It Is Naive To Expect The US To Abandon Tibuhaburwa As Long As He Remains Their Faithful “Partner”

Reports in the press indicate that the US is furnishing Tibuhaburwa with US $ 45 million in  military and monetary assistance to continue the assault on the Al-Shabaab in Somalia (“US offers Shs 120b to Amisom“, Daily Monitor of Tuesday June 28, 2011). The report goes on to say, and I quote, “News of the military aid comes six weeks after Gen. Carter Ham, the new commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), visited Uganda and held talks with President Museveni at his home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura District, on May 10 about Somalia’s hazardous situation.” This is on the backdrop of a trip to the US by Mr. Norbert Mao, the leader of the Opposition Democratic Party in which he held talks with several leaders including congressmen and women and camped outside the White House demanding that President Obama deals with the Ugandan tyrant. While this trip by Mr. Mao may be considered “successful” by himself and many other Ugandans, was it really a success? In the very same week, the US has shown that they will continue working with Tibuhaburwa as long as he remains their faithful “partner” in the “War On Terror” and several other interests e.g Iraq.

The lessons of Tunisia and Egypt should have been learn’t by now but I remain perplexed as to why Ugandans still look to the West for help in dealing with their own despots. Tunisia and Egypt were more significant partners for the US than Uganda. Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign a peace agreement with  the State of Israel. Mubarak visited every single president of the US since Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s and received aid in excess of US $ 1 Billion for his military. It was a beautiful marriage of convenience that was  “unfortunately” ruined by a People’s Revolution in February this year.

It was interesting watching the US as it was forced to “lecture” Mubarak on human rights. It made me wonder where the certain “concern” for the ordinary Egyptian was all along when Mubarak was wining and dinning with President after President in the White House, the so-called Headquarters of the free world.

While Ben Ali was a less significant partner, he was a partner nonetheless. The US turned a blind eye as his family plundered the nation. His wife’s relatives’ dramatic rise to prominence after her dream marriage to Ben Ali is the classic rags-to-riches story and the bullying and arrogance that comes with it! These people intimidated people into “partnerships” with them where they were guaranteed protection for their businesses from the long arm of the law.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak were constitutional dictators and that made them easier to manipulate because they could follow “orders” unquestioningly. Their people were subdued, poor, intimidated, living in a state of emergency. If they didn’t care to do anything about their own situations, why should the US care? Surely, they were insignificant people whose screams for freedom could be easily ignored, right?

Unfortunately for the US, the people had different ideas. The desperate act of Tareq al-Tayyib Muhammed Bouazizi  is something nobody in the Tunisian government would have ever dreamed possible but in just a space of weeks, the people brought down a 23 year-old dictatorship. Egypt quickly followed suit and the rest, as they say, is history.

The US having lost 2 “reliable” allies that did their every whim will desperately hold onto Tibuhaburwa for obvious reasons. One thing that is for sure is that Obama’s administration will not divorce Tibuhaburwa without some sort of pressure from the Ugandan people! Ultimately, the fight for democracy and the end of tyranny is  fight for the Ugandan people. We should not expect help. If it is offered, we should not refuse it. But to expect the US to suddenly “see the light” is naive and foolhardy.

Charles A. O. Makmot
Activists For Change (A4C)

The More Important Event Was Overshadowed On Tuesday November 4, 2008

“Senator Obama leads McCain in US poll” screamed the New Vision headline of November 4, 2008. The excitement all over Africa especially in our East African neighbour, Kenya, have almost reached fever peak, as I write this. A great day is dawning on the black race, it can be said.

On the same day in the Parliament of the Pearl of Africa, the debate on the NSSF Temangalo land transaction kicked off in Parliament. There was drama as the government was quick to smuggle in a document that stated “the government position” on the transaction and insisted on it being read by the Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business in Parliament before the debate could even start. Despite the insistence that the Government make its submission as the closing word to the debate, the Speaker ruled that it should be tabled and read first!

The contents of the document, the manner in which the government smuggled it in, the pride with which the Professor of politics tabled it and the thumping approval of NRM MPs was chilling to the spine. How could we let this happen in the Pearl of Africa? It was bad enough that he stated that there was no conflict of interest but to do so with such confidence was baffling!

