By Arinaitwe Rugyendo
History is awash with examples of great men and women whose acts shaped the world around them and territories beyond their enclaves.
In the field of science for example, the Italian physicist, Gallieo (1564 – 1642), is recognized as the father of modern astronomy and physics for his discovery of the Galilean moons, changing the course of astronomy, as we know it today, for good. In politics, around 525BC in ancient Athens, Greek Philosopher, Cleisthenes invented modern democracy, a form of government that has endured for over 2,500 years! In Medicine, Hippocrates who born around 460 BC became known as the founder of modern medicine. In the military sphere, Gen. Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) is known as the father of Eastern military strategy and greatly influenced Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and even, remotely here, the National Resistance Army (NRA) historical and modern war tactics and of its successor, the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF). In the energy, Michael Faraday (1791-1867), is acclaimed for self- taught science that enabled him to excel and become the “father of electricity.” In transport, George Cayley didn’t live to see his goal but his contributions to aviation were acknowledged by the Wright Brothers as directly contributing to and influencing their own momentous achievements. George Cayley was first referred to as ‘The Father of the Aeroplane’ in 1846. In the religious sphere, one notable individual, Jesus Christ, who lived up to 33AD, introduced Christianity that has shaped global events in 2020 years. His ideology was kicked off with 12 people but his movement has grown to over 5 billion followers today! Blacks such as Lewis Howard Latimer (1848 –1928) invented and patented the light bulb and the telephone. In the modern era of information technology, Scientists such as Robert Elliot Khan (81) and Vinton Gray Cerf (76), are recognized as the fathers of the internet. Their work has revolutionised the way we perceive communication today and its offshoots such as social media have completely altered and improved journalism, communication, advertising, marketing and democracy! In the same era, Marty Cooper, is famed for inventing the modern building the first mobile cell phone and made the first cell-phone call around 1973. He is widely regarded as the father of the cellular phone.
The Seven M7 Stories:
The above introduction into the world of change makers, serves to set the pace of this story as the country marks 34 years since the NRM Revolution announced its capture of power on January 26, 1986. Although it is worth to note that this was a joint effort, its followers somewhat admit that at its heart was one glue whose vision determined its course and kept it stable to what it is now. That glue was Yoweri Museveni! This observation is supported by what you have encountered in the introduction of this article; being that it takes ‘individual agency’ to change the course of events. This view has been tasted since the very individualized story of creation. Therefore, in synch with today’s theme, “Celebrating NRM/NRA Patriotic Struggle that Ushered in National Unity and Social Economic Transformation,” I present what I consider to be the top ‘Seven Museveni Stories’ that have reshaped Uganda and the region for good. When the leaders at the Uganda Media Centre requested me to write something for today’s occasion, this is what came to my head!
1: Project NRM
Following the political turmoil of the 1960s through to the 70s and 80s, the ideology of the National Resistance Movement, or what many prefer to call the ‘Movement System,’ was born and seemed to me to have been a rare invention in the political discourse and moreover, from a remote Africa. There was no such a time when Ugandans put aside their differences to work together than during the first ten years of NRM. During this same period, Uganda experienced a double digit rate of growth. Scholars thronged the country to study this no- party system. However, resources and ideological differences between the West and Eastern blocs ensured it had a rough path to fruition. Around 2005, out of pressure, Museveni abandoned the system for multipartism (not me!). Notwithstanding the new dispensation, Uganda remained a multiparty system in form but ‘Movement’ in character and substance, up to today and probably, for the foreseeable future, confirming his 1986 view that what Ugandans had seen was a fundamental change in the politics of the country.
2: End of UPC/ DP & the ‘Rise of the rest’
The period between 1952 and 1986 was characterised by what the ‘Movementists’ called sectarian-laced political parties. Indeed, the country was politically divided along the lines of, especially, religion, with the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) party synonymous with Anglicanism and the Democratic Party (DP) synonymous with Catholicism. Around 1986, through legal Notice Number 1, President Museveni announced the ban of all political party in the country arguing that a class- less, agrarian, peasant society like Uganda had no business organising around political parties. Such a society, he argued, needed to first morph into classes in order to politically organise around interests and not around sectarian tendencies. He was not understood. But the rise of the rest, 34 years, of political groupings such as FDC, ANT, Labour Party, National Democrats Forum, Peoples Progressive Party, Peoples Development Party, Uganda Socialist Green Party and lately, the People Power pressure group, that project a national character beyond tribe and religion, are the thesis of the Museveni view of letting political parties emerge out of class interests. I therefore, predict that in the coming years, we shall see the emergence of the ‘parties of the future,’ organised around issues like education, farming, workers, trade, investment and the digital economy; not around Baganda, Basoga, Banyakitara, Luo, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Pentecostals.
