Press Releases

If we don’t rise above sub-nationalism, Uganda development will remain stunted

Since I joined Uganda political debates, I have been concerned about the degree of sub-nationalism, albeit subsiding. I had hoped that the suffering we have experienced as a nation, not as individual regions or families, would bring us closer together to forge a common front, liberate ourselves and lay a strong foundation for sustainable peace, stability, security, prosperity, equity and happiness for all Ugandans. I was invited to co-host an English program on Radio Munansi. As the debates proceeded we began to lose focus on the country as a whole and drifted into sub-nationalism accusing one region for all the troubles in Uganda and vowing not to allow another national leader from there. Thankfully, others stepped in and we resumed the national debate. Based on the information we gathered among Ugandans at home and abroad and friends and well wishers, a consensus emerged that opposition groups needed to come together under one umbrella and speak with one voice for efficiency and effectiveness. Another consensus emerged that we should use our respective talents, expertise and experiences in a mutually reinforcing manner, regardless of region, religion, ethnicity, gender, age and size, etc.

In July 2011 various parties and groups gathered in Los Angeles, USA and founded United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) as an all inclusive umbrella organization to bring about political change in Uganda by peaceful means in the first instance. We had an intensive and interactive brainstorming session that laid out the contours of the work to be undertaken by UDU. Members of the executive committee were elected by acclamation based on talent and comparative advantage. The office bearers in the committee were also elected on the basis of the work to be done in the first three months in preparing for the second meeting in Boston, USA in October, 2011. We deliberately elected a lawyer as chairman because the committee felt that the top priority was the registration of UDU and writing the constitution. It was also decided that the secretary general post should be filled by someone with diplomatic and international economic relations experience and writing skills and would also be responsible for managing UDU affairs on a daily basis.

When the report of the Los Angeles meeting with names of committee members and office bearers was distributed through Ugandans at Heart Forum, the only comment we received was a complaint about why the majority of committee members have come from one region and wondered aloud why one region was not represented on the committee. We explained that two members from the region in question were nominated but declined to serve. The matter of representation came up at the Boston meeting. There was again a general consensus that positions should be filled on merit only, the idea being to rise above parochialism which has impaired Uganda’s development. The Boston conference agreed unanimously that the committee should continue to serve, with a focus on civic education and diplomatic networks in relation to developments in Uganda.

Because of his broad mandate the secretary general has been active in UDU activities especially in civic education within the framework of the National Recovery Plan (NPR) and diplomatic work. Consequently, Ugandans naturally wished to know more about the individual. As a strong believer in transparency, I circulated my profile in three parts: political experience; leadership experience and business and public service experience accessible at To my surprise the provision of this detailed information in response to public demand has given rise to different interpretations about the motive and sponsorship as members of Ugandans at Heart Forum have read. Some comments have resurrected sub-regional feelings which UDU has been trying to put behind us. Because some Ugandans don’t use their real names it is difficult to tell who they are or whether they are genuine in their statements or are acting on behalf of someone else with the intention to dent the record.

While UDU work as a framework for collective national engagement has been well received and we are very grateful, the leadership of UDU has become a thorny issue. We believe that for national unity and progress, leadership should be decided on merit and agreed–upon profile only. The selected leader must serve all Ugandans without discrimination and performance monitored closely to ensure compliance. Uganda’s experience has shown that benefits to a region are not commensurate with the number of people a region has had at the top of the government pyramid. Ipso facto, sub-nationalism must be excluded in selecting Uganda leaders.

For God and My Country

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary General & Chief Administrator, UDU


Reporting UDU’s diplomatic progress

Press statement

A year ago, on July 9, 2011, United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) was born in Los Angeles, USA. One of the topics that dominated the brain storming and other formal and informal debates was restoration of political and civil rights so that Ugandans can associate, march and assemble freely; express opinion orally and in writing without harassment; campaign, vote, count the ballots and announce results without interference. Delegates also expressed the importance and urgency of restoring presidential term limits, establishment of a truly independent electoral commission and keeping the military out of politics as well as taking the recommendations of international observer missions seriously (in 2011 the Commonwealth Observer mission reported that the electoral process lacked a level playing field, implying declaring the results null and void). One of the strategies to effect the necessary changes was UDU’s interaction with the international community – at government, United Nations and human rights organizations levels.