I know that to most Ugandans this may pass as normal, but wait a minute, “Is this normal? Is it OK for the government to dismiss the findings and recommendations of a majority of MPs on the standing committee of the house, including many MPs of its ruling NRM, based on a minority report that was proven to contain falsehoods on the floor of Parliament?” Yes, we normally shrug it off and say, “This is Uganda” but is it? Is it the Uganda that we desire? Is this the Uganda that we crave to hand over to our children and grandchildren??

It was revealed that the Minister of Finance is a shareholder in the National Bank of Commerce, where the said Ug. Shs. 11 billion was invested, and the Supervisor and Appointing Authority of the NSSF Board. Do we need a rocket scientist in the government to prove that there is conflict of interest, especially considering the hurried way the deal was approved? How could the 6 authors of the minority report and the government ignore the NSSF Board’s advice to the Security Minister on the conflict of interest? Didn’t Hon. Mbabazi hand power of attorney to Mr. Nzeyi based on this? Isn’t this material?

As Africa and the US celebrate a historic day in the history of the world, Uganda, in contrast, is experiencing a day of national shame! The open condoning of conduct unbecoming of public officers by asking them to apologize, “forgiving” them and the defending them on the floor of Parliament is truly a further indication that this country is going to the dogs!! All the talk by the President about fighting corruption is but hot air. All a leader has to do is be extremely loyal as Hon. Mbabazi has been over the years or be non-controversial and technically astute like Hon. Suruma and you will go scot-free!

The U.S.A is on the brink of making history by taking a decision for change by electing a man who will not only turn around the bad policies that Bush has engineered, but also attempt to steer the country out of its worst economic crisis since the great depression of 1929-1933. In stark contrast Uganda’s elected representatives are voting to retain in government people that have disgraced their offices and used the authority they have been entrusted with dishonourably.

I hope that Uganda is not too caught up in the Obamamania to realize that the country is being robbed from right under our noses. Cry, the beloved country!

For God And My Country,

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika!

Charles A. O. Makmot
Former Guild President,
Makerere University Business School and
Member,
Strategic Leadership Forum

National Tree Planting Day

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Uganda will have no forest cover by 2050 unless drastic measures are taken to reverse the massive felling of trees to feed the booming construction business in the country, according to forestry experts. While it is a good and commendable thing that the economic growth has boosted the construction business, it is at a very great cost to the nation.

It goes without saying the immense contribution that forest cover has on climate, especially rainfall distribution which is critical for food security. The fact that these same forests are being cut down on a massive scale, in some cases with collusion of public servants, paints a very bleak future for the fast growing population whose food needs keep on growing each year.

With an over 3% growth in the Ugandan population, experts have estimated that the Ugandan population will be 150 million by 2050. Considering also that 60% of this population is currently below the age of 16, this means that by the time the current population is 5 times its current size, it is estimated that there will be no forests!!! I can only imagine the extreme food shortages such a large population will be faced with.

While these are only estimates, I’m not overly concerned with the population growth that much given the fact that Ugandans have more access to education. This means that, with greater knowledge about family planning, the population growth rate is likely to decline as more Ugandans are educated. However, I do not see that happening any time soon with the tree-cutting bonanza. Also, the gestation period of trees is quite long that some of the damage being meted out is irreversible in the short run.

I’m therefore proposing a National Tree Planting Day that will be observed by all Ugandans. Sensitization should be started early enough and people provided with seedlings in preparation for the exercise. It should be compulsory for every Ugandan to plant a tree, including the very young whose parents will be tasked with the responsibility of planting the trees until they are old enough to do it themselves. This will instill a culture of nature conservation at a very tender age. The exercise should be carried out in nearby forest locations, in schools, homes and public areas in the towns and cities.

This would mean that over 30 million trees would be planted per year. This would increase with the population growth and could be slowed down after a period of time when the experts feel the current trend has been reversed.

However, this doesn’t negate the fact that the tree-cutting bonanza needs to be curtailed. There is need for vigorous and radical measures to control the deforestation in this nation.

