In his recent article, Busoga’s Political Opportunities and Misfortunes from 1962-2012, Dr. Frank Nabwiso ends by helplessly asking the audience what has gone wrong! This expository paper attempts to explore some of the fundamental issues troubling Busoga region as well as Uganda. The author also examines the demise of public institutions in Uganda, the decay of public service delivery, the changing landscape and role of politics from public service delivery to a typical job and viable business. Additionally, it also predicts when NRM party will leave power, accounts for diminishing political opposition force, points out the cultural causes of stability of Busoga region and justifiably argues out the case of ‘the Basoga’ being the most peaceful world tribe. Finally, this treatise calls for recognition of non-political heros and also considers the possibility of an Eastern State in the near future as a way forward.
2.0 The illusionary independence of public institutions
The socio-economic situation in Uganda has undeniably become harder than before. It is now the law of the jungle in operation in every sphere of life-survival for the fittest! We cannot negate the fact that a significant proportion of Ugandans have lost confidence in nearly all public institutions. A good number of people use their positions to extract money from the public for survival. Public service delivery has deteriorated below satisfactory levels. Service beyond the self is now a myth!
The supposed independence of the current institutions like the Uganda Electoral commission, the Uganda Police Force and the Judiciary among others is highly disputable. It has become almost useless to run to the custodians of justice- the Courts of law for help. The Judiciary and Parliament are merely extensions of the Executive Arm of the Autocratic Government. Since both the Judiciary and electoral officials are undoubtedly public employees of the regime in power, it requires them exceptional courage to accuse the finger that feeds them. Management experts would sum it as insubordination. For they have to protect the interests as well as dance to the tunes of their masters- the Appointing Authority. Indeed, Justice has now become the advantage of those who are wealthy and politically stronger! The accuser is lucky to have her legal case be handled by a sober judge or magistrate. Frankly speaking, I have equally fallen suit!
3.0 Unabated deterioration of public service delivery in Uganda
It is normal for medical staff to demand for bribes from the already poor patients.! Drugs are stolen from some of the public health centers and transferred to private clinics for private gain. It is likely that more lives have been lost rather than saved under the rule of NRM than the regimes of fallen Presidents Obote and Amin combined! I am yet to complete a study on this and the results will definitely be made public. Most Local Governments staffs report for duty very late and leave anytime. A teacher has to be bribed to teach young children. Quality education which includes special coaching is a reserve for mainly those who can afford-the rich. In some UPE schools, children are grouped and taught according to the income levels of their parents-a system that reinforces socio-class inequalities! The posting site of a traffic officer is dependent on the size of loot they bring to the officer in charge. Apparently, the existing law doesn’t in anyway protect drivers. Insurance companies are at liberty to deny and delay victims of third party insurance their entitlements. Worse still, securing a recommendation requires an assurance from the person seeking help that they will either vote or has in the past voted such a Political Leader including even some legislators.
Gradually, new districts are mushrooming –with the chief driving factor being creation of new openings for political clowns to acquire jobs and or their sons and daughters to access the public payroll. For they need also to keep the third majority in Parliament to rubberstamp supplementary budgets and protect personal interests of the Head of the Executive. Whereas the relationship between the state and its citizens is supposed to be akin to that of a mother and her children, most of public service systems are broken down. Is it not a right for citizens to demand for restoration of political sanity and may be a break from this unabated inhuman contempt?
The level of political connections determines who finally grabs a public service job! Applicants from poor backgrounds with sometimes better qualifications have to struggle to secure loans for bribing the well-connected for Government jobs. Unfortunately, very few of them have succeeded! Even when they do, this implies that a person from a poor household will take several years servicing the debt and the unbearable interest rates, and during that time, she will not be able to help her household members. These scenarios have perpetuated poverty! The same requirements are applicable to the coveted job of the ‘Kyabazinga of Busoga’. Perhaps, if the ‘Kyabazinga’ Seat had rescinded to the poor chief of Luka County as early as 1993 may be Busoga region would currently be devoid of the internal succession wrangles
4.0 Politics as either a job or business
Politics rather than being a platform for public service is presently viewed as a quick source of wealth accumulation! What a false precedence set for the young generation. Recently politics in Uganda has been exceedingly commercialized! At every election time, we are thrown into tears as we have to witness increasingly more funeral services of true democracy. If the lax consciences of most NRM politicians were replaced beginning with the top most one and then interrogated on whether they genuinely won last year’s election, I doubt if their responses would be in the affirmative. The least they can say is to decline to comment! What they are left with is Position and ceremonial rather than authentic power!
