Up to 1990, the insecurity in Africa was, in part, being caused by colonialism. When the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) was founded in 1963, only 36 countries attended the founding conference. The rest of the present 54 countries were still under colonialism. That OAU Conference resolved, among other decisions, to liberate the whole continent, by force if necessary. Supported by some few African countries, the socialist countries and some progressive countries and forces in the West, the African Liberation Movements, by 1974, a mere 11 years after the 1963 Addis Ababa Conference, were able to inflict defeat on the Portuguese Empire in Africa, leading to the Independence of Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau. By 1994, the whole of Africa had been liberated. Indeed, Southern Africa, which was the last to be liberated is now the most peaceful except for some isolated remnants of actions such as those of Renamo in Mozambique.
In other parts of the continent, however, there is quite a lot of insecurity. I do not have to enumerate the areas. Many peace conferences are held to address these conflicts, including this one in Bamako. I, however, always feel concerned because these conferences tend to address the consequences of these conflicts rather than the causes. They address wars, coup d’états, election results disagreements, sometimes total breakdowns of state structures, etc
The question, however, is: “What is the cause of these endless conflicts and upheavals?” Our observation of the last 55 years, starting with the Congo crisis of 1960 but without forgetting the earlier problems, is that the main problem in Africa is ideological. The political elite, many of them acting on behalf of foreign interests, have failed to determine what is more important: interest or identity. What is more important ─ identity of groups or interests of those particular groups? The correct answer is that interests are always more important than identity. However, sometimes, identity is also important ─ not to the exclusion of interests but important enough to become a main problem. When the Whites in South Africa said that Black people could not vote and, along with dogs, could not enter certain hotels, then identity had become a major problem. Our brother country, the Sudan (the old Sudan), faced the issue of identity. Was it Arab or was it African? Was it Islamic or Christian? That question, among others, was at the root of the civil war that broke out immediately after Independence.
Our brother peoples of the Sudan have been trying to deal with that issue and the efforts are going on. Somebody seeking to eclipse or obliterate the identity of any of our African peoples is to commit a crime against humanity. In Uganda’s case, we had alot of turmoil and lost 800,000 people killed extra-judicially on account of those ideological mistakes. The manipulation was to create conflicts among the tribes and the religious denominations: Baganda vs Banyoro, Catholics vs Protestants, Christians vs Moslems etc.
Therefore, in the cases where our people are persecuted for their identity by chauvinists of any description (religious, racial or tribal sectarianism and chauvinism), we must take a principled position and oppose the mistake makers.
Nevertheless, much of the chaos in Africa and, indeed, in other parts of the world, is not caused by the legitimate struggle for defending identity threatened by chauvinism, but, rather, by opportunists manipulating identity and totally forgetting about the peoples interests. What are the legitimate interests of the people? The major interests are: prosperity and security. Prosperity involves dealing with the 10 strategic bottlenecks we have identified in Uganda. These are:
(i) Ideological disorientation;
(ii) A weak State, especially the Army, that needs strengthening;
(iii) Under-developed infrastructure (the railways, the roads, the electricity, the telephones, piped water, etc.);
(iv) The underdevelopment of the human resource (lack of education and poor health for the population);
(v) Interfering with the private sector (either by policy or by corruption);
(vi) A fragmented African market on account of colonialism;
(vii) Exporting unprocessed raw materials and, therefore, getting little money and losing jobs; this is caused by lack of industrialization;
(viii) The underdevelopment of the services sector (hotels, banking, transport, insurance, etc.);
(ix) The underdevelopment of agriculture;
(x) The attack on democracy.
The 10 strategic bottlenecks include the pseudo-ideology of sectarianism as bottleneck number one described as “ideological disorientation.” Except where identity is threatened by chauvinism, emphasizing identity or trying to manipulate that issue for politics and popular support, is a false step. It forgets about the real interests of the people. I am a cattle keeper from the savannah part of the Great Lakes region of Africa. First of all, within the savannah areas, there were job specialization castes of cultivators, cattle-keepers, blacksmiths (Abaheesi), textiles people (Abakomagyi), ceramics people (Abanogoozi), etc. etc. These groups, invariably and without exception, depend on each other. Cattle-keepers buy crops, beverages, alcohol etc, from the cultivators. Cultivators, get ghee, milk, meat, leather (skins and hides), etc., from the cattle-keepers. Especially in the past, with a low-level of technology, to keep cattle and seriously grow crops at the same time, was very difficult. Therefore, specialization and symbiosis was correct and efficient in the circumstances. All the groups would buy iron products from the Baheesi (blacksmiths), pottery items from the Banogoozi (ceramics people), textiles from the Bakomagyi (bark cloth makers). The bark cloth were called embugu or ebitooma. This barter trade was called okuchurika.
