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OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: How Ethnic Nepotism Has Derailed Uganda From The Democratization Path

By Prof Oweyegha-Afunaduula

Uganda is a country that has been yearning for democracy since the White man passed the instruments of power to a Black man. Although democratization has been a prime goal in the sociopolitical manifestation in the country, a number of interacting factors have combined to prevent meaningful and effective democratization. These include colonialism, neocolonialism, history, feudalism, greed for power, militarism, refugees, former refugees, nepotism and ethnicity.

In this article, I want to explore how the vices of nepotism, and ethnic nepotism have prevented meaningful and effective democratization in/of Uganda since the country obtained political independence from its colonizer – Great Britain.

Let me define nepotism as favouritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship, ethnicity, or genealogy; ethnicity as the quality or fact of belonging to a population group or subgroup made up of people who share a common cultural background or descent; and ethnic nepotism as nepotism in which the members of an ethnic group tend to favour their group members over non-members because they are more related to their group members than to outsiders (definition borrowed from Peace Research Institute, Oslo).

This disposition to favour kin over non-kin becomes important in social life and politics when people and groups of people have to compete for scarce resources.

In sociology (the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society or the study of social problems), the term ethnic nepotism describes a human tendency for in-group bias or in-group favouritism applied by nepotism for people with the same ethnicity within a multi-ethnic society.

The term was coined in the 1960s in the context of the ethnic (tribal) tensions and rivalry in the then recently independent states in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Nigeria. Influenced by W.D. Hamilton theory of kin selection, ethnic nepotism describes a human tendency for in-group bias or in-group favouritism applied on the ethnic level. The term was coined by sociologist Pierre L. van den Berghe in reference to the situation in the Belgian Congo (Psychology Wiki).

For the purposes of this article, I define democratization as the action of making “something” accessible to everyone towards ensuring that there is justice and equity at the centre of governance. Here, something includes money, political power, opportunities, leadership, belonging, land, food, medicines, housing, rural industries, roads, public services, scholarships, education, health, et cetera.

Nepotism and ethnicity, and for that matter, ethnic nepotism, are jointly an anti-thesis of democratization. Ethnicity as a political tool is frequently helped to thrive through political ethnicization and ethnic politicization.

There are serious consequences of political ethnicization (i.e., ethnicization of politics or converting ethnicity into a political tool and attuning all groups or subgroups of a population to serving the interests of a particular group in or with power). This implies putting ethnicity at the centre of a political party, the political processes, the public services and, for that matter, government structure and functions, whether it has to do with the national budget, policies, laws and justice.

When this happens, ethnic nepotism is unavoidable. Ethnic nepotism entails ethnic purity, which implies deliberate pursuit of ethnic supremacy in every aspect of life and sphere of influence. Ethnic identity and superiority can result, with the collective ethnic attitude that other ethnicities are inferior. This was the foundation of apartheid in South Africa before in collapsed. I will come to this in more detail later.

In extreme cases, ethnic cleansing using a variety of tools and avenues is ultimately unavoidable. It is dangerous if one ethnic group chooses to politicize ethnicity and use it as a tool to segregate against other ethnicities. South Africa (also sometimes called racist South Africa did this between 1948 and 1992.

The country came to be known as Apartheid South Africa because the racist, supremacist rulers used color to discriminate against the Black majority politically, economically, socially, ecologically and environmentally. As a result, the Black South Africans were marginalized, pushed to the margins of Nature where they could produce nothing but fed by the supremacists.

So, the Blacks were ecologically and environmentally segregated and assigned to ecologically and environmentally unproductive lands. There they were granted sham independence and their enclaves called Bantustans. This was crime against humanity: assigning people to enclaves where they could not live wholesome lives.

Ethnic politicization is when an ethnic group is politicized, or when an ethnic identity and loyalty is deliberately moved from the private sphere to the public sphere. Political decisions are made, not to service the whole society, but to benefit a particular ethnic group or identity. It is identity politics ethnicized.

When this happens in a country where the societal ethico-moral fabric derives from the multiple indigenous groups, it distorts the identities of the groups through the penetration, conquest and occupation by the dominant ethnic group politically, militarily, socially, culturally, ecologically, environmentally and even genetically through intermarriages between that group and the other groups to enhance its genetic spread through the populations. This way, the genetic composition of the indigenous groups is altered so that they can no longer claim to be indigenous.

The end result is that politics is no longer a vehicle by which to build a strong non-ethnic civil society. Instead, ethnic politicization and political ethnicization interactively and integratively encourage the building of a strong ethnic society in which each population group or subgroup, instead of pursuing the greater goal of holistic societal solidarity and unit, begins to pursue its own sovereignty against the other groups. This tendency will be most pronounced within the dominant group or subgroup.