Thankfully, UDU’s work was made relatively easy because many of the officials we met with were largely aware of the human rights violation in Uganda which was unacceptable to them. They therefore welcomed our initiative and the National Recovery Plan which contains information about deficits in democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms and governance (corruption, sectarianism, cronyism and non-accountability; lack of transparency and mismanagement of public funds). Our working methods have varied depending on circumstances but have produced positive results.

First, you will have noticed that some of our development partners have issued statements from their capitals and missions in Kampala urging the NRM government to observe human rights and fundamental freedoms especially during political campaigns and peaceful assembly and demonstrations. Intensive discussions behind closed doors between the government and partners have also taken place. Consequently, the use of excessive force has declined (more remains to be done), security officers that harassed or assaulted demonstrators have been dealt with and government has apologized to victims. You will agree that this was unthinkable a few months ago. NRM thought it could do whatever it wanted with impunity in the name of maintaining law and order and national security. That is no longer the case. We, Ugandans need to be more vigilant to oust the oppressive and corrupt NRM regime from power. We therefore need to intensify non-violent resistance which is a legitimate instrument of unseating a government that has turned its back on the people. We are grateful to our partners for the support they have extended to us. We shall continue to work together until full democracy and governance are restored preferably by peaceful means.

Second, UDU has constantly issued press and other statements urging Ugandans to fully understand and practice human rights and freedoms. We have also called on the government to strictly observe political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. We have separately and/or collectively urged women, youth, parliamentarians, security forces, religious and traditional leaders to come together and demand that government stops harassing, intimidating, torturing and jailing innocent citizens. UDU has made a significant contribution in the improvement of the political and civil environment. The only fear among Ugandans at home and abroad is fear itself and there is nothing our friends and well wishers can do about that. Uganda forces can no longer beat up people like before for demanding democracy and governance because UDU is watching and will spring into action damaging to the government. Ugandans themselves have to overcome fear and liberate themselves from dictatorship that is already experiencing unprecedented difficulties from within and without. This is our moment and we can’t afford to squander it. To succeed, opposition groups need to come together and pick credible, capable, impeccable, selfless and patriotic leaders in order to defeat NRM. NRM is not a popular party – now or in the past. It has stayed in power this long because of stealing elections and divisions among opposition parties. Once an independent electoral commission is in place and the opposition is united and real leaders in place, NRM will have no chance of stealing another election at all levels. Let us make sure that 2011 be the last election year when NRM stole elections.

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary General & Chief Administrator, UDU

Endless investigations and torture of democracy advocates in Uganda

The United Democratic Ugandans (UDU), an umbrella organization of political parties and organizations at home and abroad opposed to the NRM government, expresses its deep concern about endless investigations and torture of democracy advocates in Uganda. There are Ugandans that have been languishing in detention or on bail under extremely difficult conditions because the government is still conducting investigations. There ought to be sufficient information before a person is arrested and if additional information is needed it should be gathered within a reasonable time. And if there is insufficient evidence the person should be set free. In Uganda it appears that a person is arrested first and lengthy investigations follow. This approach creates a lot of social, financial and psychological hardship and torture on individual members concerned and their families, relatives, friends, well wishers and places of work.

Uganda has entered an enlightenment phase in which an increasing number of citizens are demanding full expression of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The government needs to adjust to this new environment of protest and refrain from arresting people demanding correction of democracy and good governance deficits. If Ugandans are arrested in the name of maintaining law and order or national security then they should appear in court as soon as possible.

