There is one woman running in the 2011 presidential elections in Uganda. Her name is Beti Olive Namisango Kamya, and she is the flag-bearer for the relatively new Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) party. A recent article in the New Vision caught my eye with its subheading “Vows to Return What Whites Took Away.” As I read on, I realized that it probably should have said “vows to give away what white’s stuck us with.”
As happened in so many countries in Africa, when the colonial powers left Uganda, they handed over the keys to a government system that was designed to suck wealth out of the country rather than strengthen its internal economy and empower the populace. Not only did newly-independent Africans need to move forward with arbitrary national boundaries that paid no heed to tribe or tradition, they also had to operate within systems that were set up to keep control centralized in the hands of the colonial powers.
The article quotes Kamya as saying “Ugandan leaders, not caring that colonial interests were the exact reverse of independent Uganda’s interests, just received the system without thinking that they needed to dismantle and redesign it to suit Uganda’s interests.”
She argues that keeping all the power centralized in Kampala makes it too easy for new leaders to become dictators, and it is necessary now to start from scratch rather than just put a new leader in charge of a system that doesn’t work. By devolving more power to the different regions in Uganda, as is the case with the States in the U.S. or the Provinces in Canada, she believes there will be more checks on whoever sits in State House.
Calls for Federalism are not new here. She has been associated with the “Federo” agenda that is supported by many within the Buganda Kingdom, so it is likely that whatever the UFA proposes will look familiar. Her party will be releasing a “manifesto” this month that will hopefully go into more detail on what form of restructuring they want to see
Kamya obviously has a long, uphill battle to even gain a small percentage of the vote in this election. However, I think it is important that this issue of restructuring government is being brought to the forefront. Whether Uganda ends up with a Federalist system, a monarchy, communism or the very same system it has now, it is important that the country looks with a fresh eye to determine whether the government system it inherited is truly serving its best interests.
It feels like a lot of Africa is in flux right now, and the instability of change can often be a scary thing. Kenya recently took that fresh look and changed their constitution without violence, although it was the violence after the 2007 elections that created the impetus for the change. Sudan will be a country to watch closely next year as they vote on the Southern Sudanese Independence Referendum. That one is unlikely to be as peaceful as the reform in Kenya.
The questions in my mind after reading the article about Beti Kamya are these:
1. Does Uganda need a new political structure, or could a change in leadership be sufficient to address the challenges of the country under the current system?
2. Could Uganda go through a major political restructuring without violence?
3. What type of government would be best for Uganda?
Anybody have the answers to these?
Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala