KAMPALA – Way back in 1972, the President of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada, abolished the post of Mayor and appropriated all the powers of the mayor to himself. He decided to involve himself directly in what went on in the towns with Mayors through committees that reported directly to him. He had already abolished Parliament so that there was no more legislation. Laws started with him and ended with him through issuance of decrees.
Today, after enhancing the powers of local governments through decentralisation, government now wants to appropriate not only the power but also authority of local governments to the Office of President. This is happening after triilions of shillings were sank into dissecting the country into numerous small Districts, some unviable, and creating all sorts of especially political jobs that have consumed and continue to consume trillions of shillings, away from development. Within the Districts lots of smaller political units, some of which have torn clans and families (especially extended families) to pieces, rendering them weak an ineffective.
The overall result of these political measures is the Central Government in general and the President of Uganda, has reclaimed supremacy over everything in Ugandan general and the Districts in particular. Indeed, far more resources are flowing to the Centre than the other way round. This is akin to the flow of money from countries and global financial institutions, which claim they give Africa foreign aid (which is actually loans), Far more money flows out Africa than comes in.
More serious is that society in Uganda, far than ever before, has become not only disconnected but divided, as Central Government, particularly the Presidency, has become more sovereign, powerful and authoritative.
Indications are that with the passage of time, the Local is going to lose even more power and authority to the Centre. This means the Presidency will have more direct intervention in the Local, through more empowered Resident District Commissioners, perhaps as empowered as the colonial District Commissioners were during the reign of the British colonialist in Uganda. However, almost in parallel, the military will penetrate the Local and perform functions that have been done buy the Local Authorities.
This may be accelerated according to what the President wants to happen. It will mark the end of Decentralisation and cast it as one of the Great Lies of Our Time. However, it will leave society disconnected, weak, vulnerable and far more easily manipulated than before. Not only will manipulation of society be easier internally but also externally.
Whatever is happening or will happen, will be a reincarnation of the times of Idi Amin, when all power was centralised and provinces, Districts, Counties and Sub-counties were directly under the Presidency through the military. Provinces were under military Governors and the Sub-counties were under military chiefs, for example. That is how President Idi Amin Dada consolidated and retained power and spread his sovereignty over Uganda. But all this dependent on social disintegration and disempowerment
Let me now address myself to the ongoing political current, with its epicentre being in the Presidency, to disconnect the sciences and render the humanities and social science useless to the development, transformation and progress of Uganda. I have touched on this process of disconnection of the sciences and its implications on Uganda before. Let me explore it again within the context of this critical thought.
All science is one with three dimensions: natural science, social science and the humanities (or the arts), all interconnected and interactive. They are all the creation of Man, Homo sapiens, in his attempt to organise knowledge.
Indeed, this is typically how knowledge is organised in a University. Unfortunately, through time, the three sciences – natural, social and humanities – became more and more disconnected and distanced from each other, with decreasing contact with one another; and within each of them, knowledge became more and more disciplinarised. More and more disciplines of knowledge were created, thereby reducing the value of philosophy, and actually squeezing it out of knowledge, which became packaged behind the rigid walls of the disciplines that interacted less and less.
We can call each discipline a little knowledge and all disciplines little knowledges. Men and women of little knowledge of and the disciplines were prepared to acquire deep knowledge in each discipline, and to know little or nothing about the knowledge of the other knowledge in the other knowledges (disciplines). However, they continued to belong, and still belong, to the broader natural science, social science and humanities (arts) and, therefore, to be called the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities (arts).
The men and women of knowledge in the disciplines could rise, and continue to rise, to the highest title of achievement called Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) but with little or no philosophy. Philosophy was squeezed out of them, yet to reason well and sensibly philosophy is at the core of such reasoning. This could explain why most of our men and women of knowledge are limited in reasoning.
In the beginning all knowledge was philosophy and all philosophy was reasoning, holistically, to see the whole picture and understand the whole phenomenon. But with the disciplinarisation of knowledge, emphasis was on the parts, not the whole, in the hope that if we put the parts together we would get the whole. But this never, and will never happen. Besides, everytime we get solutions to any of our myriad problems from any of the disciplines, those solutions become the new problems and complicate the old ones. This, to a large extent, explains why problems we started with at independence, still remain and are more complicated or complex than before.
One thing is true. Nature is the product of one whole science. God did not need separate sciences to create the universe and everything in it. His whole Word is one philosophy: the philosophy of Salvation.
Fortunately, there is now an increasingly influential global movement to relink the sciences (the disciplines) through the new but different knowledges of transdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity and nondisciplinarity, aimed at reintegrating of knowledge.
It is against this background that the Uganda Government has almost been convinced that the right thing to go backwards and spend time, energy and money to disntegrate knoeledge again. A lot of propaganda is being used to cast the humanities and social sciences as useless to development, yet they are all sciences, like the natural science, and products of the human mind. Already, even if knowledge workers in the Scholl’s and universities have attained the same qualification in their different sciences, those in the natural sciences or professions linked to the natural sciences are rewarded more in terms of emoluments. This has done a lot of harm to productivity in schools and universities, since the greatest achievement has been to divide the collective mind of the knowledge workers and deviate it from production. Long-term implications of this divide and rule are dire.
I hope I have been able to show why the ongoing disconnection of society, and the undercurrent to disconnect the sciences, is not in the interest of Uganda and Ugandans. It is amplification of colonial interests of old for the sole aim of underlining the supremacy of the institution of President in the country. It is enhancement of the power of the President over all Institutions and everything else.
So those who thought that the President is elected to serve (or be a servant of) the people or country must rethink and come to their senses. The converse is more true. This is retrogression. The hope of Uganda and the people getting out of the grip of the President and his family now seems to be wishful thinking. We have all been so divided, disconnected and stupefied that few at whatever level have time and energy to allocate to thinking and thinking correctly. It is now money and loyalty to the President through money, ultimately given by the President himself.
The question is: Is Uganda moving the way of Equatorial Guinea where all power, authority and money are in the grip of the family of President Nguema, as was the case of Angola and Gabon?
OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA is an Environmental Conservationist