Justin Oliver Zinda(London) – Mr Lubega, an independent presidential candidate, is one of eight candidates in the forthcoming Uganda 2011 Presidential elections. He came to London last Saturday 20/11/2010 to address a group of Ugandans in Diaspora here in the United Kingdom. Mr Lubega is building his campaign around the theme of change and his logo reads, ‘Defenders of peace and justice’. He pledges to deliver genuine change that Ugandans can trust. It is in light of this attractive campaign theme that I focused my questions to Mr Lubega during the interview.
Firstly, I asked Mr Lubega what type of change he intends to bring to Ugandans, in particular, and people of Great Lakes, in general. Mr Lubeka, who is an outspoken and intelligent individual, astutely started by highlighting to me what his harsh rival, President Museveni, is doing in Uganda. He characterised Museveni’s regime as a ‘monolithic, one-family republican monarch’. Mr Lubega claims that Museveni has been ruling the country almost single-handedly with a small group of people from his closest entourage and mainly his close family members. Museveni has used fear as a weapon to rule Uganda in a dictatorial manner.
Mr Lubega promised to end this abuse of power and he vowed to have a transparent government of the people for the people. However, it was not clear what specific steps Mr Lubega would take to avoid becoming another ‘Museveni’. I put to him the following question: What is different this time? Mr Lubega referred to his desire to restore the rule of law in Uganda; he promised he will not stay in power for ever and he will work for a fair distribution of wealth to the people of Uganda. A person like me, who saw Museveni come to power more than two and a half decades ago with similar promises, had an odd sense of ‘déjà vu’ in hearing these promises again. In the absence of specific measures to establish a democratic system with a proper rule of law to make the government in Uganda accountable to its people, I see very little difference to what most, if not all, African leaders promise to their people during electoral campaigns.
It would be fair to point out that Mr Lubega did not have a lot of time to elaborate on his plans. For that reason, I should give him the benefit of the doubt and hope to receive his manifesto which I will be more than happy to publish at www.shout-africa.com.
When asked about what can be done to avoid another perpetual dictator in Uganda, Mr Andrew Boff from the Londonwide Assembly said, ‘There are going to be plenty of people to keep [Mr Lubega] to his words and to ensure that … he is bound by the law of the country like every other citizen.’ The problem with this ‘trust’ is that power corrupts, as Mr Boff later acknowledged, and without a political structure in place which can make a balance of power, it is almost certain that another Museveni is inevitable.
Secondly, I asked Mr Lubega about what specific steps, if any, he would take to appease Uganda’s biggest neighbour – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after the atrocities committed there. Mr Lubega proposed to negotiate Uganda’s way out with the DRC’s government, notwithstanding the ruling at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Uganda. The ICJ has ruled that Uganda should pay compensations to the DRC. Under these circumstances, I see little chance for success for Lubega’s proposals. The ICJ could not come to its decision if it did not find that the accusations by the DRC were related to Uganda’s state liability, the reason being that the ICJ, unlike the International Criminal Court (ICC), has no jurisdiction in matters between states and individuals. In any event, actions by the leaders of a state are considered actions taken by the states themselves. In that respect, Mr Lubega’s proposals could only lead to future hostilities. If Mr Lubega is saying that the atrocities committed in the DRC have nothing to do with Uganda, but they were all the responsibilities of certain individuals, is he saying he is prepared – should he become President – to support the ICC in making sure the perpetrators face justice?
Finally, I asked what Mr Lubega would do if he were to win the elections and Mr Museveni was to refuse conceding defeat and relinquishing power. Mr Lubega’s response is that Ugandan people might resort to taking to the streets. This is yet another unique problem in Africa. Dictators like Mugabe and Museveni might find it difficult to let go, if they are not sure they would be allowed to live a peaceful life after their time in office. There must be a way out for them. It can be difficult to digest, but for a greater good, these dictators need some sort of immunity. Would Ghana be where it is if Jerry Rawlings could not feel safe to live peacefully in retirement? I personally doubt it. This could be the key to Ghana’s peaceful transitions of powers at the moment. Would Mr Lubega take this example in Uganda?
So, there is no magic wand to political instabilities in Africa. Even United Kingdom leaders would cling on to power if there was no separation of power which makes politicians accountable. A mere change of the person at the top of the government will not change much in the long run. It is like ‘taking from Peter to give to Paul’. What is absurd here in the West is that we continue giving the same medicines to Africa expecting different outcomes. Yesterday government A supported Museveni, today government B supports Mr X and tomorrow government C will support Mr Y.
African political problems with all their resulting consequences (wars, poverty, corruption, etc) have their roots somewhere else. Just like one cannot buy planes without first building landing fields for them, democracy cannot be planted in the sand; first there must be some ‘infrastructure’ to cope with it. Africa needs to be prepared for real democracy. Ghana’s experience is unique and should be commended but there is no guarantee that things cannot go backward even in Ghana.
The question we need to ask in the West is this: how did Western Europe arrive to this stable political system which has facilitated its development after the mayhem of the Second World War? The answer is clear to all: Marshall Plan and NATO. Why then are we expecting Africa to do well without similar medicines? Without major plans like the aforementioned, we may continue running in circles in Africa and even a person with the intelligence of the likes of Mr Lubega will not make any sustainable change.
I wish all the best to Mr Lubega and I hope the Ugandan people will exercise their right to vote freely to achieve a peaceful transition of power. I also wish to see Mr Lubega again to discuss specific measures regarding the three questions I raised above. Failing that, I hope at least to receive his manifesto which I will be more than happy to share with our readers.