannot be the same. Obote underestimated the wisdom in “DO NOT ISOLATE YOURSELF” and “DO NOT GO TRIBAL” then add the generational gap. Our Leader Obote was in checkmate only he didn’t see it but the whole world did. This I believe was his undoing NOT the NRA that remained a rag tag army for most of 1981-1983 when things started to change for them. NRA’s strength came from Obote’s weakness.
You see, Obote knowing he had rigged the election and wanting to stay in power, made so many false moves on his chess board. If he had learned like President Mugabe how to play one armed force against the other, he would have been a formidable opponent for a little longer maybe another 5 years, except he would have nowhere to run to exile because even Zambia would not have allowed a Mugabe like leader in their country. As it is, NRA found a weakened petulant leader to use your words.
Do you remember Obote’s wrong moves? Do you remember how he arrested Ibingira, hounded Kakonge out of the country? Do you remember how he was clueless that Oyite Ojok had built a tribal army and they were all loyal to him? Do you remember how he isolated himself rather than follow the adage, “keep your friends close but your enemies even closer”? Do you remember how Bazilio Okello was more senior to Obote’s Lango tribesman Smith Apon Achak but he (Obote) bypassed him and promoted him anyway when Ojok died?
First of all, Ojok’s were very big shoes to fill, secondly, Smith was too junior and his rise to that position simply meant that a coup would be in the offing and didn’t it come to pass? Do you really remember how helpless President Obote was when Oyite Ojok died on 2nd December, 1983 and how things fell apart at that point?
Remember, that from the Military Commission days, Oyite Ojok was the defacto President of Uganda and the only one who seemed to hold it together? That is after he (Ojok) had played the worst kind of tribal politics in the army and in the Military Commission? The marginalization of other tribes was just for world cup. The Baganda were the most affected by all of this and do you recall how you Baganda in turn gave NRA/M support and became the victims of Luweero and upto today still claim that you want your big share of the National cake?
There was a formula to the toppling of Obote; It was God’s formula. A series of unrelated events worked to undermine Obote almost as though God was willing us to have a new leader. Obote was a weak leader. Fantastic at oratory but weak at keeping the country together. Change was in the air and it was his time to leave the scene.
I think with NRMs regional balancing act, which itself has limits; has managed to keep all people feeling like they have a slice of the cake, but indeed change is in the air. NRMs problem is going to come when instead of fruit cake, the population upgrades to chocolate ganache and it finds people no longer wish to eat its cake. One would think that the opposition knows that it is their job to design a whole new cake with richer ingredients?
So why do I believe this time is different from 1980? It is not that Kizza Besigye lacks the will to become the President, it is that he has too much will to become president and we Ugandans have long since become weary of such actions and fear that it they may not provide peace, prosperity and democracy. Democracy obviously doesn’t come with the elusive fundamental change.
NRM can’t fall, not unless the junior officers in the army like the colonels are disgruntled. With Obote, all colonels were loyal to their Acholi tribesmen. I am not sure if we have that kind of sentiment at colonel level, in any case, Besigye has forever assumed that they support him and yet they have never come to his rescue? Why is that do you think? Could it be that he is just wishing upon a star and that it will only be a false move on the part of NRM that causes such a move? In which case, such a scenario is very unpredictable. You can’t tell who shall win and who shall lose. As statistics show, for every successful coup in Africa, there are four unsuccessful ones.
Ugandans are therefore not willing to support such action as another bush war. We watch W2W and we want to understand if the leaders can articulate issues. Not to be condescending, but if we had many leaders who could articulate our issues, we would have built very strong institutions since 1986. As it is, they have under achieved even Besigye when he was still a Minister. I want to know what he did to ensure that demonstrators in Uganda could line up on Entebbe road, but that there were barriers to prevent them from disrupting traffic. What did he do to improve police investigative skills so as to shorten time that public prosecutors bring cases to trial? Maybe he can reinvent himself and tell us his achievements. God knows we want to hear a good story after weeks of chaos.
So the whole fundamental change speech on the steps of Parliament 1986, made us all more cynical and skeptical for political violence to bring the development that is needed by all Ugandans. Instead we want to see him (Besigye) build a strong political party with serious divergent views from NRM. He must build alternate platforms and leave that as his legacy. When opposition retakes 42% of Parliament, then we shall praise his good work.
I know you say that why do we take the speck out of Besigye’s eye when NRM have a whole truckload of logs in theirs. We shall demand for greater performance on NRM side, but while you are being neutral, don’t assume that neutrality is criticizing NRM only; You have to take up a stand to help Besigye build strong opposition institutions. See our generation does not belong to the school of thought who voted and campaigned for multipartism just to make donors happy, we really want to walk by what we believe. That would be our version of “fundamental change”. See this is why for me, I am rolling over with laughter because me and 7% of all Ugandans voted best in the referendum. We chose the Movement system knowing full well, that some of our leaders would find it hard to operate in a multi platform setting and would resort to tribalism, bribery, etc.
Are young Ugandans frustrated by the fact that the government right now does not seem to be aware that to prevent them from hitting the streets and burning tyres (as we saw on NTV), they would have to seriously create upto 1M jobs a year? An insurmountable task for any African but imagine if they could do it? Do they know that we look to Rwanda and ask why they (tiny Rwanda) can have pothole free roads while we don’t?
Maybe as statistics also point out, it is because Rwanda is a dictatorship. Any dissenters are locked up for good measure under the guise of “inciting for genocide”. The advantage to that is, Kagame then has time to focus on work rather than endless verbal and political battles. But,…BUT,….Uganda never chose an autocracy, we chose democracy and as statistics also show, democracy among the world’s bottom billion only works to increase infant mortality, poverty and poor government performance and any attempt to move to dictatorship only accelerates regime change so leaders are caught in a dilemma. Perform and get voted out, or permanently impoverish your people. There are a few cases where democracy has brought development but those are in the countries with term limits which you don’t have.
