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Yash Tandon, "Common People's Uganda"

(2019) Nairobi: Zand Graphics

The book is dedicated to:

·        Ignatius K Musazi and Semakula Mulumba who united us all; and to

·        John Kakonge and Dani Wadada Nabudere who showed us the way

Ngugi wa Thiong'o has Prefaced the book with the title: "Towards a Common people's Africa". And in the Foreword, Edward Rugumayo has related some of his own experiences in the struggle for Uganda's liberation.

So why this book?

Neoliberal policy makers  in  Uganda  are  in  denial  about  two things: 

1.     A reluctance to look at imperialism in the face, and acknowledge that the capitalist-imperialist system of production and wealth distribution is inherently and fundamentally flawed.

2.     Left to the so-called 'free market', the system not only divides people between the rich and the poor but further compounds this division over time because the market rewards the rich and penalises the poor.

In the northern regions of Uganda including West Nile and Karamoja (where I come from), up to 26% of people are chronically poor; 80% of households live below poverty line, compared to 20% in the rest of the country.

Recognising this reality, it is important to place Uganda within the broader global geopolitical as well as national contexts.

1.     Uganda got its independence on 9 October 1962. Is it possible that for over half a century Uganda is still not fully independent?  What has imperialism to do with it?

2.     Why is it that over half a century since independence Uganda is still an exporter of basic raw materials and importer of manufactured products, and dependent on the so-called "foreign aid"?

3.     What are the policies that really matter? Specifically, what are the policies that affect the production and distribution of goods and services (like health and education), policies that affect the welfare of the common people?

This is one objective of the book. The second is to learn from the American and French Revolutions; the Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Cuban revolutions; and, above all, from Africa's struggle for liberation from the colonial Empires.

And the third is to provide an analysis of the political-economy of Uganda and Africa - a knowledge-kit necessary to make a critical assessment of the decisions taken in the name of the common people, and to challenge our politicians and also the media that distort reality in this era of “fake news”. To this end, each chapter ends with a list of questions. These help readers in two ways:

1.        They allow the readers to reflect on the questions without necessarily agreeing with the author.

2.        They raise issues related concretely to Uganda. However, many of the questions are general - especially Part Three on “Imperial reckoning: rebooting the revolution”, may apply to the rest of Africa and the global south.

In the last chapter on "Some Concluding Thoughts", I raise some issues for discussion on the strategy and tactics of struggle, and the question of leadership. This is a challenge for our President, and I ask: Can the Prince of “Sowing the Mustard Seed” rise up to the challenge?

Epilogue

Here I draw on two recent publications, Apollo Makubuya: Protection, Patronage, or Plunder? Imperial Machinations and (B)Uganda's Struggle for Independence; and Frederick Juuko and Sam Tindifa: A People's Dialogue Political Settlements in Uganda and the Quest for a National Conference.

I examine how the proposal of holding a "National Conference" put forward in the Juuko-Tindifa report might be taken a step further. I draw from the experience of the group that put together the Moshi Conference in 1979 which gave birth to the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). The Juuko-Tindifa proposed National Conference is both a challenge and opportunity for the nation to address. 

I also analyse the Bobi Wine phenomenon as an emblematic symbol of a generational shift in Uganda's politics.