The exchange of goods and services among the people of the savannah notwithstanding, the savannah people, additionally, in order to improve their lives, had to exchange goods and services with the peoples of the forest (present day Congo), the peoples of the mountains (Rwenzori, Elgon) and the Kigyezi Highlands) and the peoples of the Indian Ocean Coast (Zanzibar, Tanganyika, present day Tanzania). Out of the forest, the savannah people were getting copper, Ivory, giraffe hair products (amooshe) and, sometimes, iron products while from the coast we were getting textiles, guns and gun-powder, glass beads (enkwaanzi) from Mesopotamia and cowries-shells (ensiimbi) that we were using as money. Up to today, money (modern paper money) is called ensiimbi (cowries-shells).
Therefore, since time immemorial, the peoples of the Great Lakes, the Congo forest, the mountains of Central Africa and the Indian Ocean coast, were depending on one another. It was the ego-centric chiefs that interfered with this inter-dependence by trying to maintain fiefdoms over their people and inflicting extortions on the very useful long distance travellers. It is these chiefs that weakened us from within and caused us to be colonized. If the people of the Great Lakes had combined, we would have defeated any colonizer.
That was in the past. Even at that time, the need for interdependence was clear. That logic was betrayed by the ego-centric chiefs that failed to unite our people and promoted fratricidal conflicts. Today, the logic is even clearer. With modern industrial and commercial production, you need big markets. Being a cattle-keeper, I produce milk, beef and leather. I also produce bananas, coffee, tea, cassava, fruits etc. The people in my area do not buy my products because they produce the same products.
The complementarity among the people of my area in terms of the exchange of goods and services is very low because those most industrious people produce similar products. The saviors of the people of the savannah are, therefore, the people of Kampala and beyond (Kampala is in what would have been forest zone if it was not for human settlement). It is those people of the cities of Uganda and the other parts of East Africa that buy products of my area. It is them that are responsible for the prosperity of my area. The people of Kampala are also benefitting from the savannah area. Many Kampala people are traders or manufacturers. They sell their products to the people of the savannah.
The Kampala hotel owners accommodate hundreds of thousands of tourists destined for the National Parks in the savannah area. The wider East Africa sells products to Uganda including the savannah area. Kenya sells to Uganda goods and services worth US$ 600 million per annum.
The people of Uganda, the people of East Africa support one another’s prosperity. On account of the people of Uganda, the people of East Africa and the people of the world buying my products, I am able to build a good house, to buy a car, to support my children’s education, etc., etc.
That is why my ideology is patriotism within Uganda (as opposed to sectarianism) and Pan-Africanism when it comes to Africa. A united East Africa enables us to negotiate better with the rest of the world. The unity of the people of Uganda, the unity of the people of East Africa, the unity of the people of Africa are instruments for our people’s prosperity.
Therefore, sectarian ideologies are inimical to the prosperity of the people of Africa. They are pushed by parasites who manipulate identity for narrow personal interests, camouflaged as interests of the respective factions. It is a pseudo-ideology with no benefit for the people and with only destruction and regression. Therefore, when somebody opportunistically highlights identity (religion, tribe, etc) instead of highlighting interest, he acts against our prosperity. That unprincipled highlighting of identity is a pseudo-diagnosis of societal problems. Almost inevitably, it creates friction which results into conflict that scares away investments, diverts resources from infrastructure to security and, above all, leads to tension among the otherwise partners in prosperity creation, the buyers and the sellers of Africa.
