’Let Them Go’

Part XXV of these series is the second segment of a speech that President Museveni made on July 12, 2005 on the occasion of the referendum for opening up of political space in Uganda.

In the first segment of the speech, titled ‘Let them go (Mubaleke Bagende), Museveni traces the history of governance in Uganda. In the second segment of the speech, he outlines the rest of Uganda’s political journey and why he routed for those who were opposed to the Movement government to go and form their own political organisations: –

The British, before they left in 1962, organised the first multi-party elections in 1961 and 1962, which were badly organised. These elections and the parties vying for power were sectarian. By 1966, this regime had collapsed. That was the brief experiment in multi-party elections. It only lasted four years.

By 1966, Obote had resorted to the Army to maintain control. He could not wait for the elections of 1967 to arbitrate on his disagreements with Ssekabaka Mutesa. In 1971, Idi Amin, further, involved the Army into partisan politics, not to mention the usurpation of people’s authority. All these violent changes caused great haemorrhage of human lives. In the 1966 crisis, a lot of people in Buganda were killed in cold blood.

Following Amin’s coup, a lot of soldiers from Acholi and Lango, as well as a large number of elements from the elite, were killed. The economy was destroyed completely.

By 1979, there was no sugar, no soap, no paraffin, etc, in the shops nor could you get transport on the roads black market in foreign currency (kibanda) smuggling (magendo) speculation (okusamura) disappearances (okubuzaawo) kuteeka mu boot (putting people in car boots like luggage) etc were the order of the day.

We, together with other Ugandan groups, waged an eight year struggle against Idi Amin. Finally, we were joined by the Tanzanian Defence Forces and we got rid of Idi Amin in 1979. Our chance for salvation was in 1979, just before the collapse of Idi Amin. Ever since 1879 when the arrival of the different Christian factions in Uganda ignited sectarianism, the Ugandans had only had a brief chance of forming a national Uganda political force.

This was the Uganda National Congress (UNC) in 1953. That one had, eventually, collapsed. After 100 years exactly, following the ignition of sectarianism, we had a fresh chance of creating a broad-based, all inclusive, national political force. This is when we formed the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) in Moshi on March 23rd, 1979. Everybody who had belonged to any of the old factions (UPC, DP, KY) or had been independent was welcome into the UNLF.

UNLF, however, lasted only about one and a half years. In 1980, May, it was co-murdered by the leaders of DP and UPC. Our Tanzanian brothers could not, of course, detect the danger. It is very difficult for outsiders, even brothers, to accurately understand an issue.

The Banyankore have got a saying that: “entsiinda ya [seeri] tekuzibira kugwejegyera” – the groaning of a sick person in the neighbouring house does not prevent one from sleeping. In other words, it is only the people in the house where there is a sick man that do not sleep.

There is another proverb: “obusaasi bumanywa akakumu” – the pain is felt most by the injured finger. In other words, while the whole body may be aware that there is injury on one of its parts, it is only the injured part that will feel the pain the most.

Having torn up the UNLF, we went through the rigged elections of 1980. When I addressed the Movement Caucus in Parliament at Munyonyo, on the 14th of March 2005, I addressed this issue, of how the elections of 1980 were rigged. I do not want to repeat that story. It is, however, available in that speech.

FRONASA, our anti-Amin Resistance Movement, could not accept this. We launched a new phase of resistance. UPC committed horrendous criminalities in the Luwero Triangle. We stood almost alone, without any international solidarity, except for Brother Gadhaffi sending us a small consignment of weapons in August 1981, another slightly bigger one in 1985 and the late Mwalimu Nyerere giving us a sizeable consignment in September 1985.

Right from the time we ignited the war of resistance in 1981, we insisted on a non-sectarian effort. We welcomed people that had belonged to DP, CP, UPM and even UPC. We formed the NRM. We did not look at somebody’s religion, tribe, gender or race. We looked at an individual’s goodness at his merit. One of our supporters, Kanoonya, tried to opportunistically highlight UPM. We told him to stop it. When he did not, we punished him.

Eventually, we won the war in 1986. We had won the civil war, not only because we used a correct military strategy and correct tactics, but because we had applied the correct political medicine – anti-sectarianism (non-sectarianism). We captured Kampala on the 26th of January 1986. Immediately, we presented to the entirety of the people of Uganda the political medicine that we had successfully used in the bush – the medicine of non-sectarianism.

The vast majority of the people of Uganda were relieved to receive this medicine. They could see that this medicine would save them from disharmony in the villages. It would save them from oburyaane (eating each other literary interpreted) enkwe in Luganda kyame kenwa in Acholi ebele in Ateso-Karimojong, etc. The people got healed and united. A Catholic Bishop from Eastern Uganda, Bishop Wandera, once told me: “Although you are the leader of NRM, do you know much about it?”

“What do you mean Bishop?”

He said that whenever he visits his Catholic parishes and churches, he is pleasantly surprised to find Moslem men or women with their caps or head-scarves sitting in the front pews of the church because they are LC officials that had come to welcome him in the area. This, of course, was unprecedented in the more than 100 years ever since the outsiders introduced the poison of sectarianism in the name of religion.