3: UPDF & the Karamoja Question
The past 34 years have bequeathed Uganda a disciplined military never seen before since independence. A military most educated, focused on the mission of peace and stability, and above all, most humble. The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and its precursor, the NRA, is arguably the most organised state institution in Uganda today. Their efforts both at home and abroad, have built a transcending peace dividend that Uganda is now a destination for the world’s largest number of refuges. Its capital city and the residents are the most freewheelers in the region. The UPDF, having subdued over 30 rebellions, its last internal effort saw the rise of Karamoja from the ashes of political abandonment, neglect and condemnation to self-destruction. These are things that are irreversible. The freedom of worship, media and political tolerance of divergent views, though with a few hiccups here and there, have set the pace for future political engagements outside the gun. Uganda has no political prisoners in its cells. Neither does it have its citizens in involuntary political exile. There has been a line drawn beyond which Ugandans will not allow anybody to reverse this.
4: Restoration of Traditional Rulers
Against the overwhelming advice by the NRA High Command in sitting in Gulu District, around 1992, President Museveni refused to listen and ordered that the traditional kingdom of Buganda which had been abolished together with others 28 years earlier, must be restored. A lot more cultural institutions have been restored since Buganda in 1993. Everyone agrees that there is no other way of ensuring sustainable social structural unity in Uganda without healthy cultural institutions. That single-minded decision by Museveni altered the narrative of a disunited Uganda forever and it might be very difficult for any future leader to reverse this. Empowered well, cultural institutions might be the antidote for any potential future instability in Uganda, a thing probably Museveni could never have imagined.
5: Rewriting the GLR Political Book
One of the items in the Ten Point Programme of the NRM, was regional integration and Pan Africanism. The NRA struggle that started with only 27 guns has spread far and wide and influenced the economic, social, political and military architecture of the Great Lakes Region (GLR). Countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, etc, have had a direct contact with Museveni’s regional dynamism and integration efforts. Future observers of this region might one day document the fact the Great Lakes Region was reshaped by a man who singly elected to rewrite the regional political book in the dying moments of the 20th Century. At one point, DP President Norbert Mao was one of the first astute politicians to pick this signal when he coined the ‘K- Factor’ label to refer to Kaguta, Kagame, Kabila and Kiir to refer to a thread of connection between presidents of Uganda, Rwanda, DRC and South Sudan. The ramifications of this regionalism by Museveni, good and bad, will be felt in this region of Africa for more than a century from now.
6: UPE & the Youth Time Bomb
In 1996, during his first presidential campaign since the bush war, President Museveni announced that all children would start attending primary school education, free of charge. He argued that it was useless to continue leading a country where a few educated Ugandans were surrounded by a sea of backwardness. He complimented this with a massive immunisation campaign and an aggressive anti- HIV/AIDS programme. 24 years later, the country has the highest rate of young people on the continent and probably, the whole world. Around 70% of the Ugandan population is below 35 years of age. They are either going to school or have completed with no jobs in their bags. This has not clearly presented the president with an opportunity. It has brought with it a negative consequence that his decision probably never predicted. This is the ‘Ticking Youth Time Bomb.’ These children, whom he calls his grandchildren, or ‘Bazzukulu,’have generally rebelled against him and his system. They accuse him of being out touch with their reality and see a future without him as the only possibility for them to prosper. But unknown to them, this group is the real product of the NRM struggle. They are the only generation in the history of Uganda that are hippy, highly connected, extremely educated, have generally never experienced any hardships, are more urbanised and have grown up in probably, the best moments that many people who are their dads and moms dreamt to be in. Museveni might not have expected this. But his single idea has produced it. It is this group to make or break his legacy, depending on how it is handled! After all, like we saw in the introduction to this article, many great men and women who invented certain things, never imagined that some of their inventions like the aeroplane would probably have also turned out to be killing transport machines!
7#: Museveni- The Infrastructure President
Exactly 34 years ago, Uganda’s public road network stood at 987 kilometres. Today, that road network- both tarmacked and paved- stands at approximately 140,000 kilometres. This is a minuscule part of Uganda’s infrastructure story of the last 34 years; for it also includes 50 new bridges, over 100 kilometres of expressways, bypasses and about 400 kilometres of new roads expected to be constructed by close of the year 2021. Half of the last 34 years in Uganda have seen a country almost turned into massive construction site for power dams, electric cables and high/low voltage lines as well as the internet cable extension to the deep villages. This is because Museveni understood that the only way to make the nation easily accessible, internally navigable and reachable, and whose production corners are opened up to different sets of markets, where ideas travel from one corner of the country to another, where different tribal enclaves would mix and mingle, we needed a robust infrastructural network. From a simple elementary S.3 Commerce lesson, infrastructure in form of ‘transport’ is an ‘aids to trade.’ For the foreseeable future, both here and in the region, the advent of a deliberate policy on building infrastructure, a sector with the largest budget almost doubling that of Defence, Museveni has set the country on an irreversible economic path that even if successive governments were to change, the idea that roads and railways transcend political, tribal and religious affiliations in bringing meaningful intra-ethnic integration and balanced development, would remain constant. THAT thought will stick and won’t leave any budding future leader for now and in the future.
The Writer can be reached on WhatsApp 075 266 778 and Twitter: @RugyendoQuotes