We appeal to all Ugandans at home and abroad, United Nations, African organizations, development partners and human rights organizations to individually or collectively put pressure on the government of Uganda to conduct investigations quickly and take appropriate actions so that a final and speedy decision is taken.

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary-General & Chief Administrator, UDU


UDU appeals for calm in Uganda’s current political atmosphere

The politics of Uganda is at a cross-roads. If we take a wrong turn we shall be in trouble for a very long time and everybody will lose something. We therefore need cool minds to resolve our political differences. We, Ugandans need to remember that our nation has experienced war than peace; politics of exclusiveness than inclusiveness; zero-sum games and winner-take-all than compromise and agreement on win-win arrangements. Democracy in the form of elections since 1961 has not produced the desired results. Governance has lacked transparency, accountability and full participation of all Ugandans. We also need to realize that when a country has been dominated for a long time by one party and one leader, the transition is often very difficult. Because of these unfavorable circumstances and quality of leadership, Ugandans have failed to enjoy the endowments in our land and take advantage of our strategic geographic location in the Great Lakes region. Consequently the majority of Ugandans are trapped in absolute poverty and its offshoots of hunger, unemployment, disease and illiteracy. For these reasons, Uganda’s political economy needs to be overhauled.

The current political developments within the ruling party pose a challenge and an opportunity. Crises when handled carefully provide opportunities for positive change. Since the flawed presidential and parliamentary elections in 2011, Uganda has been in a political, economic and social crisis that has led to debates and meetings at home and abroad to find a lasting solution acceptable to all stakeholders. Consensus is emerging that the national, regional and global atmosphere favors resolving differences by peaceful means than armed conflict. Consensus is also emerging that a level playing field needs to be created to permit political contest based on merit alone. As a first step, all Ugandans need to be brought together under one umbrella. We therefore need to form a transitional government of the ruling party and opposition parties and organizations with a mandate to prepare and organize free and fair multi-party elections at an appropriate time under the aegis of an independent electoral commission.

UDU appeals to all Ugandans, traditional, religious and political leaders to support this proposal. We call on East African community and Great Lakes region, African Union, United Nations, friends and well wishers to extend a helping hand during this difficult period so that Uganda does not slide into a bloody conflict. The primary responsibility for putting Uganda in order resides with the people of Uganda. While putting our house in order we call on the military to stay neutral and the police to maintain law and order.

For God and My Country

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary-General, UDU

UDU congratulates Jinja elderly for exercising their human right

United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) congratulates the elderly of Jinja for exercising your God-given right to demonstrate against NRM government for discriminating against you. Like other elderly citizens in Uganda, you are entitled to receive money and other benefits under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment Program (SAGE) or other programs. We call on other elderly that have not benefited to come forward and present their demands. It is your right, not a privilege. As they say, if you don’t knock on the door, it won’t open and you will stay out in the cold or heat and freeze or sweat to death. And don’t give up until you get what you are demanding. Other groups like the youth and workers should not stand idly by when they feel the impact of injustice. No one else will do it for us. What friends and well wishers can do is to extend a helping hand. The primary responsibility to act is ours. What UDU can confirm is that the eyes of the world are focusing on Uganda and will react appropriately should the government violate the rights of Ugandans to associate and march; assemble and demonstrate peacefully. The government has been warned. So don’t be afraid. Overcome fear, say your prayer and individually or collectively present your demands. UDU will support you all the way through its networks.

The people of Uganda are of equal worth under the Constitution and under God. They are the sovereign and the government is their servant. None should be treated differently by the government. A social contract exists between the people and the government and is renewed every five years. As part of this contract, the government creates conditions that protect life, liberty, justice, dignity, property and ensure enjoyment of happiness by all Ugandans. In other words, Ugandans should enjoy equally the natural human rights and fundamental freedoms. These rights and freedoms are God-given and no one can take them away even the government of Uganda. They are not privileges that a leader can give selectively and withdraw with impunity. When the contract is breached Ugandans as a whole or in groups have every right to take appropriate action including termination of the contract.