Another very clever Moslem Cleric, Sheikh Semakula, once thanked NRM because it had reconstructed the Uganda society back into the shape God had originally created it – “Ensi wagizayo nga Katonda bwe yagitonda.”

The economy recovered between 1986 and now, it has more than tripled. In 1986, GDP was 3.5 trillion shillings as opposed to the current 14.0 trillion shillings. Health has also improved. Education has expanded. Democracy has been firmly rooted into the society. Freedom of speech is so abundant that it is verging on chaos and anarchy but [we have] to ensure the protection of individuals’ rights against the anarchic use of freedom of speech by the irresponsible elements in society.

Therefore, our bush medicine of non-sectarianism had worked well in the whole of Uganda. However, like all medicines, it started creating harmful side-effects for the patient’s body. Medicines always face two problems: the microbes becoming resistant to the medicine or creating harmful side-effects for the body. The NRM medicine had cured the body but had also started having side-effects for the body.

What were these side-effects? There were, in particular, three problems arising out of the extended use of the Movement medicine.

1. Lack of cohesion within the Movement

Although we have been electing leaders, ever since 1986, on the basis of individual merit, it was always clear that the electorate would judge the contending candidates on the basis of whether they appreciated the efficacy of the Movement medicine or not. In much of Uganda, you could not be elected if you were suspected or known to be against the Movement medicine of non-sectarianism.

This is how prominent multi-partyists were rejected by the electorate: Dr Ssemogerere, the late Dr Adonia Tiberondwa, Mr. Robert Kitariko, etc. Others could not even dare to present themselves. However, in some parts of the court, such as Lango and Acholi, this medicine was not appreciated at all. The Movement candidates would not fare well in those areas.

What was most annoying, however, was that quite a number of MPs that had been elected clearly and solely on account of their perceived loyalty to the Movement would, once in Parliament, act openly or covertly against the decisions of the Movement organs.

There is supposed to be a process of recalling an MP in case he was acting against the mandate of the electorate. This was, of course, sabotaged by the same elements. Therefore, in effect, these undisciplined and self-serving elements were trying to overthrow the authority of the people.

They were repeating what had happened in the 1960s. Many MPs had been elected as DP and KY. Once in Parliament, they changed sides and joined UPC without the authority of the people who had elected them. This betrayal by the DP and KY MPs was one of the factors that emboldened Obote to make the mistakes he made in the false belief that that would be the end of the story. They did not know that betraying the people is an unforgivable sin it is sacrilege (sacuruleego).

This betrayal caused material loss to Uganda as a country and to the Movement programmes to deliver services to the people and transform society. In particular, the delay of the Bujagali hydro-power project for seven years the killing of the Uganda Airlines and the sabotage of the National Enterprises Corporation pharmaceuticals (NEC).

The power-shortages (load shedding) we have been facing recently were caused by this internal betrayal. Constitutionally, you had no easy way to get rid of such a turn-coat. This internal disharmony also caused Movement leaders to waste a lot of time trying to ensure harmony. I remember, I had to spend a lot of hours resisting the efforts by the pro-landlord elements trying to push busuulu, which would have put our Movement supporters in the villages at a great disaantage.

Therefore, some inconsiderate elements were misusing the broad-based character of the Movement to fight the Movement and frustrate its objectives. Indeed, they succeeded in respect of the Bujagali project and others mentioned above. This was harmful side-effect number one of the NRM medicine.

2. Conscripted members

Although the NRM medicine was welcomed by the overwhelming majority of Ugandans (those who voted for me in the 1996 presidential elections were 76 per cent), there was a minority (24 per cent) who rejected this medicine consistently (in the Constituent Assembly, 1996 Presidential elections, during local Government elections, 2001 Presidential elections, etc). What do you do with such people? Remember, they are also Ugandans.

One of the Movement sons (what a pleasure to see these young boys and girls defending the Movement!!) told me that, according to democracy, the minority must submit to the majority. My view is that the principle cannot apply in all circumstances. Yes, when we go into a Presidential, Parliamentary or Local Government election, the one who wins must be upheld and the one who loses must accept.

Similarly, the majority can legislate, either through Parliamentary or Local Government election, the one who wins must be upheld and the one who loses must accept. Similarly, the majority can legislate, either through Parliament or by Referendum, to control the quality and manner of electoral competition.

The majority can, for instance, make it illegal, by legislation, to seek support from the electorate on the basis of tribe, religion, gender discrimination or race. We can put it in the law that if somebody is elected, having used those sectarian sentiments, hisher election is null and void. In these circumstances, the majority can prescribe the way political actors should behave.

However, the majority cannot and should not, persistently, deprive a Ugandan of hisher right to, if necessary, organise independently and differently. The minority, for instance, may feel that the majority are not doing enough to fight corruption, they are handling education in a wrong way, etc. These are not sectarian issues.

They are performance issues service delivery issues. If the majority, persistently, stops the minority from doing this, then the majority are making a mistake also. The Movement had wanted everybody to be under one political roof. It would have been the best. However, if somebody refuses to come along with us, it is correct that we give himher peace and we get our own peace.

3. Misrepresenting Uganda abroad

The minority that refused to accept the Movement medicine were, mainly, linked with the past criminal regimes (UPC, Amin, etc) or were part of the sectarian politics of DP. While the Movement has been using her non-sectarian medicine to repair Uganda, these elements (linked with past criminal regimes or opportunistic politics) would go outside Uganda and pretend that they are oppressed in Uganda.

“How are you oppressed?” the outsiders would ask.

“I am oppressed because I am not allowed to organise independently,” these dishonest persons would answer.

They say nothing about their past crimes or crimes of the regimes they served. There is what we call akasikirize in Luganda, akashaka in Runyankore, where wrong-doers can hide in the village so as to aance their ill-intentioned plans. You may even have some abandoned home in the village known as omushaka in one of our languages. That house can harbour wrong-doers. Such houses are, normally, broken down to deny cover to wrong-doers. We need to deny these wrong-doers the cover they have been utilising.

By 2003 when the Kyankwanzi Conference took place, I was already aware of these problems. I, therefore, recommended to the Kiyonga Committee, NEC and the National Conference that we should do one thing that will kill three birds with one stone. What are the three ‘birds’ we need to kill?

The three problems: okujegyemba (warbling, i.e. lack of cohesion) Movement caused by internal traitors so that we consolidate ourselves to give freedom to the 24 per cent that have consistently refused to accept the medicine of the Movement to seek their preferred medicine and to terminate the package of lies told abroad by those that are linked with the past crime or opportunistic politics regarding the freedom the people of Uganda have enjoyed ever since 1986.

What is the single stone that we shall use to solve the three problems? Mubaleke bagende – let them go. Tubejjeko – let us rid ourselves of the uncommitted. Then we shall be able to consolidate ourselves. As you may have noticed, this approach has already paid dividends in Parliament. The Movement Caucus is now more cohesive.

This is how they have been able to pass three important measures with big majorities: referring the opening of the political space to the Referendum the regional tier and the second Reading of opening up Article 105 (2) – ekisanja. These successes in Parliament have been a consequence of okwejjako (ridding ourselves of) the uncommitted.

These are the three reasons why we recommend that mubaleke bagende. Some people are confusing issues. Especially some of our very committed Movement supporters think that the coming Referendum is a contest between Movement and Multi-partyism.

They think that the Referendum is designed to find out what the people prefer: Movement or Multi-partyism. This in fact, is not the issue. There is no doubt that the Movement is much better than the Parties that we have ever known here in Uganda – past and present. That is why the Movement does not want to call itself “a party.”

On account of both philosophical and political reasons, the Movement supporters and leaders would feel offended if you refer to their Organisation as “a party.” We are not a “party” (ekibiina) we are Movement (omugendo). The issue, therefore, is not what is preferred: Movement or Parties. The issue, for the millions of our Movement supporters throughout Uganda and in the Diaspora, is okwejjako (rid ourselves of) the uncommitted. This is what our mobilisers should tell our supporters.

There is nothing wrong with the Movement. It is the best. The question then is: “How long should we go on with trying to wrestle (okumeggana) with the uncommitted who are forced to stay with us in the Movement because of the Ssemateeka (Constitution)? Do you want us to continue with the lack of cohesion – kujegyemba in our Movement? My answer is: No, mubaleke bagende.

Some unclear people have been making the following point: “It is good,” they say, “that the Movement which has been telling lies to the people for 19 years, have now decided to come out and tell the truth to the people.” This is nonsense! We have not been telling lies to the people on this issue.

Our anti-sectarianism medicine has cured those who wanted to be cured. However, our patience with those who do not want to be cured has run out. That is why we say: “Mubaleke bagende.”

Statements by people like Kakooza Mutale that he fears UPC should be dismissed. How can we fear UPC? According to the 1962 elections, UPC, at the height of its power, only got 50 per cent of the votes outside Buganda. They were, then, helped by the mistake of Mengo of giving 21 free Parliamentary seats to help Obote get a total 55 seats that enabled him to form the first independence Government. UPC had got 34 seats outside Buganda while DP had got 24 seats.

Soon UPC suffered defections by important areas such as Busoga, parts of the West, etc. They, then, started relying on the Army. It is this Army that NRA crushed, eventually, in 1986. How, then, can UPC be a threat? Kakooza’s interpretation is wrong.

Therefore, I would like to ask our Movement supporters to vote “Yes” in the coming Referendum so that twejjeko the uncommitted. Our slogan is mubaleke bagende – let them go. We shall, then, kwenyweza (consolidate ourselves). You should tell all our supporters to vote for the TREE. If you vote for the house, it will mean that we shall continue to be saddled with the uncommitted and, we shall, therefore, not be able to kwenyweza (consolidate ourselves).

Source : The Observer

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