For God and my Country,

Charles A. O. Makmot

When It Comes To Money, There Is No Opposition

On Monday May 31, 2011, I delivered a letter of notification to the Police Headquarters on Parliament Avenue for a picket that we, as Concerned Citizens, intended to hold at Parliament on Thursday June 2, 2011. The letter was duly received by the Inspector General of Police’s office. I later received a call from the Director/Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations and he expressed his interest in meeting me and getting to know who these “Concerned Citizens” were.

After taking into advisement, it was agreed that I attend this meeting alone. It was a cordial and professionally handled meeting, a stark contrast from the “meetings” that several Ugandans have had with the Police on the streets of Kampala City and several towns in the countryside. The most heartbreaking of these stories is the one of Julian Nalwanga, a two-and-a-half year old beautiful little girl that met her untimely death at the hands of this very same now “professional” police force that I was sharing smiles and cordial discussions with.

In the end, they informed me that the Speaker of Parliament’s “blessing” was required for us to hold such an event within the precincts of Parliament. If that “blessing” was forthcoming, then his office would be more than willing to police the event. I left his office a little irked because this was information that I could have been told over the phone. Of course, their intent to know who these “Concerned Citizens” who dare to notify them rather than seek permission was not lost on me. It made me realize that when you request for permission, they actually realize that you are ignorant of your rights and give you a big, “NO!” However, when you indicate that you are only notifying them, then the entire ball game changes. It becomes a game of ping-pong (in this case with Her Majesty the Speaker’s Chambers) with you as the ball.

With the full knowledge that I was the unfortunate ball in their sarcastic game, I also wrote to the Speaker of Parliament and delivered the letter the next day, Wednesday June 1, 2011. It was received by the Speaker’s Chambers and I was promised a response when the Speaker could pull herself away from the Appointments’ Committee proceedings where the vetting of “His Excellency” Tibuhaburwa’s “appointees was taking place all day. I specifically informed them that time was of the essence since our Picket was to take place the next day.

Having not received any objection, my team and I descended on Parliament at the appointed time. While I waited outside one of the gates for some of them to arrive, I received a call from the Speaker’s Chambers that my response was ready. I promptly entered Parliament and made my way to the Speaker’s Chambers. I sat in the waiting room and tried to digest the gist of her words to me.

It is difficult to describe the feeling that I felt when I read the words in the Speaker’s letter! She not only informed me that Parliament was on recess, but that all the information reported in the Press was untrue. That MPs were not, repeat NOT, seeking:

1. Softer loans and tax free luxury vehicles for themselves;
2. Advance payments of up to UGX 50 million each to cushion themselves from high interest rates that the rest of us pay to get a bank loan and;
3. An increase in their pay checks to buffer themselves from double digit inflation.

That, and I quote, “The closed meeting was a mentoring session to the Members of the 9th Parliament on financial discipline, conning tricks by members of the public, unplanned and multiple indebtedness, conning tricks via the internet, e.t.c.” She goes on to write, and I quote, “A number of Members in the 7th and 8th Parliament were conned of money via the internet whereby messages were sent to Members informing them that a dead person had left a fortune of USD 40,000,000 (forty million dollars) and that if they supplied their bank accounts, they could receive part of that money. Several lost money through that channel.

It really got me thinking: What kind of caliber of Members of Parliament do we have in our country? Is it possible that such basic orientation for students joining a Secondary School or University is what the taxpayers’ money is being wasted on? It sickened me when I thought that several of our MPs were as naïve enough as to get duped by internet con-artists! Nevertheless, I exited the Speaker’s Chambers but not before noting to the Speaker’s Secretary that the letter didn’t mention my Picket at all!

I returned to the agreed meeting place and found that my other colleagues had arrived. Our banner, a blown-up version, of the petition was safely tucked away in a handbag of one of the ladies (Thank God that large handbags are now fashionable). We were only 8 people there but we would have to do. After a short briefing, we decided to enter Parliament one by one. Given our experience the Monday before when we were nearly arrested outside Parliament for delivering copies of the petition to our MPs, we didn’t want to create attention from the Police by going in a crowd.

