My friend Angela has been an ardent supporter of Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Party and has together with her husband vigorously campaigned for Dr. Besigye and Honourable Jack Sabiiti in three past elections. In a sudden twist of events, she recently met me and told me she had defected to the Museveni camp.
“Mwaana nyowe nabiire owa Museveni; yayenda ategyeke, nomwana weye hamwe nomwijukuru” (I have become Museveni’s supporter; let him reign and thereafter, his son and grandson) she told me.
Reason? She was exasperated by some elites from Buganda who had travelled with her in a taxi and vowed to ruthlessly crush all westerners should Museveni quit power. When she reportedly said she has never supported Museveni, the other passengers reportedly told her: “Twala eli, silika; tubammanyi, mwenna mufanagana” (That is: shut up, we know you, you are all similar).
I understand Angela’s exasperation with the anti-Museveni camp especially those from outside western Uganda. I have personally been stigmatised, abused and suspected by my would-be allies because I hail from Ankole. However, I told her: “That’s the most important reason why you should strongly oppose Museveni and dissuade many people from supporting him.” She strongly refused to accept my reasoning.
We are all losers
It is amazing to note that despite the fact that the most acerbic critics of the NRM and Museveni are from the west, many non-westerners have not appreciated the fact that the west as a region has lost almost as much as the other regions during Museveni’s regime. During currency reform, all Ugandans lost 30% of their money. When banks were raided by the bush war fighters, all Ugandans lost. The adoption of SAPs and the botched privatisation policy made all of us losers. When cooperatives died, the Banyankole Kweterana also died. When Government sanctioned the increment of fees in public universities up to 126% in August 2009, some Banyankole and Bakiga children dropped out of school.
We have people who naively think that when there are no drugs in the national referral hospital at Mulago, western regional referral hospitals and other health centres in the west have drugs. That’s an illusion. There are people who naively think that children of the Bakiga and Banyankole (who by the way are like identical if not Siamese twins) access statehouse scholarships.There are people who think that corruption is a project by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party aimed at enriching the westerners. Some people believe that all westerners that oppose Museveni are implanted into the opposition as spies and they call them ISO operatives. I know of some friends in Uganda Young Democrats (UYD), a youth wing of the Democratic Party who used to think I was an ISO operative. I also know that many of the UYDs knew that I was genuinely opposed to injustice and that I cherished principles of truth and justice – principles espoused by the Democratic Party.
On Monday 14th November, I had a discussion with Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Ibin Ssenkumbi. “As a person from Ankole, you even have a road paved up to your home; you went to Makerere University on government sponsorship; you are favoured and you shouldn’t criticise this government,” he told me.
Sadly, that’s many Ugandans’ mentality. I never wasted time refuting those allegations. I told him that that was the more reason why I criticise the ruling establishment. It has divided Ugandans. I cherish social justice, economic justice and equal opportunity.
All Ugandans should access quality education, quality healthcare and decent standards of living. They should be equal before the law. None should fail to get legal representation. If Nuwagaba, a son of peasants from Kanyabwanga and Bitereko in Bushenyi has a Master’s degree, he should stand equal chances of getting opportunities as, say, Francis Musinguzi Otafiire, a son of a minister. If they apply for a job, it should be given on meritocracy basis. If there are two people with similar credentials who put in similar effort at work, they should be paid an equal amount of money regardless of what departments they work for – that’s equal pay for equal value of work.
Scholarships should be given on the basis of merit and need. Shockingly, in Uganda scholarships are given to ministers’ children and foreigners.When the Banyarwanda of Uganda go to Rwanda, they remain Banyarwanda. When those from Rwanda come to Uganda, they become Ugandans. Many Banyarwanda are getting State House scholarships. Recently, a young man found me in some Makerere university professor’s office and bragged of how he was not bothered with tuition because he was on a State House scholarship. After his departure, the professor told me in Runyankole: “Mbwenu ebi nenki, kushanga imwe muremirwe fees, emishoro yaitu neshashurira abanyarwanda.” Literally, this translated to mean:, “What is this? You people fail to raise fees when our taxes are used to pay fees for Rwandans?”
These developments annoy Banyankole, Bakiga, Banyoro, and Batooro as much as they annoy all other Ugandans. It’s morally repugnant and politically imprudent that we westerners can be targeted for extermination just because we are westerners. In any case, we didn’t apply to be westerners.
Piece of advice
I have a word for those who make inflammatory statements about westerners. All Ugandans are accommodative. The Baganda have accommodated all Ugandan ethnic groups, including foreigners. If President Museveni or my area MP Otafiire wronged anyone, what does it have to do with me? Is it criminal to come from the same region with the president and other political rulers?
While studying the unification of Germany and Italy, I learnt that Germany and Italy, faced with similar problems, had to adopt similar means to solve them. Likewise, Ugandans face similar problems of poverty, graduate unemployment, corruption, a collapsed healthcare system; a disoriented education system; unjust and selective criminal justice system; meager wages for workers resulting into the phenomenon of the working poor, and general misery instead of general happiness. We can only solve them by focusing on things that unite us rather than those that disunite us.
Let’s focus on things over which we have control such as ideological paradigms - not those over which we cannot have control such as ethnicity. We must preach and practice love, unity, justice, transparency, honesty and brotherhood. Lyandro Komakech and Opobo Wilfred from Acholiland helped me so much while at campus; Asuman Basalirwa has always been there for me when the state attempts to dump me in Luzira; Livingstone Sewanyana gave me a job that helped me pay my tuition. So many Acholi, Iteso, Karamajong, Baganda, and Basoga have been there for me. Likewise Banyankole, Bakiga, Batooro, Banyoro have stood by me. I don’t think they do that because I am from their region but because I am a human being entitled to an inherent right to human dignity. We should harness our cultural and ethnic differences to enrich our society. Why can’t we advocate intermarriages so as to stop inbreeding and ensure producing real Ugandans?
To Angela and all my brothers and sisters from Ankole, Kigezi, Mpororo, Tooro, Bunyoro and Bukonzo, if we support Museveni, we will only postpone the danger but will make it real at any time. Accordingly, we should be the vanguards of opposing NRM’s injustices. I am sure, before Museveni, Uganda was not polarized along ethnic lines. We had many northerners and easterners study from the west, westerners study from the north, east and central and that enhanced social and political cohesion in spite of cultural diversity. From my own district Bushenyi during Obote II regime, we had five ministers – Edward Rurangaranga, Cris Rwakasiisi, Adonia Tiberondwa, Yonasani Kanyomozi, Ephraim Kamuntu and we had other key government figures.
Tell me any single district outside western Uganda with three ministers. Surprisingly, those ministers hardly help westerners. They only endanger us. When Obote lost power, the Luo suffered; when Amin lost power, the Kakwa and Nubians reportedly suffered. We as westerners shouldn’t suffer after Museveni has lost power. We can forestall the suffering when we distance ourselves from him as his government commits atrocities. For God and my country!
By Vincent Nuwagaba.
The author is a blogger at http://www.vnuwagaba.blogspot.com/ and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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