Going to the Bush Not an Option

The Monitor (Kampala)
July 29, 2004

Going to the Bush Not an Option

Kintu Nyago

Reform Agenda and the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum’s (Pafo) last
Friday’s Lugogo meeting is a desired pointer to Uganda’s future
political development. As I will endeavour to explain below, our
future politics lies in civil political means defined by our
constitution which, of course, can be progressively amended as
dictated by, non other than, Ugandans.

The current re-alignment within our political elite was mainly
triggered by the 2003 Kyankwanzi Movement National Executive
Committee meeting. This allowed for the lifting of the double
restrictions on political party activity and Presidential terms

However, removing these double restrictions require constitutional
amendment. This should not have been a problem given the government’s
majority in Parliament. But they are insisting that the entire
electorate be consulted through a referendum, which complicates the
political equation.

Mainly so on the question of lifting term limits, given especially
that though controversial amongst the urban elite, and sections of
the diplomatic community, this issue seems to resonate well with the
rural, more conservative population, who constitute our overwhelming

Then there is the issue of the 2006 General Elections, where
formidable candidate Y.K Museveni will most likely stand on the NRM-O
ticket, after his side’s securing the amending of Article 105 (2). It
is only prudent for the NRM’s competitors to reorganise now, if they
are to capture the electorate’s imagination and favourably compete.

It is in vogue and politically trendy for many Ugandan leaders to
quickly claim that that they are ‘going to the bush’ in case their
partisan political interests, no matter how trivial, are not catered
for. Although the German military theorist Count Von Clausewitz
explained that war is a continuation of politics by violent means, in
contemporary Uganda ‘going to the bush’ to achieve domestic political
objectives is anachronistic or a thing of the past.

History informs us that successful armed struggles are not merely
outcomes of an individual’s bravery or even mere popular support.
Take the instances of the Mau-Mau in Kenya or the bloody Armenian
struggle in the Turkish Empire. A complex set of objectives and
subjective factors are required for a successful political armed

Museveni’s successful guerrilla experience in the Luweero Triangle,
which has motivated a number of young and old to emulate him usually
for the wrong reasons, resulted from three fundamental factors.
Namely correct timing, then Museveni and his inner circle’s prior
experience in insurgency activities, coupled with remarkable
conceptual and organisational abilities.

And also having possessed a hierarchical, disciplined
politico-military structure founded on the Front for National
Salvation that evolved into the NRA/NRM. Museveni also seems to have
had the knack of crafting and maintaining broad political coalitions.

Earlier in the mid 1960’s Commadante Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s failure
in neighbouring eastern Congo, had arisen mainly out of poor timing
that led to operating in a political context where peasant Congolese
and their leaders, shared little of his grand ‘Internationalist anti
Imperialist agenda’. A later attempt, in the late 1960’s, in the
mountains of Bolivia ended to his death.

Two other factors favoured the NRM namely; Uganda’s economy and state
structures collapsed during the removal of the Marshal Amin in 1979,
abated, for sure, by the later misrule. While the little goodies that
existed only went round to the Uganda People’s Congress supporters,
who excluded others elite.

In today’s Uganda, the state has creatively been re-established with
responsive civil structures, the Local Councils, with a stake in the
system. Few, if at all any, LCs would allow their villages or
parishes to be infested with elite having hair brained ‘bush going’

This explains the Lord’s Resistance Army’s evil logic of unleashing
terror upon the population and targeting councillors. Indeed why the
rebel groups opted to operate from Congo’s Ituri forest! While the
state’s ‘steel frame’ namely the army and intelligence organisations’
elaborate structures are quite intact and should be ready to take on
extra-constitutional elements with potent ferocity.

The liberalisation of the economy, coupled with sound macro-economic
policies have provided ‘many carrots’ to a cross-section of ever
increasing numbers of Ugandans.

Former Local Government minister, ‘Mister’ Bidandi Ssali, while
managing the Museveni’s 2001 campaign aptly termed it: “Balina
kebekoledde”, a potent slogan! These will not risk all to “go to the

Uganda’s future politics lies in civil political expression. Apart
from this being the medium through which our constitutionalism will
be sustainably nurtured, the odds are pretty high for the warmongers.