On December 10, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. Article 1 of the Declaration states that: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. Article 2, paragraph 1 stipulates that: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status [such as age]”. All Ugandans are entitled to these rights and freedoms without discrimination.

Aware of the Declaration of Human Rights, point number 3 of the NRM’s Ten Point Program titled: “Consolidation of National Unity and elimination of all forms of sectarianism” states that NRM will treat all Ugandans equally regardless of “one’s religion, color, sex or height”. Parliament promulgated Anti-Sectarian Law to prevent the practice of sectarianism.

In practice the NRM government has behaved differently. Sectarianism has become order of the day, carried out openly for all to see. For example, key and strategic positions in the public sector such as the ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs (and Uganda Missions abroad); presidential advisers; security forces; and lucrative businesses have gone to those connected with the center of power. Allocation of resources has discriminated against some sectors witness the case of the elderly in Jinja. In his State of the Nation address on June 7, 2012, President Museveni admitted that 68 percent of Uganda’s population who are subsistence farmers with huge untapped potential had not been supported or mobilized by government. By and large, NRM government has discriminated in favor of the nation’s capital city of Kampala which generates some 70 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) with a population of less than 2 million, leaving out 32 million Ugandans that contribute a mere 30 percent of GNI.

In a 1993 interview with a foreign journalist regarding plans for inviting skilled and experienced Ugandans in the diaspora to come home and participate in national building efforts, Museveni stated that: “We [NRM government] do not mind very much if they stay abroad. … We are training new people all the time in the university and technical schools. So we do not feel their absence”. This is blatant sectarianism, discriminating against a section of Uganda citizens. Museveni or his agent selectively invited those he wanted and the rest are still languishing in exile. While locking out experienced Ugandans, NRM hired a large number of very expensive foreigners with little or no knowledge of Uganda’s complex history to fill professional gaps particularly in key and strategic institutions like the ministry of finance and central bank.

This discrimination in all aspects of human endeavor has resulted in skewed income distribution in favor of the rich and well connected, high unemployment to the tune of over 80 percent among the youth, high level of absolute poverty and food insecurity (a recent poll shows that 81 percent of Ugandans are poorer), rural-urban and regional inequalities: the urban areas and southern region are doing relatively better than the rural areas and northern and eastern regions. There is a breach of contract by the NRM government.

Specifically, in Uganda there has been a breach of political, economic, social and environmental contract. Since 1996 all elections have been rigged in favor of NRM. The benefits of economic growth have disproportionately gone to the few already rich through a trickle or bubble up mechanism including unfair or regressive taxes. Education, health, housing and environmental systems are on the verge of collapse as reflected in large numbers of functional illiteracy, re-emergence of diseases that had disappeared, sprawling slums in Uganda towns and environmental degradation that threatens to turn Uganda into a desert within 100 years if drastic measures are not taken as warned by a United Nations specialized agency.

This is a serious breach of contract. The people of Uganda at home and abroad have decided to challenge the government through non-violent resistance in terms of peaceful demonstrations, strikes, radio broadcasts, internet and non-cooperation. We call on all patriotic and peace loving Ugandans including progressive members of the NRM to join hands and bring about peaceful change. We urge you to come out and express your opinion including advice on the way forward for two heads are better than one. Sitting on the fence until the last minute does not send a good signal.

NRM is on the verge of collapse from internal decay and that is why there are reports that Museveni has made the unusual statement that he will contest the 2016 presidential elections. He is trying to prevent total disintegration of his Movement and his legacy. This is the moment Ugandans should not miss. The only obstacle is fear which we must overcome as soon as possible and return Uganda onto a path of sustained, equitable and sustainable development for all. We request that our security forces stay neutral or join their suffering brothers and sisters. UDU is ready to play its part.

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary General, UDU


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© 2011 United Democratic Ugandans. All Rights Reserved.