You and I really had a go at each other before elections about Mulago. If you need a clear example of the dangers of democracy among the world’s poorest, go to Mulago. Yes, unlike you who has your babies abroad, some of us who have not gone renegade still have to use the service of Mulago. Although just stepping there many times has almost pushed me over the boundary to the renegade side.
Oh dear, I digress again. We are speaking on legitimacy and elections right? Uganda has 13.2M voters roughly. Only 59% showed up to vote. What we should be examining is why did the other 41% stay home. This does not give Besigye legitimacy to demand for a fresh election. Let us look at the numbers and understand what they really mean. If jointly opposition got 2.5M ballots making it about 30% (Besigye and others), when looked at against the total voters, their percentage drops to 19%. Likewise NRMs final score was 68% but when looked at compared to all 13.2M voters it was really 41%.
This percentage is a sign that there must be a policy shift to engage and dialogue with ordinary Ugandans. In other words, the fruit cake is no longer appreciated and NRM 1986 would see it and sound an alarm here which NRM 2011 should do well to heed.
NRM needs to upgrade to chocolate ganache or black forest gateaux because omulimo will become abysmal if they stay with the fruit cake. another thing the book War, Guns and Votes taught me, is that statistics prove that you can only impoverish your population on time, after that, it is performance which means bye bye or violence which means quicker bye bye. Either way, Jasmine train seems to know its trajectory.
The opposition is weak, but the voter turnout drop has to be examined. What caused it? Interestingly the same Afrobarometer poll that showed NRM victory at over 62% also showed that over 50% people believed that elections didn’t mean anything in terms of enjoyment of the democracy. A high number also believed that elections were commercialized. The Ugandan population has come to the realization that elections do not guarantee prosperity. How about Kizza Besigye chews on that paradox for a second and sees how to move Uganda back to 42% opposition?
So to conclude, Obote always overthrew the constitutional order to have his way, He did it in 1962, he did it again in 1980. NRM has stuck to their promise of democracy and elections but with mixed results on prosperity. I think what we need to discuss is what next?
Can we examine whether or not elections and multipartism can bring us from low income to first world. I believe that democracy alone can’t do this. It requires system build up, it requires confidence in the systems’ ability to work and whether or not we are committed to making it work.
I like that your parents went to Kololo for the swearing in but I guess despite their support, NRM is outnumbered in your household alone but let us be honest.; it is not because you support Besigye, but that you are fed up of the perceived status quo of failed government policy and the refusal to listen to the people.
Can I just highlight Nigeria here for a second (or maybe two minutes)? President Obasanjo never wanted to leave the chair. Anti, entebbe ewooma! So when the time came to look past him, he started the shenanigans of removing term limits. This President had built a strong robust economy. Nigerians worldwide were proud to call themselves Nigerians, but others in his party also had other plans, so they defeated his plans. Do you know what saved Nigeria from turning into an Obote state? It was Obasanjo himself. He immediately shifted his Finance minister (a strong no nonsense woman) to another Ministry because he had to plunder the treasury to sell an otherwise unsellable Umaru Yar Adua. As fate would have it, Nigeria is a shining star now, not by luck but by that saying “fate is a double crosser”. It was not Nigeria’s fate to be without fault and when they went on the anti corruption route, it was the corruption route that saved them from anarchy.
Anyway, back to the NRA and its transformation to what it is today. It seems to me that in 1985 the winning formula was the introduction of the LC system. For once Ugandans felt that their views were heard. Unfortunately the Rubaramira Ruranga 2006 law suit made the LCs ineffective and no funds ensured no vote in five years.. Now notice I say LC not NRM structures for the two are different totally.
Without an active LC system, grassroots corruption which is far more dangerous that public service corruption crept in. People have to pay the LC who was not elected 10,000 or more just for an introduction letter. People had to pay the LC to settle rape cases and such matters. Justice was for hire, you know the story. This I believe is what pushed the voter turnout to be the lowest it has ever been but I could be wrong. I am working under the assumption that people are more concerned about their community governance than National.
The problem with low voter turnout is that statistically, all evidence points to increased political violence in elections to come. It also points to increased commercialization with elections to come, it certainly points to a voting category of people who are not ideologically grounded so they will vote for their favorite who may not necessarily support the party principles and then the party becomes more unmanageable because various competing forces are in place. I am sure you may have heard of people who sold cows to win the LC1 Chairmanship primary. What do you think he/she is going to do to get that cow back? Yupe you guessed it!
NRM in 1985 which controlled many areas introduced the LC system where people could go and be heard. People found them a breath of fresh air because they listened. This is why archives show us areas under the control of NRA/M in 1985 were more stable than other parts of the country at that point.
Over time, in the politics of the worlds’ poorest nations, extremists take center stage and make the various parties about choosing us or them or you are either with us or them and by so doing they turn the parties into organizations that don’t listen. By so doing they have make them look like they are coming apart at the seams, but I am sure with countless renegades world over like yourself (oh yes, please don’t think you are the only one. It seems renegade waters exist in all countries), these renegades will all wake up and hopefully bake a chocolate ganache. Those renegades go by the name foresight.
In other words, NRM needs to go out looking for “foresight” because foresight is out of sight. He has gone AWOL. It is time we looked for that renegade “foresight” and put him under house arrest and tell him to bake us a cake. Who would shoot who for foresight? We can only wait for time to reveal this to us.