Identity politics, nepotism and extreme partisanship are the root causes of the current tribalism in Uganda and are tearing apart our country. Tribalism is now carried over on almost every facet of life in Uganda, including deaths.
Many Ugandans do not self-identify as Ugandans anymore. Instead, they self-identify based on ethnicity and political views within a group framework that treats other groups (also Ugandans) as either enemies or allies against a collective enemy. Most of the times the collective enemy here is NRM and westerners(Banyarwanda, Banyankole, Bakiiga, e.t.c).
So, it gets confusing when a Westerner allies with any party in opposition to foster change of leadership. There’s always a group of Ugandans who wouldn’t trust that person regardless of what they do. For instance, Lewis Rubongoya, NUP’s Secretary General and Benjamin Katana (formery working in intelligence services and now NUP’s treasurer), aren’t trusted by a lot of people in opposition. Kiiza Besigye,himself, was soiled by NUP leaders and supporters saying that he’s the same as Museveni, simply because he’s a westerner and fought in the bushes with Museveni in 1980s.
To be fair, most everyday Ugandans, particularly Baganda, are fair minded and open to working with any Ugandan, regardless of their tribe. That’s why, for a long time, many Baganda supported Besigye’s efforts against Museveni. Baganda also supported Museveni’s war against Obote in the early 1980s. A lot of non- Baganda have stood for local elections in Buganda and won.
A lot of non-Baganda I’ve interacted with over the years, say that they’ve been moved by Baganda’s incredible tolerance, hospitality, generosity and empathy. They’ve been impressed by our creativity, innovation and business ideas. And they’ve appreciated our adaptability to complex conditions. In short, they’ve been moved by our humanity. And all this under sometimes oppressive conditions by past and current government. One can only imagine what we could do once our humanity has been fully unleashed.
Basically, all Ugandans are social creatures, which has broad implications for our ability to get along and depend on each other. Baganda are benefitting from Banyankole, and the vice versa is true. All this hatred I see being portrayed on social media shouldn’t be happening, and we shouldn’t allow anyone to divide us. For instance, when I was doing my master’s degree, the second closest person I had in lectures was a lady from Mbarara — she even tried to keep in touch when she went back to Uganda, and it was partly my fault that the friendship died a natural death because I didn’t keep in touch.
KYAGULANYI AND NUP
Tribalism has always been part of us but there’s only one visible explanation I can think of why it’s running amok right now – Kyagulanyi and his party.
There is a saying, an author cannot be more stupid than his readers. If we apply this idea to the case of Nazi Germany, Hitler would not have been more stupid than his voters – a lot of Germans ignorantly supported him. Similary, Kyagulanyi would not have been more stupid than his voters.
Kyagulanyi’s kind of politics fed tribalism among youthful Baganda, and it is counterproductive and damaging to our nation. His purpose was/is to tribalize and preserve his power base in Buganda. The last thing they, NUP, want is Buganda identifying with another political party.
Five years ago, no one would’ve expected what we had just witnessed in the last few days after the death of Gen Tumwine; people posting videos celebrating his death. I had never seen Baganda insulting the Katikiro of Buganda till a few years ago.
I may be viewed as biased about this because I have never supported NUP, but it isn’t rocket science to know that ever since Kyagulanyi joined politics in 2017, tribalism has been so normalized and even promoted in many ways by both the government and NUP. I mean, tribalism has become so bad these days that we now live in an era where if you don’t support him or NUP, you apparently aren’t a Muganda anymore, or you’re a spy for the state. Or if you support him, even if you aren’t a Muganda, you’re apparently closer to being a ” Muganda ” or intelligent. It even gets sad when non-Baganda bundle us(all Baganda) with Kyagulanyi and his group when they do crazy stuff.
In Uganda today one can see how politics of demonizing people who are “other” – not believing in elections, criticising NUP and Kyagulanyi, criticising those that jubilate when someone dies, e.t.c, can make one very unpopular among NUP supporters. They even reach to the extent of threatening people, more like NRM style.
Most of the NUP bloggers acted in a precipitous and inconsiderate way against other tribes during the 2020-21 elections and continue to do so. I think those that foster this are cynical hypocrites like: Sauda Madada, Fred Lumbuye, Koja Omugezi. Being divisive and tribal is the story of their life, so they need to be shunned and their voters need to see that hate and envy and resentment only perpetuates many of their problems.
Recently, NUP have done a little bit of bandaging up that gaping hole by starting to work with FDC and JEEMA on local elections, reducing on tribal talk, but they need to do more. To put that in context, I think the NUP leaders now are better than the NUP leaders before and during elections.
At the end of the day, I think we should be so much better than this. Life shouldn’t just be about defining each other by political party, tribe, or something like that, and spitting at each other if we just so happen to have some disagreements. Museveni is still president and not relenting, despite dire prognostications that he won’t even last a year in power after the elections.
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