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HomeOPINIONS AND COLUMNSOWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: The Threat Of Political Ethnicization Of Uganda

OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: The Threat Of Political Ethnicization Of Uganda

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By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

Since 1986, there has been a general outcry in Uganda that one small ethnic group to which most of the bush fighters of Luwero belonged, accessed power in Kampala and has been capturing everything, including job opportunities for itself.

That the group is ethnically related to and indistinguishable from the one that captured power in Kigali in Rwanda is of Uganda universal knowledge in Uganda. The two groups of elements had been refugees in Uganda and organised together to first capture State power in Kampala and then proceed to do the same in Rwanda.

Indeed, when Kigali fell from the hands of the Hutus, the new rulers of Uganda boasted of their role, but not before denying any involvement. About how could that be the case when the elements that captured power in Rwanda came from within the bush fighters of Luwero? The elements that captured power in Rwanda fully participated in the National Resistance Movement (NRM) bush war in Luwero and in subduing the resistance of the people of Teso and Northern Uganda before they waged their successful invasion of Rwanda from Uganda and from within the NRA in 1994 after an earlier invasion in 1992 failed.

They called themselves Rwandese Patriotic Army (PRA) but from what I have submitted already, they were a mutant or mirror image of the NRA.

Before PRA invaded Rwanda, its rebel elements elements participated in everything good and bad in Uganda.

The good thing was setting up an administration to run the country after the fall of Okello military Junta. However, the legitimization of the new State under the new invasive force whose leaders claimed they had liberated Uganda, remained.

The question was: “How could a State dominated by rulers with their biological, cultural and historical roots in Rwanda and Mulenge in Zaire (now DRC) be legitimate? Of course the new rulers were aware of this concern of Ugandans. They would have to take all necessary political and politico-military measure to build the legitimacy of their new governance and leadership order driven by the discredited single-party politics of the earlier post-colonial period.

Initially, the Rwandese rebel elements ethnically related to their counterparts they had helped to capture the instruments of power in Uganda, participated in the post-bush war administration and security organs that President Tibuhaburwa Museveni established. They held important positions.

For example, the original leader of PRA, Fred Rwigyema, held the position of State Minister of Defense, and the current President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, held a top position in the Chieftainancy of Military Intelligence (CMI). They participated in all the atrocities in Teso and Northern Uganda. It was as if they were helping President Tibuhaburwa Museveni in order to help themselves to take power in Rwanda. This confirmed the saying that “no foreigner helps you more than he or she helps himself”

So, when President Tibuhaburwa Museveni implemented the IMF/World Bank retrenchment policy in the early 1990s, many Rwandese refugees benefited in terms of job opportunities. They occupied the positions from which Ugandans were retrenched, ostensibly to create a small efficient and effective work force.

For example an Old Boy of mine at the University of Dar-es-Saalam in the Department of Zoology, who later proceeded to UK for a Bachelors degree in Economics, and a Masters and PhD in the same field, was appointed by President Tibuhaburwa Museveni to an executive joba in the Bank of Uganda.

It was as if the President wanted to prepare for higher responsibilities in Rwanda and Africa. Indeed, after the overthrow of the Hutu dominated Juvenal Habyarimana regime in Kigali, he proceeded to Rwanda to serve as Minister of Finance. He ended up as Executive Director of the African Development Bank. The person I am writing about here is Dr Ronald Kaberuka.

Apart from participating in the NRA atrocities in Teso and Northern Uganda, which included burning almost people in a train wagon in Mukura in Teso, the future RPA rebels participated in robberies of banks and cooperative unions and societies, and in ransacking industries and/or factories in Jinja. They left Jinja and Busoga shadows of their glorious past.

it is true that the small ethnic group that the rulers of Rwanda and Uganda belong to has continue to dominate employment opportunities in every sector of the economy. They dominate business, the army, police, prisons and different paramilitary, intelligence and administrative jobs. For example, many Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and Permanent Secretaries are ethnically related to the rulers of Rwanda and Uganda.

Therefore, when on the day President Tibuhaburwa was sworn in as the new post-Tito Okello Junta President of Uganda that “This is not a mere change of guards but a fundamental change”, and Ugandans celebrated and jubilated, he and his bush fighters knew what he meant: total takeover and dominance of the economy, governance and leadership of Uganda.

Of course Ugandans were initially hoodwinked by some of their indigenous people being appointed by the new President of Uganda to juicy jobs in government. However, with the passage of decades, these have been replaced by people with strings attached to the families and kinship of the men of power mediated by gun power.

Further research is needed to confirm or reject the assertions herein. However, there is evidence to suggest that the problem of ethnicity has graduated to a major issue in governance and leadership in Uganda.

For example, a thorough analysis of employment in the key positions of the Oil and Gas Industry (see below) will reveal that the issues of ethnicization and nepotism have become deep-rooted in the industry even before oil production becomes a major economic activity in the country; and that no attempt has been made to conceal it.


1- Ernest N T Rubondo – Executive Director

2- Irumba Bright- Director Exploration

3- Dozith Abeinomugisha- Director Refinery,Transmission and storage

4- Penina Aheebwa – Director Technical Support

5- Dr Joseph Kabusheeshe- Director Environment

6- Justine Kasigwa Agaba- Director Data Management

7- Pamela Mbabazi – Oil Wealth Development

8- Martin Muhangi – Policy Formulation/Analyst

9- Wilson Bahati Kazi- Fiscal Director

10- Jackson N M Byaruhanga & Jackson A Mwakali – HRM

11- Roberts K Muriisa & Specioza Twinemasiko- Land Rights and Surveying

12- Byaruhanga Musiime Chris – Production

One thing is true. If we are to combat poverty and corruption effectively, we must simultaneously combat ethnicization and nepotism, which are now detectable in every sphere of the economy and life in Uganda

For example, apart from ethnicization of employment, land grabbing and corruption have also tended to be ethnicized. Persistently, consistently and continuously, the majority of land grabbers are tending to belong to the dominant ethnic group in our current politics and economy. These are either those who were active in the bushes of Luwero and are now aged, or those connected to them and are eager to dispossess Ugandans to enrich themselves. The majority of the declared 1500 billionaires in Uganda are traceable from the men who took up arms against the new government of Obote 2 as early as February 1981, or those connected to it in terms of power, militarily business, etc.

Apparently ,even poverty is now thoroughly ethnicized, with the majority of the poor and needy belonging to the traditional indigenous groups of Ugandans distributed mainly in Eastern, Southern and Northern Uganda. The constitutionally created “Indigenous Group of Banyarwanda” boasts of most of the billionaires of Uganda.

It should, however, be emphasized there are many poor and needy among the people of Western Uganda who are not connected to the very few families in power or connected to power.

I should end this article by stating that ethnicization can also assume a social, cultural, and environmental dimension, apart from the political and economic dimension. When all these dimensions interact together, like they did in the defunct Apartheid South Africa, the country can manifest as if it is sowing seeds of separate development or segregation. That is apartheid-like manifestation. Accordingly, it is as if Uganda is reinventing Apartheid or ethnic segregation.

Environmentally and ecologically speaking, it is dangerous when one ethnic group with power, money and security excludes other ethnicities from land and resources, or pushes them to the margins of nature where survival is difficult. There is need to rethink Uganda to make it a livable home for all, and to ensure ll the different ethnic groups of the country benefit from our resources and opportunities as was the case in the past. if not then Uganda is a disaster waiting to happen.

For God and My Country

The Writer Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

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