Future leaders in Uganda are likely to comprise of well-to-do people (possibly business tycoons) who perceive politics as a lucrative profit making venture. Therefore, public service delivery may not improve as expected in the short-run. There is likely to be no room for enactment and enforcement of pro-poor policies. Unless aggressive civic education programs are designed, coordinated and implemented early enough, the pathetic situation is not likely to change in the short-run .
5.0 When will NRM relinquish power?
The question of the actual time of departure of NRM from power is not an easy one. In fact, even the co-founder as well as current head of NRM is not aware. However, he appears determined never to give up! In my view, the actual time will be exactly when the sympathy and tolerance of the common man evaporates. Because of cowardice shaped by weak civil society sector, torture, political indoctrination, extreme poverty, indirectly controlled mass media and the ugly political history, they continue to yield to the directives and erroneous actions of these forces. In addition, the neighborliness that existed during the pre-colonial era has been sent into disarray. Shockingly, many Ugandans have survived and developed a formidable resilience from the artificially fashioned social-economic hardships. To sum up, the time is just not yet ripe for the oppressed to cease listening to the empty promises of the unauthentic voices and forces. At that momentous time, we shall witness as well as crown an influx of young political martyrs. For many will die for their families and the blessed nation-the pearl of Africa. As nationalists nevertheless, we have an implicit obligation to prevent the looming and likely bloodshed, if the regime fails to relinquish the usurped power peacefully.
6.0 Why opposition leaders cross the holy political boundaries?
Being part of a political party with no soul is considerably supported rather than condoned across many societal circles. The poor people are encouraged by some circles to ‘obey the bad governments in power such that the good ones may find them alive’. Meanwhile, others plainly add, ‘if you can’t beat them, then you join them’. The basic question here that we need to be clear about is: Is it best to influence good governance from within or from without? There are so many Ugandans who have accepted admission to work with the wretched regime. No sooner than later, they are branded as either ‘political rebels’ or ‘traitors’. The driving factors of dissidence have in most cases been non-material needs; everybody requires prestige and social recognition and some individuals may achieve this through compromisingly crossing the holy political boundaries. But wait a minute! Except occupying the political positions, how many of them have actually been able to effect ‘from within’ the urgently needed change? In the end, the argument narrows down to survival rather than service delivery! Moral degeneration has not spared African opposition leaders who are supposed to set the pace.
On the other hand, the concept of political pluralism is relatively new to majority Africans and perhaps not well understood by even the elites! As a result, it is increasingly becoming more socially and legally acceptable for the political opposition members to willfully but occasionally be coerced into being ‘used like condoms’ against their communities in exchange for political and technical appointments, posh cars, houses and so forth. For all the 25 years, the regime has survived on the strategies of divide and rule as well as seduction of non- party members. By fighting to retain President Museveni in Power, this established machinery is indirectly assured of protection of the ill-gotten wealth from attack by the growing irritated, betrayed and resentful Ugandans. A clique of a few selfish individuals disguised as ‘opinion leaders’, ‘sons of historicals’ and ‘elders’ presently do influence as well as make major decisions affecting Busoga community. They live, survive and thrive on treachery and intimidation. Evidently, many of the accomplices have grown extremely rich in a very short period. It is unfortunate that they have forgotten so fast and learnt nothing from Uganda’s political history. Do they want also to end their lives miserably too?
In most of the cases, with the exception a few who fled the country, past political thieves left all the loot behind which eventually turned out to be a source of conflicts in their families and subsequent disintegration. For such property is soiled with bad blood and curses! Before God, their days are numbered. They should use the free opportunity of Ramadan which is nearly ending to repent and reverse their wrong actions. At this post-modern era, where human rights activists are never a sleep, there is no need for the tit for tat game. Poor Ugandans are more than willing to forgive them.
7.0 The Basoga are generally a peaceful people
The oppressive NRM Government owes a debt of justice to the nice and good willed people of Busoga region. We shall live to recall its crimes of brutality and willful neglect to our deprived communities. For even when we forgive them, it will be thorny to repress the ugly past- the ravages will persist onto the future. Like the secluded Jews, the Basoga urgently need to teach their children the predicament of their tribe and region.
Wars, family tensions and aggression were uncommon in the history of Busoga. The Basoga are socially and culturally orientated never to be aggressive but forgiving and receptive. The increasing cases of crime particularly defilement, domestic violence and hostility in Busoga region are largely attributed to the recent rising levels of biting poverty, persistent restlessness and disenfranchisement of the people. Revenge and violence are absolutely new phenomena in the Soga culture.
8.0 Need for recognition of fallen and serving heroes in the non-public sector
In contrast to many long serving politicians, there are a few people (out of politics) who should be recognized for having caused or made a considerable contribution to the development processes in Busoga and Uganda as a whole. Many of these heroes have left but their good works endure; while others unnoticingly continue to invest their precious time, energy and private resources into life changing situations in our community at the expense of personal pursuits.
It is of paramount importance for everyone to take the narrow path and play an active role in the liberation processes right at the family level. We urgently need to be part of the movement of many golden hearted, sympathetic, tolerant, resilient and hospitable people battling for the desired but better change. Tomorrow’s political landscape in Uganda will be shaped by our current actions.
I’m sure we will be tomorrow where our thoughts take us! We need to get out of ourselves and make a contribution to others. The words of Benson Anderson Stanley in 1904, are still relevant today. He said, “he has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much, who has enjoyed the trust of pure men, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children, who has filled his niche and accomplished his task ;who has left the world better than she found it…who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it, who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had, whose life was an inspiration, whose memory a benediction.”
9.0 The journey towards a future Eastern Federal State
The fact that Busoga sub-region is worse-off today than it was a half a century ago-is a key source of our despair. The study by Okurut et al (2002) concluded that based on the national poverty line, Northern Uganda has been found to be the poorest area in the country; it has the largest depth of poverty and the worst inequality. However, ‘Using region-specific poverty lines, Eastern region has the worst indicators of poverty . The same paper affirms Western region as the richest region in Uganda.
With this glaring evidence, the option of secession from the present Republic of Uganda instantly pops up. May be we are walking in the wrong direction! But could this be the best choice and the right time to make a complete a u-turn? In other words, is it viable to disband the existing partnership of Busoga province with the Central Government? I’m not certain! However, cumulative evidence is gradually unfolding regarding the increased effectiveness and efficiency of medium but manageable administrative units rather than larger ones.
There is also a thunderous cry for a savior (not a political opportunist) to take lead in the liberation of the once past broad-shouldered region from the artificially shaped social and psychological catastrophes.
In whatever case, it is my hope and dream that the true liberator will emerge not anywhere else but from the East. Wise people always originated from the direction where the Sun rises. For it is its turn to ascend to the presidential throne and be in the driver’s seat. This new regime will restate adherence to the true values of humanity and principles of democracy. Also, this anticipated government will deal with the arrogance of the wealthy towards the deprived and cause economic and social justice for which we are more than willing to give up our lives. It will be a government conceived, designed and managed by the people themselves to address their larger development concerns.
What next? Our immediate noble actions should not be to replace the failed State now but to establish a people centered system that aims to mold and influence Ugandans including the hard and stony hearted NRM cadres and well-known thieves of public resources into citizens who are charismatic and kind hearted towards their fellow brothers and sisters. Acting for the right intentions in whatever case is a natural, universal and divine call for everyone. In this way, our seemingly powerful, attractive and superior service delivery system will remain in the hearts of people and be passed on to the next generations. We are committed to sowing seeds and virtues of humanity- togetherness, community, hard work, generosity, resilience, transparency, inner strengths, integrity and love. By the time of death of the oppressive and dictatorial regime, there will some ruins of the foundation, on which to build a new State.
Matthias Ngobi Miti,
Former Aspirant for Member of Parliament, Butembe County, Jinja district