What is there to reward President Museveni with the ‘No-Age Limit’ Constitutional amendment?

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In some way, this has caused tension as well as leading to the acceleration of a riotous mood among the people especially due to the actions of the would-be keepers of the peace – the police. (Courtesy photo)

THE past couple of weeks have been filled with both pro and anti-age limit talk as well as the unwarranted arrests that have engulfed the nation.  In some way, this has caused tension as well as leading to the acceleration of a riotous mood among the people especially due to the actions of the would-be keepers of the peace – the police.

While we may assume to know under whose orders the police operates, this article is intended to scrutinize and assess the level of adherence to the NRM 10-Point Program that the current administration fronted while seeking the support of Ugandans for the then National Resistance Movement/Army, for a united protracted war against the hypocrisy of the past administrations which on paper, alleged to practice democracy, and yet the realities dictated otherwise.

After failing in the 1980 presidential election, President Museveni alongside a handful of his colleagues mobilized themselves and started a guerilla warfare whose end accounted for the change in leadership of the country, the loss of lives estimated in millions of Ugandans; and I say this because as someone with roots in Luwero, one of the 33 districts then, I know for certainty that every family lost at least one member, and some families were killed entirely.

To them, at least the outcome for such losses was the “lasting peace” that the country had finally attained. It is for this reason that many Ugandans had decidedly settled for the current administration’ leadership regardless of the bad outcomes of the system to the people’s well-being. In fact, in many rural communities in Luwero, it had been always common to hear people say, “obwavu bungi, naye tulina emirembe era twebaka ku tulo,” literally meaning; there’s a lot of poverty, but we have peace and so can sleep calmly.

Interestingly, many people do not understand that peace does not merely mean the absence of war; but also means the absence of such vices as; poverty, hunger, corruption, abuse of power, undermining the democratic principles, limits to people’s freedom and, or access to information to mention but a few since all these are catalysts for conflict which would undermine the prevalence of peace.

I will now outline and assess the success and likely failures of the current administration and in the end, offer my suggestions on why I believe that the current events are a cellar reversal to the old times the very incidents that sprung the momentum for descent. The Ten-point program was intended to “form a basis for a nationwide coalition of political and social forces that could usher in a new and better future for the long-suffering people of Uganda.” It is on this account that it would be important to contemplate on how far the country has gone as far as this statement suggests.

Democracy: The NRA/NRM at the time suggested that: Democracy in politics was not possible without a reasonable level of living for all the people of Uganda since the illiterate and the sick were too many for it. That it had been normal for the local elite pandering to the various schemes that manipulated the population with bribes, misinformation, and taking advantage of the people’s ignorance.

The NRA/NRM Suggestion was that the immediate problem of Uganda was not economic, but political, and that when political questions were mishandled, the economic problem ensued; and that unless the political question was amicably resolved, there would be no economic recovery in Uganda.

In my opinion, there has never been low political will in the country than exists today.  Political corruption is practiced widely and the president has been seen to issue envelopes (read money) to those that express loyalty to only him which I consider the exact manipulation advocated against. The opposition politicians are brutally arrested, imprisoned or detained at the pleasure of those in command.

Security: Citing the Obote and Amin regimes as having killed over 800,000 Ugandans since the country attained independence in 1962, there was a promise that as soon as NRM took power, not only would State inspired violence disappear but so would criminal violence. With democracy at the local level, a politicized army and police and absence of corruption at the top as well as interaction with the people, even criminal violence could disappear. Thereby, security of persons would be restored and so would security of legitimately earned property.

My opinion: The deaths of Ugandans from the acts of criminal activity have become a common occurrence. Deaths ranging from butayimbwa (hacking people to death by metal bars), gunshots from unsuspecting boda boda riders, rampant evictions with the help of the police personnel; and for some, acts committed by government agencies are a clear indication that this agenda has not come through.

