KAMPALA – In the past weeks, the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), National Resistance Movement (NRM) and the National Unity Party (NUP) respectively held leaders’ forum meetings in preparation for the next parliament to plan strategies for service in the next August House.
All this is happening amidst extreme regime brutality, arbitrary arrests, an increase in political prisoners and deaths with little accountability from the government and with overwhelming inadequacies in the justice system to administer justice.
The Ugandan political landscape is experiencing spasms of upheaval and conflict that usually presage a major political repositioning. This is occurring in a period when our economy is in recovery, taxation is at an all-time high, unemployment and social injustice are extremely increasing. We risk living through the tremors and darkness of the 1970s.
In an era of grave polarization, national unity sounds like a far-fetched dream. While disagreement is the bloodline for democracy, today the divide seems untameable particularly because people are no longer considering facts in our politics.
Uganda is facing one of its gravest moments in the history of Museveni’s 35-year rule. Uganda’s democracy is crumbling, socio-economic justice is under interrogation and faith in institutions is at an all-time low. Partisan warfare has replaced evidence-based problem solving and lawlessness in the regime that is reinforcing political differences.
The Ugandan political system clearly is failing to address obvious problems, on numerous issues, we are failing even to have a civil conversation. This is widening the partisan gulf, not just within government, but also in our broader society. In our Republic, effective governance requires some level of cooperation and yet the answer for many voters to these deficiencies has been to support candidates who exemplify partisanship, confrontation, and political coarseness. We are at risk of attempting to solve our problems by doubling down on their main cause.
As Ugandans, we need to foster diversity of opinion in order for us to come together and forge a way forward in our steps to build Uganda. We need to embrace how we can live with our deepest differences. We equally need to find ways for rationality to take a stand alongside passion and ambition in reaching public decisions.
There needs to be a strong civic duty in pushing for collective unity, enshrined in the preamble of our constitution, that “We the people, recalling our history which has been characterised by political and constitutional instability; Recognising our struggles against the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation; Committed to building a better future by establishing a socio-economic and political order through a popular and durable national Constitution based on the principles of unity, peace, equality, democracy, freedom, social justice and progress”.— In this, the onus to take Uganda forward sits on our collective drive as a people willing to compromise and move forward.
Uganda thrives or fails in direct proportion to the extent we live in our collective call to protect, honour and uphold the constitution of the Republic. To achieve unity, we must understand the roots of our disunity, we have segregated ourselves into tribes and cocoons of political belonging and we have nurtured seeds of disunity, sectarianism and patronage. We are constantly entering into the deadly competition and zero-sum politics.
Ugandans need a government that works regardless of where they lie on the spectrum, a government where institutions function to deliver what people need.
The fundamental place we can begin to build our national unity is to start seeing our focal and central point of concern as Uganda. We need to work towards a shared vision of the Uganda we want and score agency towards a reconciliation process. Democracy requires compromise, we need to have a national dialogue and mediation across the divide to ease the tensions that are choking the spaces of political engagement and governance.
We are at crossroads and we are caught between turning our political divide and disunity into a moment that will redeem our democracy or we risk turning into a fully-fledged radical autocracy with expanded disunity. We need to come to a unifying vision for our nation. Without a focused vision of working towards national unity, we are bound to lose our Country.
Tricia Gloria Nabaye, Resident Research Associate (Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies