By Muhimbise George.
Looking at the ongoing conflict in Sudan that has left hundreds dead and properties worth billions destroyed gets me to think deeply about the future of Uganda especially the post Museveni era. What pains most is that even the international community – the so called “development partners” are evacuating their people from Khartoum leaving the Sudanese people to taste the ugly part of this conflict!
As I ponder about this I remember the crisis that followed the post Gaddafi era in Libya, post Mubarak era in Egypt, post Siad Bare era in Somalia, post Compaure era in Burkina Faso, post Habyarimana era in Rwanda and post Mobutu era in DRC! Indeed in Africa we seem to learn nothing and forget nothing!
The bitter truth is that leaders who overstay in power leave behind very weak state institutions. They become strongmen in power at the expense of state institutions. These institutions are incapable of holding the country together when the strongman leaves power because they are essentially built to serve his interests. They are founded on patronage, intrigue and divide & rule!
Uganda has an opportunity to learn from all those countries for it to manage it’s transition better. However, looking at them it appears that violence or uprisings may not be viable methods to bring about the desired change since they have proven to be counterproductive in many respects.
It’s worthy to note that whereas a desperate population may unconsciously desire “any change”, this may be a mere desire or want and not a need. The real need of any population aught to be a qualitative change. A change that not only sustains the gains made but also one that brings new opportunities and hope for the country.
Sadly the changes of regimes of Mobutu, Hosni Mubarak, Bashir, Gaddafi, Said Bare, Compaure etc brought false hope. They brought more pain than hope and more problems than solutions! This means that we should not just agitate for “any change” but rather a qualitative change.
So what direction should Uganda take? How do we bring about change but also sustain the peace and stability that we have? How do we get a change that creates opportunities for Ugandans without endangering the achievements so far made?
There are two schools of thought. The first one is for the radicals who argue that citizens should come together and wrestle power from Gen Museveni. The other one is that of the moderates who think that the elite on behalf of citizens should dialogue with Gen Museveni and negotiate a transition.
The approach of the radiclals has been tested in the countries mentioned above, it has delivered some change, shortlived hope and then tyranny while the approach of moderates worked in Kenya (post Moi), Ghana (post Rollings) and Zimbabwe partly (post Mugabe). This delivered some relative qualitative change but most importantly helped to avoid anarchy and turmoil in these countries!
So what’s the way forward for Uganda? Will Ugandans wrestle power from Museveni’s hands through a revolution? Will Gen Museveni look on as power is being wrestled from his hands? Will he lay a red carpet for the opposition to walk him out of state house? Will he fight back as he has always done to any violent attempts to challenge his power? If he is to fight back how much damage will Uganda face? Won’t the ordinary Ugandans be the collateral damage just like the grass suffer whenever two elephants fight?
Looking at the volatile neighborhood & insecurity in the region (South Sudan, Ethiopia, now Sudan, DRC, Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic etc) what would happen if Uganda plunged itself into violence? Where would close to 1.5m refugees in Uganda run to? Where would Ugandans themselves run to?
With the current insecurity in the greater North resulting from cattle rustling by the Karamojong, what would happen if there is anarchy and absence of state? Imagine an insurgency of cattle rustlers coming from Turkana region all through Karamoja and spreading through Acholi, Lango, Bugisu & Teso, and then firearms moving freely through South Sudan and DRC, then ADF coming through South Western Uganda etc, wouldnt Uganda become a corktail of violence?
Let’s look at the best case scenario that the opposition successfully wrestles power from Gen Museveni, would it have a minimum consensus on how to govern thereafter or would there be internal fights like it has happened in Libya, Egypt, Sudan etc?
Why is it that todate there is no platform where NUP, FDC, DP, ANT, UPC etc meet to discuss national issues and atleast build a minimum consensus on national issues irrespective of their ideological or strategic differences? If the opposition can’t build a minimum consensus during “hunting” will they build this consensus during eating?
What if we tried dialogue what would happen?
We have a radicle opposition that take dialogue for co-optation or compromise and this makes it hard for any opposition leader to take part in any dialogue.
Looking at this, can we define the role of the population in defining our country’s destiny? Does a peasant population in a poor third or “sad” world country have “real” stake in how their country is managed? Do they have a level of political consciousness that can make them determine the trajectory of their country? Is the role of leaders to follow their population (populism) or is it to guide the population (leadership)?
Looking at the above questions, it appears that dialogue maybe the most viable option for Uganda. Dialogue may create a win win situation for all parties and may create some hope.
As we head for 2026 general elections which is moreless a determined game the opposition should build momentum for a national dialogue. It could be painful but it’s more safe as compared to other available alternatives!
Muhimbise George muhimbiseg
The author is a political analyst
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