By: Boaz Byayesu
Community empowerment is better than pompous democracy talk and mightier than the good theoretical ideological literature.
Grassroots organization and construction of communal leadership structures are the desirable qualities for an ideal leader of Uganda after Museveni.
Renewal of NRM founding values sandwiched with fresh innovative and transformative ideas are a golden desire for a post-Museveni leadership.
How Museveni won the hearts of the Ugandan public derived from his grassroots base and strategy
In the previous weeks and months, pills we have heard and read of various political doctrines paraphrased by some of new brand of NRM ideologues invoking their mentors’ political ideologies and/or evoking some strange dogma “Democratic Centralism” from some revolutionary forces of certain foreign powers.
I wonder why we are not attracted to decentralized political structures hence participatory democracy in an inclusive and energized mass movement democracy that benefits us all. Well, this political assimilation system may be good if it work for us.
However, this thing so-called “Democratic Centralism” is not democratic at all. No wonder, it is associated with Russia as its defender tells us.
This practice bears politics of patronage and opportunism through micro-management and favoritism at best, and this virus spreads and grows into absolutism and autocracy at its worst. It is Africa’s main avenue for licensed corruption from the top downwards. Folks, it’s a virus.
Having said that, it would be even better if we also emulated not only how Russia or similar powers acquired and controlled state power and maintained the status-quo by, perhaps, manipulating the population and stifling free speech, but instead how some of the younger new world powers like South Korea, Singapore or Vietnam have exercised this kind of similar power to rather engage the communities and the entire population with a mission of transforming their socio-economic livelihood. To me, that sounds like better and meaningful authoritarian power.
Who cares about how Russian revolutionary Czars acquired and controlled power, and maintained the status quo? Who benefits from that power? We rather pay attention to how some similar authoritarian but liberation forces have acquired power and used it to turn around the economies of their states and change the socio-economic landscape of their nations bettering the social welfare of the common man.
Museveni as a Case Study of Grassroot Organization
In the 60s and 70s, Museveni initiated some purpose-oriented conversations with his fellow school mates and associates like Robert Rutehenda and others to pick some interest in the affairs of the society beginning with their communities.
He started with the Ankole land issues and their attendant inequalities between the Mailo land owners and the tenants/squatters as he nurtured and prepared for a bigger and greater dream through mobilization and organization of the young generation in connection with the peasant community. During that time, the vast majority of the people in that portion of the Ankole sub region were not only apolitical but relatively ignorant and primitive.
However, Museveni offered to engage them in the simplest and friendliest manner, and they believed him because they were able to identify with him.
He carried with him the message of reforming their social conditions with a mission of addressing the disturbing issues of social injustice pertaining to their living circumstances that caused terrible rifts in parallel social class amongst themselves.
He built trust and confidence in them as he sowed a seed of common cause because his message was about justice and fairness for all. And this message also rhymed with his political message at a later time.
Museveni again mobilized and organized his like-minded young revolutionary minds and encouraged them to get involved in some active efforts aimed at liberating their country from the Idi Amin reign of terror hence the formation of Fronasa.
Museveni was relatively very young with superb political genius and purpose but with no any political capital. He had no any reliable powerful political connections or resourceful base in the country but his unwavering patriotic dream, courage, purpose and vision were his only trust and promise.
His political association and surroundings within the political perimeters of the day posed some deadly risks. Nevertheless, he courageously and wisely acquainted himself with the socio-political dynamics of Uganda by being focused on the common cause and being uniform with the common man hence the successful liberation campaign.
Museveni neither had the urge for powerful political positions nor the greed for material things. He wasn’t a bourgeoisie in the mind, at least not in practice but a simple common man with an uncommon mind.
Can anybody tell me where our intellectuals and the elite class were brainstorming? Where were our witty and articulate politicians, the brilliant academics and the entire theory-rich and wordy civil society?
Until lately, as the burden of longevity sandwiched with the bulky leadership mantle has taken a heavy toll upon this great man, Museveni has always believed that the African elite class are mostly antagonists, confusion agents and smart selfish opportunists.
Thus, with his Siasa ya Wananchi, Museveni, like his compatriot Julius Nyerere and Mao Zedong, has always based his power and focus on the grassroots, the rural communities as opposed to the city dwellers.
It is this social contract and trust built with the rural Citizen that has been his political bank despite the odds and the debatable political maneuvers.
Ladies and gentlemen, the results of Museveni’s dreams and grassroots organization have since spoken volumes. We can agree or disagree on the validity of his promise and quality of his leadership today but not his historical roots and political strategy.
Therefore, the genesis of Museveni’s revolutionary mission and struggle and the chronology of his works and events speak volumes and strike a serious inspirational challenge to all of us especially those who aspire to replace him.
Now, some of these aspiring leaders or the prospective Museveni successors have both the means and the political platform. The question on many people’s minds though is whether these politicians have a reliable pro-people work plan for community empowerment hence a good vision for the nation or politics as usual.
Folks, this socio-economic approach is the surest way to attaining peace, unity, stability and democracy we all desire. This is a matter of a common front in a united spirit with a common vision shaped by that kind of a leader to advance a common agenda and achieve a common good as opposed to the pursuits of special interests that serve only a few belonging to the super socio-political class.
Some Suggestions for the Aspiring Museveni Successors
Foremost of all, any aspiring leader should first focus on the localities from where he/she comes, and possibly, other remote areas of Uganda. They should mobilize, organize, sensitize, educate and empower communities with information, knowledge and tools for self-empowerment and sustainable progress.
It is a universal fact that quality education is the most important tool for quality life, thus a good leader should and must make education priority number One.
Let them empower others to prove that they care about the people. For example, let them lead by setting up some income generating projects for all but not for themselves alone and pretend to be putting up development models as an indicator/sample for community development, I hear. Where will the poor peasants get the means and the know-how to cope up with these alien development models?
Let them uplift the poor and support the disadvantaged in pursuits of a better life and brighter future for all through education and supported economic activities. Let them initiate communal projects that benefit many if not all at the grassroots.
Let them teach the political ideology together with the prosperity ideology for all instead of the complex ideological theory lectured to the hungry, the angry and the frustrated commoners.
Let them educate the sons and daughters of the nation on things that realistically work but not the boring theory that is presumed to feed and enrich its crafters.
Let their civic education and political ideology be an ideology of patriotism and nationalism at a family economics level hence the leadership of common interests and common good. And this is better felt and lived rather than being heard and lectured. Therefore, this democracy evangelism attracts a few honest and dedicated converts as well as this ideology commodity is a hard sale without a good taste of it or something tangible to show for it.
Boaz Byayesu lives in Virginia