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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Democratization in Uganda

Today we received a lecture about the ongoing challenges to democratization throughout Uganda’s history. We started in discussing the reign of Idi Amin, the ruler of Uganda from 1971-1979. After overthrowing Obote from power Amin exiled the Indian population from Uganda and let the economy get worse. During his regime he caused civil unrest, with no checks on his power Amin let the rule of law vanish from society. There was no power in the courts and the police were used to carry out Amin’s wishes. In 1979 after Amin was thrown out of power, Obote II eventually took power. Though during his regime there were some aspects of democracy that were restored, such as Parliament, it was very weak. The main power in Parliament lied with the military and as a result they were calling the shots. During this period in time there were many safety issues as the army would often engage in extortion and ransom. Without the support of the military and the guerilla conflict going on throughout Uganda during this time, Obote II’s executive power was weak. With a coup a year earlier, Museveni came into power in 1986 as a part of the National Resistance Movement.
With the NRM in power from 1986 to the present the lecture turned to discussing the new features of the NRM government. The first feature of NRM rule has been a “no party democracy.” Until 2005 political parties in Uganda were outlawed due to the belief that political parties are instigators for the political issues in the past. As a result the NRM only allowed movements, or groups that would provide a manifesto that everyone could get behind. As opposed to political parties that only accommodate a select number of supporters. Though this may have been the idea in theory, in practice they over time have become less accommodating to all. Another feature of the NRM governance has been a pressured Judiciary. Though the Constitution established by the NRM gives judges the power to independently decipher cases they received a lot of pressure to fulfill the wishes of the executive. With threats to strip benefits and prevent contracts from being renewed, judges are sometimes pressured to side one way in a particular case. Another feature of the NRM governance is decentralization. During the time of the NRM, 80 districts were created within Uganda and within each of those districts are local governments. However, with the divisions of the districts some do not have sufficient resources to carry out these powers. The last feature was the corruption within government. Uganda is ranked very high in terms of corruption and officials are known to steal large sums of government money.
The last section of the lecture provided possible remedy to the troubles in current regime. One part to the remedy is giving the police more power to arrest these corrupted officials. It was argued that corruption should be treated more like a crime than a moral matter and something must be done to shame the corrupt. 
My question to the students concerning the lecture is do you think the NRM has taken Uganda further towards or further away from a democracy?

1 comment:

  1. I think the amount of power that people have over their own lives has not increased (substantially). In fact, I think the amount of power, especially in terms of monetary or economic gains, has been stripped from the people. We hear so much about Idi Amin being an evil dictator that terrorized the people of Uganda, but I think that is grossly mistated. He may have killed many people, but in perspective, what leader since then has not killed many people. Such a fuss is made about him throwing out the Indians--but why did he do that? The Indians controlled nearly all the money and economic power in Uganda, and Idi Amin wanted to spread the wealth among Ugandans. He is criticized for nationalizing industries and companies and giving them to his supporters, but do you know what other world figure advocated that same move? Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi told ALL the British business leaders to get out of the country. And you know what else Gandhi said? He said he would rather have the major industries in India controlled by corrupt Indians than the British.

    Now, in Uganda, I saw the major industries controlled by British AND Indians, and I heard a loud call for MORE foriegn investment. But in a place like Uganda, with no realistic business regulation, foriegn investment doesn't mean a boost in the economy. It means an increase in slave-live labor.

    For example: the security gaurds at the Red Chili Hideaway (owned by a non-Ugandan) work 12 hours a day, six days a week, and get paid $75 on a monthly basis (which is not enough to support a family).

    Example 2: boh of the employees I talked to at the hotel owned by Patrick the entrepreneur said he does not pay them enough to enable them to support a family. When I told one of them I was in a meeting with Patrick right now, and I would ask him why he doesn't pay more (since the hotel was obviously making enough money to make all it's employees rich by Uganda standards) he proptly disappeared. And the other employee (I will withhold their names for their safety) explained to me that if they even mentione a raise, Patrick would fire them. After talking with Patrick and making sure he is the one that writes All the paychecks (a fact he was proud to tell me about) and after I listened to him brag for several minutes about how well his hotel is doing (remember he doesn't invest unless the returns are greater then 50%) and about how well he pays his most trusted advisees (7 managers out of the hundreds of hotel employees make US$1,000/ month) I asked Patrick why he doesn't pay his employees enough to support a family. He pauses then explains that he has to keep his wages competitive with the other high end hotels like the Sheraton (which are foriegn "investments").

    Is the country governed by the people? No, elections are rigged. Does the country show signs of equality? No, a wedge is being driven between rich and poor, Ugandans and foriegn investors, government representatives and the people. Is the power vested in the people? No, political power rests with corrupt officials and economic power rests with foriegners that do not hold the intrests of the people in mind.

    Do I think the NRM has taken Uganda further towards or further away from a democracy?