A society dominated ethnically cannot be in charge of its destiny nor steady itself on the path of democratization. Everything will be distorted to serve the interests of the dominant ethnic group in terms of power (political, social, economic, etc.) and everything that goes with power. This, unfortunately, indeed seems to be the case under the perennial rule of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni.

Other Ugandans organized politically as alternative political groups have been effectively excluded from the political space and inactivated in the political stream and now manifest more or less like white elephant-like organizations with no meaningful impact on the political, economic, social, development or even ecological and environmental processes of the country.

The organizations in perspective are Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and the Democratic Party (DP) both of which are the oldest Parties in the country, and which were formed during the colonial times to agitate for Black rule and end to colonialism. Their top leaders have been conscripted to serve power and no longer provide meaningful leadership of their Parties.

There is no effective political development in these Parties anymore. Other Parties include the Forum for Democratic Change, which arose out of the ruling Party, National Resistance Movement Organization (NRMO) that prefers to retain its bush days name National Resistance Movement (NRM) illegally; Conservative Party (CP), which was formed by Mayanja Nkangi to contest the 1980 Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) organized

General Elections: the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), which was formed by Tibuhaburwa Museveni also to contest the 1980 General elections, but whose members were absorbed in the NRM, and is, therefore, politically and organizationally dead; the National Unity Party (NUP) formed by Sssentamu Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) to contest the 2021 Presidential and General elections; and many other smaller parties. Under Tibuhaburwa Museveni rule, whether Parties are small or big, they are treated the same way: non-entities unfit to access the population and recruit members, or conduct any meaningful political activities away from their Headquarters.

If their leaders venture beyond their headquarters, they are often hunted down, hounded and thrown in prison arraigned in courts for disturbing law and order or for treason, the same way the racist rulers of South Africa used to treat Black nationalist political leaders.

In Uganda, there is no longer any question that everything begins and ends with the President, Tibuhaburwa Museveni. At present the President is restructuring and re-organizing Ugandan society the way he wants, de-emphasizing the supremacy of the indigenous groups.

Using the Constitution of Uganda 1995, whose making he presided over, he introduced a new indigenous group, which he called Banyarwanda, and to which he and his ethnicity belongs, and which is effectively the one in power in Uganda -politically and militarily.

So, when the President talked of “This is not a mere change of guards but a fundamental change”, on 26th January 1986 when he was sworn in as the immediate post-Tito Okello Military Junta President of Uganda, he meant he would address the business of reconstructing every fabric of Ugandan society and redesigning its functionality in all sectors of the economy, spheres of life and spheres of human activity.

Already, every sphere of human life and activity is now effectively dominated by people who belong to the ethnic group dominating power in Uganda. This is not surprising. During his long reign in Uganda, the President has made sure that power does not get out of his hands, or out of his family and ethnic group.

This is exactly what racist South African supremacists did to exclude the majority Blacks from governing their country. In furtherance of this goal, it is apparent that the President has allowed his son, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and his son-in-law, Odrek Rwabogo, to exclusively access the population of Uganda alongside himself (the President) in what appears to be a three-pronged strategy to keep power in his family and ethnic group.

Playing politics is in the family, at the exclusion of alternative political forces. Apparently, some political forces such as Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and the Democratic Party (DP) – both of which are the oldest in the country – have been compromised and their top leaders coopted to serve the interests of the ruling party.

All the three (President Museveni, Odrek Rwabogo and Muhoozi Kainerugaba) are using different justifications to sell why they are the right ones for Ugandans to choose from as the suitable Uganda President from when presidential elections are held in 2026.  President Tibuhaburwa Museveni is using the conquer poverty and make everyone rich dictum.

Odrek Rwabogo is using revitalizing businesses, which was badly hit by Covid 19, and for this he got Ug Shs 39 billion that he is using to spread his visibility. Muhoozi Kainerugaba has distanced himself from the failures and mistakes of his father’s party, and is promising heaven on Earth to revamp the economy, employ youth and eliminate poverty, Meanwhile the President maintains he is building democracy in and of Uganda.

However, it has become clear that it is a type of democracy that is dynastical and both politicomilitary and militipolitical, completely excluding alternative political leadership. The three ethnically related individuals are well protected by the public security agencies. All this is happening two years after the 2021 Presidential and General Elections and the focus is the 2026 Presidential and General Elections.

It seems it has already been decided by the ruling family that the next President of Uganda must come from the ruling family. This is of course political segregation. Without being explicitly told, alternative political leaders must wait for 2026 to rubberstamp the 2026 Presidential and General Elections and make them appear credible and legitimate.

When they participate the Electoral Commission is already conditioned to pronounce the elections free and fair even when it is aware that political activity in the country has been and continues to be lopsided in favour of the ruling party and ruling family.

There appears to be evidence that the tight hold onto the political space and the preference that power does not get out of the palace, or at least from the ethnic group in charge, was well planned, perhaps when the “Liberators” were in the bushes of the Luwero Triangle, which those days consisted of 22 Districts.

Keeping power in the palace was precisely what the racist Supremacists of South Africa did from 1949 to 1992. Ethnic nepotism was the strategy. All power belonged to whites. Al security organs were constructed, developed and maintained to protect the racists, their power, their economy, their injustices, their institutions and to ensure that all resources of the big country belonged only to them, although the true owners of the resources were the Black Africans.

There are many ways that the South African supremacists built their apartheid system.

  1. They maintained close relations with the West, especially UK, USA and the Netherlands, where the Boers who build the system came from.
  2. They bantustanised the country, creating several Bantustans and giving them sham independence, power and authority without being in charge of the resources underground.
  3. They placed all institutions, projects, programmes, authorities, commissions only in their hands.
  4. They created a white supremacist dynasty between 1948 and 1992 when it collapsed.
  5. They sabotaged the education of blacks by segregating them socially.
  6. They hunted down educated Africans and forced many of them in exile.
  7. Every other time they increased the number of Bantustans.
  8. They trained their children in the best universities in and outside South Africa.
  9. Hey controlled all resources in the country such as diamonds.
  10. Their educational curriculum was different from that of the ensure the gap between them and the Blacks continued to widen.
  11. They trained their people to manage all the resources and ensured the Blacks were slaves to the Apartheid State.
  12. They made laws and policies to tighten their grip onto all resources and the entire economy
  13. They made obnoxious laws to manage law and order, with the view to exclude Blacks from participation in the politics and governance of the country.
  14. They grabbed all resourceful land and assigned the Blacks to ecologically poor lands where they would grow nothing.
  15. They discouraged intermarriages between Blacks and Whites.
  16. They ensured that all public property belonged to whites and none to Blacks.
  17. They designed their racist system in such a way that Blacks were no more than slaves to them and to the State.
  18. They assisted any of their kind to live meaningfully in te Apartheid economy with public money at their disposal to establish small and big businesses
  19. They controlled the economies of the satellite countries and independent enclaves such as Swaziland.
  20. The National Budget was committed to individual racists by a percentage regardless of age-group
  21. The government ensured that white government workers got lucrative salaries and big retirement benefits to live on the rest of their lives.
  22. They created huge salary disparities between them the Indians and Coloureds, while assigning Africans to exploitative jobs earning them peanuts.
  23. A huge portion of the national budget, which was a racist budget, went into contracts, projects, salaries, supplies, training, works and health bills of the racists.
  24. They decreed that the mandate of the Apartheid State was to protect every white person -man, woman, child from crime of any kind, big or small, national or international.
  25. All political and military power was under the control of the racists.
  26. The racist Constitution of South Africa invested all power and authority in the President.
  27. Death by torture and shooting was reserved for any Black nationalist forces. Even children would be shot if they demonstrated against the Apartheid regime as did happen in Soweto when several students were shot dead and many maimed.
  28. Treason cases were reserved for Blacks and their collaborators who were always Blacks.
  29. Democratization whereby power would be passed into the hands of the Black majority was constitutionally and practically prevented. No political Party, especially the African National Congress (ANC)was allowed to operate legally until 1994, when the racists surrendered power to Nelson Mandela and his ANC after he successfully negotiated the transfer of power from the white minority to the Black majority. South Africa became the newest independent State in Africa.

A country governed on the basis of ethnicity and nepotism cannot survive for long as a unit, let alone embark on a meaningful and effective democratization path. Injustice, inequity and discrimination are institutionalized. Where there is injustice, inequity and discrimination politically, economically, socially, culturally, ecologically and environmentally there cannot be democracy.

Democracy is a myth, and deception becomes integral to governance and leadership. Development, transformation and progress become a tripod of lies. The whole scheme of governance is a gigantic lie uncommitted to liberating Uganda and Ugandans and committed to enslaving Uganda and Ugandans well in the future.

Uganda of the 21st century needs to rethink its political trajectory into the future. The Indigenous groups of Uganda need to re-evaluate their status in the present state of affairs collectively and chart out a new path to secure their future themselves. Their future and the future of all their members seem to be in jeopardy.

A new Uganda must emerge. Such a Uganda must be the Federal State of Uganda with the original traditional nations as the federal entities. Better late than never. Otherwise, their future generations have no future in Uganda. The future belongs to immigrants suchas Indians, Chinese, Rwandese, Eritreans, Somali, Ethiopians and Rwandese.

The country will belong to previously nomadic pastoralists. They will take all good land and scatter the indigenous groups as internal refugees in their own country. Indigenous people will be slaves to the immigrants and to the State.

They will own nothing except their past! Their undoing will be the current ethnic nepotism and practice if extended well in the future with the participation of some greedy and selfish indigenous people in or close to power. I am prophesying.

For God and My Country.

The Writer Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

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