By Kintu Nyago
TOLERANCE and respect of the views of those opposed to you is a true mark of a democrat. This is what President Yoweri Museveni has consistently illustrated, more so, as chief mourner at the burial of the late Prof. Dani Wadada Nabudere, in Buyombo, Sironko district.
Nabudere, one of Africa’s greatest thinkers of our times, in his long career spanning more than 50 years, thrived on challenging any status quo.
And it is only under the democratic leadership of Museveni and the National Resistance Movement, that Prof. Nabudere has lived unmolested for 18 years since his return from exile, and in the process, made a contribution, through his radical activism and intellectual pursuit that is to benefit us and posterity enormously.
Hitherto, Nabudere had paid a heavy price for challenging authority. For instance, in 1965, he was expelled, alongside Kirunda Kivejinja, Chango Makyo, Maumbe Mukwana and others from the ruling Uganda People’s Congress, by its leader Milton Obote for opposing the latter’s stifling democratic practice and debate in this party. The trigger was the fiasco at this party’s Gulu Conference that year.
Earlier in 1963, Nabudere, the remarkable Abaasi Kibazo and others had opposed American imperialism and aggression in Vietnam and hence formed the Mbale-based Uganda Vietnam Solidarity Committee (UVSC).
However, after the 1966 constitutional crisis, Nabudere’s radical articulation of issues and pro-people stance failed to rhyme well with Obote’s increased undemocratic over-centralisation of power.
Consequently, Obote used the pretext of the Lugogo Incident when, at a UPC delegates conference, he literally, by the skin of his teeth, survived an assassination attempt by suspected
Kabaka Yekka activists, to ban political dissent and all opposition political parties, including the rather innocuous UVSC. And Nabudere alongside other opposition political leaders, were imprisoned without trial under a draconian State of Emergency regime that Obote had imposed on this country.
After the Amin coup, in 1971, Nabudere briefly served as chairman of the East African Railways and Harbours before opposing this junta from Dar-es-Salaam where he was exiled.
Together with other exiles and with the support of the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the Tanzanian government, he played a central part in the formation of the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF).
This was the political organisation around which Ugandan exiles united to remove Amin from power with Nyerere’s political guidance and the military might of the Tanzanian People’s Defence Forces alongside Obote’s Kikosi Maluum (Special Force) and Museveni led Front for National Salvation.
Politically, Nabudere was at his best during the UNLF governments, where he also served as the chairman of its political and diplomatic committee and minister, in different designations.
Together with Edward Rugumayo, Yash Tandon, Omony Ojok and Tarsis Kabwegyere they were the chief ideologues and propagators of the “Moshi Spirit” and the Front ideology.
These were intended to unite all Ugandans in their diversity, regardless of the origins of their ethnicity, religion, region and class.
This in light of the trauma that the Amin regime had inflicted on this country, in addition to the political history of sectarianism and strife Uganda had experienced. In many ways, the UNLF’s Front ideology was the precursor of the NRM’s Movement ideology.
When the Kikosi Maluum led Military Commission overthrew the UNLF government, Nabudere was forced back into exile.
From here, together with others, he launched an armed struggle against the UPC’s dictatorial regime in the 1980s, under the banner of the UNLF-anti dictatorship.
Their struggle was aimed at restoring democratic rule in this country.
At the invitation of President Museveni, Prof. Nabudere returned from exile in 1993. And although he has been a persistent critic, if not political opponent of Museveni and the NRM regime, the latter’s enlightened leadership, that promotes democratic pluralism, fully accommodated him. And this to the benefit of Uganda, Africa and humanity.
For the freedoms enjoyed in contemporary Uganda enabled his genius to thrive, be it in our Constituent Assembly, as a leading crafter of our constitution or in opposition politics, or as a Pan Africanist and scholar.
The writer is Principal private secretary to the President
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Museveni, Nabudere and democratic pluralism