Once inside, we sought guidance from Hon. Beatrice Anywar who advised us, in light of the Speaker’s noncommittal response, to hand over the petition to the Opposition Chief Whip, who was in office. We managed to get the press into Hon. Winnie Kiiza’s office and she graciously received our petition, even though we had not given her prior notice.

It is critical to note that several MPs shunned us when they saw the contents of our petition. Most notable among these was Hon. Fungaroo Kaps Hassan, MP for Obongi Constituency. He was quick to say, “I’m not party to that”, and walked away. It was after seeing this that one of my colleagues remarked, When it comes to money, there is no opposition.”

It is our intent to hold our Picket at Parliament in the near future because the issues we are raising are extremely fundamental and need to be addressed. Uganda has the largest Parliament per capita in the entire world, the Second largest cabinet in Afrika and the third largest in the world. This is unsustainable for a poor country and needs to be addressed as a matter of national importance.

For God and My Country,

Charles A. O. Makmot
Activist For Change

April 11

April 11 may probably pass us by as any other normal day. However, in 1979, it gained prominence as a brutal dictatorship was brought to its knees. After a lot of planning and failed attempts, Ugandan exiles with the support of Tanzanian forces, overthrew the Amin regime and a new dispensation was ushered in. Eyewitnesses will fondly remember that day being commemorated as Liberation Day for the following years as Ugandans reminisced on their extraordinary success in overthrowing a dictatorship that had rained tyranny on the nation for 8 years unabated! However, in 1986, the celebrations came to an end abruptly when another Liberation Day was proclaimed – January 26 – which was actually January 25, 1986, ironically the very date 25 years earlier that Idi Amin Dada had overthrown the then Obote I government.

In his missive on the Libyan Crisis, President Museveni departed from his usual rhetoric about why the government fell on January 25, 1971 to allude to the already widely held view that Obote I fell because of the government’s insistence on pursuing a “move to the left” ideology that did not augur well with the Western powers. Amin was an easy choice because of his limited exposure to the blackboard but with him in charge; it turned out to be more than they had bargained for. Amin openly humiliated the ambassadors from these nations and actively supported causes he associated with his Islamic faith. Uganda was adopted into the family of Islamic nations – a membership that remains to date. Amin was famous for supporting the Palestinian cause. The stand-off at Entebbe when Palestinians hijacked a plane full of Israelis is legendary and several motion pictures have reproduced the drama that unfolded at Entebbe as highly-trained Israeli commandos raided Entebbe and rescued all but one of the passengers of that ill-fated flight.

Apart from the obvious coincidence in the date of capture of power twenty five years apart, there are a lot of similarities that the Amin and Museveni government have. Both were welcomed as liberators with song and dance on the streets of Kampala and towns across Uganda. They were hailed as freedom fighters, patriots and congratulated for taking the bold move to put an end to dictatorship and the suffering of the people. This was, however, short-lived. The atrocities claimed to have been committed by Amin on the people of Uganda, starting with the Langi and Acoli (whom he regarded as Obote’s people) have been widely documented and they live on in the hearts and minds of the victims’ families. In the same vein, attempts have been made to document the alleged atrocities committed by Museveni in Northern Uganda, Karamoja, Western Uganda, Congo, in demonstrations in Kampala and in the various safe houses around the city and the nation.

This has made the Ugandan people get disillusioned about these so-called liberators who come as beacons of hope and riding on high moral principles, only for their leadership to degenerate into what we had before or even worse. It’s a classic case of Animal Farm, repeated all over our motherland Afrika from Libya, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya and Ivory Coast.

What does it mean to be liberated? Have the Ugandan people ever experienced true liberation? The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda is very clear in Article 1:

Sovereignty of the people. (Article 1)

(1) All power belongs to the people who shall, through regular free and fair elections, express their will and consent on how and by whom they shall be governed.

(2) The Government and its organs obtain power and authority from the Constitution and the Constitution in turn derives its authority from the people.

Who are these people that have all the power in this nation? What happens when the elections are adjudged to NOT be free and fair? Do the people still have sovereignty when a government that has clearly rigged elections is in place? When will they truly claim their supremacy as stated in the constitution? When will Uganda be truly liberated?

For God and my country,

 

Charles Makmot
Guild President MUBS 2004/5
Member, Strategic Leadership Forum