The second legitimate strategic interest of the people of Africa is strategic security. The 1.25 billion people of Africa, who will be 2.5 billion by 2050, should not be threatened by anybody either from within Africa or from outside. By dealing with sectarianism, we deal with internal war-causers using identity. We must, however, also deal with external aggressors of whatever type. Hence, African sovereignty must be protected from any external military and non-military interventions. You have all seen the chaos generated in Libya and the whole of the Sahel as a consequence of military action by foreigners against the express objection of the African Summit of Heads of State. Such a crime should never be tolerated again. Genuine African freedom fighters do not need external militaries to assert their rights against internal dictators. The African stand-by forces and the African Crisis Response Force (Acril) will provide the answer if there is any need for military intervention.
We stood against the external influences in Somalia by fighting the criminal Al-Shabaab. We must stand against all foreign intervention in Africa without the approval of appropriate and legitimate African bodies. In the Bible there is the concept of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The three combine to form one God although each one can also perform tasks independently like when Jesus came to die for us. Similarly, the Trinity of the national effort, the regional effort and the international effort, where there is genuine partnership like in Somalia, works well and can make impact. As our economies improve, we can rely more on the duolity of the national and the regional. This does not preclude sovereign Governments having bilateral arrangements with non-African partners.
I salute France for providing financial and technical support to the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISON) in Somalia which has enabled the African Union to continue getting rid of Al-Shabab and providing an enabling environment for a government to be put in place.
Combining ideology collaborative and the efforts at the national, regional and international levels, in the short-run, with genuine partnership, will bring good results. In the medium and long term, as our economies improve, the peace-making packaging should entail using the national level and the regional level.
Unilateral actions by the international forces without the permission of the African Union or a legitimate national force (an elected Government) is imperialistic and must be rejected completely. It should never happen again. That is why I salute the recent stand in the Security Council when the African members ─ Senegal, Angola and Egypt refused to vote for the resolution that aimed at imposing sanctions on South Sudan. The Security Council and the UN in general are becoming famous in Africa for being terrorism conservators and vacuum creators. In Congo (DRC), the UN has been promoting dictatorship (Mobutu vs Lumumba) and conserving terrorism for the last 56 years.
Even today, there are 22,000 UN troops in the Congo but in Eastern Congo, poor Congolese are being slaughtered almost every week. In Libya and beyond, the UN has created dangerous vacuums.
You generally have four types of situations in Africa. There are countries where a vacuum of political and State actors has been created by either internal actors or foreign ones. In such countries, there are no pillars of State (Army, Police, Administration, Judiciary) or political parties with a national appeal. In such situations, you get political fragmentations as had happened in Somalia or the situation is held together by external forces without capable internal pillars of control. It is a type of ideological and political leukemia where the body can no longer manufacture its own blood and must depend on endless blood transfusions from outside. The unfortunate citizens who find themselves in such situations need serious ideological therapy.
The second scenario is where the politics has taken an unprincipled sectarian character but it is not yet a vacuum because there are capable factions that are still in conflict. Our task here should be to encourage these factions to work together and not aim at creating a vacuum by aiming at eliminating the exiting factions. Targeting those factions will negatively promote that country to category I where a vacuum has been created.
Scenario III is where the sectarian factions reach agreement and start working together. These efforts should be welcome and not impeded in any way or to be undermined.
Scenario IV is when the ideological therapy has been applied and the population has moved away from sectarianism (either wholly or partially) and to behaving in a political way rather than being manipulated along identity lines. They vote guided by need for employment, service delivery, wealth creation issues etc. etc. This is the healthy situation that we should ultimately aim at. Therefore, the uninformed and highhanded ways like some elements were utilizing in the recent Security Council debate on South Sudan in spite of our advice should be completely rejected. This is also another problem. Why should some players ignore our advice when we, obviously, know some of those situations better?
Where political fragmentation has already taken place, ideological therapy can be applied and reverse the situation. That is what saved Uganda. Starting with student groups in the mid-1960s, we were able to defeat the sectarian pushers sand reverse the decline of our country. A country cannot work for unity when there are no political groups with national ideological and political ideas. These national ideological and political ideas like the ones I have pointed out above, will generate a followership. The followership will help in forming national political parties and, eventually, other state organs like the Army. It is not correct to start fires guided by wrong ideas and then work to put out the fires. That way Africa will continue to be a continent of endless fire brigading.
By Yoweri K. Museveni
President of The Republic of Uganda.