By Alexander Kyokwijuka
As the country is deeply buried in tensions over the anticipated dialogue between President Yoweri Museveni and Col. (Rtd) Dr. Kiza Besigye on what could have gone wrong in the near past and the consequent election results to date, I want to propose a different subject for dialogue.
Ugandans (not Museveni and Besigye) should sit to dialogue on peace and security in Uganda and the great Lakes Region. By maintaining internal peace and security, we can focus on other issues of concern like youth unemployment, HIV-AIDS, education and health, mechanising agriculture, among others, instead of resolving endless conflicts.
Unfortunately, recent peace and security challenges in areas of Kasese and previously in northern Uganda have tested our ability to maintain the peace. The thin line is evident between organised crime, geo-cultural clashes, street political indiscipline by a section of political leaders, and many more.
There has also been an evolution in the crime situation until the most recent ones. The 20 year civil unrest in Northern Uganda which is seemingly of a political nature, the recent clashes in Kasese that are seemingly due to geo-cultural and land disagreements, and a few scattered attempts to attack Military installations in the country are not an extension of Independence celebrations but rather a point that should concern every citizen of this country.
In his PhD Thesis titled Politics, Ethnicity and Conflict in Post Independent Acholiland, Uganda 1962-2006, Dr. Tanga Odoi contends that Uganda has had a long conflictual history since 1962. The citizens of Uganda only enjoyed few years of relative peace and stability between 1962 and 1966. Between 1966 and 2006, one part or another of Uganda has experienced years of conflict accompanied by instability and political turmoil resulting from the failure to resolve political differences using political-civil means. The Ugandan political leadership after independence has failed to work out a basic political consensus on the basis of which political institutions can be built to resolve political conflicts, short of physical force.
Who said that the peace and security cases we have here cannot escalate to bigger impact than there is in Burundi, Congo and South Sudan? If anything, we should not forget that Uganda remains one of the homes for more that 1.5 million refugees from South Sudan, as the UN Refugee Agency figures show that Uganda took in 489,000 refugees from South Sudan in 2016, comparing to the 362,000 people who crossed into Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, one of the main routes that African and Middle Eastern migrants have taken to enter the continent.
My question remains, if we do not dialogue on peace building, security and development, where will Ugandan refugees go? Now that we are seen as a home for millions of refugees, shouldn’t we better strive to maintain internal peace and security by equipping the young Ugandans to be at the forefront of peace building and security?
Shouldn’t we be careful so as to even better the current situation? Ugandans should therefore sit to dialogue on Peace building and security, not only in Uganda, but in the great Lakes Region as well.
The writer is co-organising the first ever leadership and peace building academy in Uganda for youth from East Africa and is the executive director of the Youth Aid Africa