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?