Consolidation of National Unity and elimination of all forms of sectarianism:  That one of the principal causes of strife in Uganda and Africa in general had been lack of national unity. Not only had it enable foreign powers to colonise Africa and ensure the perpetuation of colonialism for much longer than would have been the case, but sectarianism had enabled dictators and idiots to emerge, take power illegally and perpetuate their stay in power with much greater ease. It further stated that unity was in the interests of the people and was feared by all exploiters – actual and prospective.

My opinion: Uganda faces the much looming threat of degenerating into a conflict nation due to its benefactors continued forceful (the use of the police force to arrest and detain those in opposition and not those in support) pursuit of the constitutional amendment amidst the fragile political conditions in the country. With some declaring to do whatever possible to stop the move, some pro-government individuals have threatened to use the guns (country’s military) to suppress the dissenting voices, a clear manifestation of a conflict in waiting.

Defending and consolidation National Independence: Whereas this notion explores the aspects relating to self-actualization considering the post-independence era, NRA/NRM suggested that, provided the national leadership was clear in its own mind, budgets its resources frugally, identifies the fulcrum-like points in the economy and evolves overall politics that are in consonance with the actual dynamics of the situation (as opposed to the subjectivist positions), Uganda with its good soil and climate, dynamic people with a tradition of relative civilization and considerable resources, can easily overcome its difficulties and deal profitably with countries of divergent social systems.

My opinion: With the prevalent natural resources in the country, there is no information available to the public regarding financial earnings from these resources or the distribution of such resources to foster the well-being of the nationals as well as the country’s infrastructure. Instead, any progression made, say, a reconstruction of a road, or any similar contributions have been attributed to the NRM government or the president as his personal contributions leaving many of us to ask where the revenues from such resources have been diverted to. I have often asked myself whether the consolidation meant for the administration and not for national interest.

Building an independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy: There were suggestions that the fundamental cause of under-development for Uganda was due to the structural intertwinement with the economies of the developed countries of the West on an unequal basis.

They stated that resources flew out of the country in the form of: cheap raw-materials; repatriation of high dividends on investments; payment for highly priced manufactured goods; theft of the nation’s convertible currency by a multiplicity of state officials including topmost leaders; flight of capital due to insecurity; purchase with convertible currency of items that could easily locally produced; brain drain due to scientists seeking better opportunities or simply security for their skins; wastage of labour and resources in the over production of export crops – e.g. coffee – which, being beverages, are less essential in comparison with items like grain that have a more reliable market apart from assisting our own economy in many ways including nurturing a healthy population. They suggested a shift from the then, export-import sector that exported cheap, raw materials (mainly agricultural and minerals) to the advanced capitalist countries while it imported mainly consumer goods at exorbitant prices.

My opinion: Jinja, a district we had grown up studying about as the industrialized town in the country is in shambles and its current dwellers unaware of its past glories. Much of the country’s consumed goods are still imported and limited strides have been made to invigorate the economy. Instead, traders have been faced with exorbitant taxes to support the survival of a widely corrupt system making it not only difficult for businesses to thrive, but also making it hard for many Ugandans to afford the basic necessities, hence having to choose what they may have to forego to ably make it through the day.

What is peace? To be continued…

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Rogers Muyanja is a Ugandan living in the United States of America. He works as the Employers Relations Developer for Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, an organization that assists low-income adults in realizing their full potential through literacy, employment, advocacy and community involvement.

  • Robert Atuhairwe

    Museveni’s legacy attracts divided opinion but holding power for that length of time alone is something to wonder about. How is it possible, one may ask? The answer is there-in

    • Rogers Muyanja

      Robert, you raise a very relevant question. My thought however is that; with the political upheavals our country had faced before the guerilla war that brought in President Museveni and the NRA, we had not produced a father of the nation, an attribute we had in some way awarded the president since his guerilla war was yet the only political move that supported by majority of Ugandans because they believed that everyone was to benefit from it. We are currently realizing that we had actually been duped into believing he was the real deal.