So, it is not true that Uganda has lacked change. What we have lacked is a qualitative change. That is why my first concern when matters of change are raised is to ask for the values and policies of the change agents and the social forces propelling the party or candidate. It is this skepticism that terrifies opposition activists and Ugandan “intellectuals.”
Some Ugandan intellectuals and our development partners make wrong and even dangerous assumptions regarding our politics. First they assume that the mainstream opposition led previously by Dr. Kizza Besigye and now by Bobi Wine is a democratic alternative to Museveni. Second, that the Museveni government has been such a total failure that any change from it is good and desirable for Uganda. Neither of these assumptions has much merit.
Defiance (Besigye’s radical extremist wing of the FDC), which changed itself into People Power under Bobi Wine, is composed of individuals and social groups hostile of liberal democratic values. They see those who disagree with them as enemies of destroy not opponents to defeat. They have a lot of power on social media which they use cyber bully and psychological terrorize their opponents. Give them state power and you have tyranny.
Second, the Museveni administration (which they call a regime) has presided over the longest period of fast economic growth by historic and contemporary standards. Although its now tired and growth has slowed down, it remains one of the most successful governments in the recent history of the world. So our country is not desperate for change for us to embrace each and every upstart who claims to be a better alternative. In fact most people in the opposition don’t even care to know where the country has come from, where it is now for them to have a clear idea of where it needs to go.
Consequently, the opposition has invented nonexistent problems for the country. In their propaganda pamphlets, which they call manifestoes, they promise to do things government has already done or things government simply cannot afford to do because of its resource constraints. They are anti statistics, anti facts, anti truths, anti reason and anti intellectual, in fact worse than Donald Trump activists. Locked in their echo chambers, hostile to evidence that disagrees with their infertile imaginations, deaf to facts, blind to reason and focused on one part of a complex reality, Uganda’s mainstream opposition in Defiance and People Power is the ultimate representative of the change this country does not need.
The real tragedy of Uganda is that our elite class has failed to produce a viable alternative to Museveni – at the level of values (which shape conduct), policies (which can drive qualitative change) and social connection (the social groups that form the political base of the government). We have descent people in the opposition, but they do not attract the mass following of the masses that want change.
Hence, even though we are rich in human talent and diverse socially, were caught between Museveni’s frying pan and the opposition’s fire i.e. between a corrupt, tired and inept government and an angry, empty-headed, violent and intolerant opposition. For a qualitative alternative to emerge, we shall need a leader(s) of a movement that will disavow radical extremism and seek to build a politics of moderation, negotiation and compromise.