|Religion, Ethnicity and Politics in Uganda (CTA - Fountain Publishers, 1993, 136 p.)|
This work which is a continuation of the author's earlier studies, focuses on the problems of building political institutions in Uganda.1 Underlying all these works has been the argument that, since independence, Uganda has not quite succeeded in building viable and durable political institutions which can serve as means for resolving political conflicts peacefully. No formula, so far, has been worked out in the form of a formal constitution or internalised political values that can sustain the Ugandan political body supported by heterogeneous socio-political bases. The Ugandan political elites, have not risen above these bases to be in a position to work out viable political formulae that command a wide degree of legitimacy.
The Ugandan political elite simply manipulate formal political formulae and their socio-political bases to the extent that their particularistic interests are served and dictate terms to other sociopolitical forces. Consequently, Uganda's instability is a function of a negative polarised imbalance of socio-political forces in which groups dictate political terms only acceptable to themselves. This state of political affairs in turn has generated reaction from temporarily marginalised groups who seek (using political resources available to them) to overthrow the established political order.
In earlier works, I have attributed this imbalance of socio-political forces to Uganda's socio-economic and political administrative development. I have argued that Uganda's formal legal, political and administrative structures are not institutions. By institutions, I mean an accepted way, governed by rules, regulations and norms, of resolving conflicts, or allocating resources, or attaining short-term or long-term objectives defined by an organisation. The institutional structures as we have had or have, especially at the national level, are anomic arenas for bargaining and counter bargaining. This culminates in the absence of acceptable ways of resolving conflict or allocating resources, confrontations and eventual breakdown of law and order. In these earlier works, I have particularly focused on the political activist role of the Ugandan military to account for the collapse of civil order. I have dealt with imbalance within the socio-political forces at a purely theoretical level, arguing that, paraphrasing Huntington, military political intervention is a symptom rather than a cause of a political order out of joint.2 Apart from the military I have not identified specific sociopolitical forces which have positively or negatively affected the process of institution-building in Uganda since independence.
In this work, I focus attention on particular interest groups which are an integral part of socio-political forces, in order to show how the dynamic relationships between these interest groups and formal political structures have affected the institution-building processes. In the general literature in political science, there is recognition that politics do not simply take place in the formal legal politico-administrative organs such as parties, legislative assemblies, cabinets, bureaucracies, judiciaries etc.3
To understand the way these formal organs work, one has to relate them to the political, socio-economic and cultural environment. Anything short of this effort would be labelled " formalistic " and would not help to grasp the basic realities behind political processes.
For the purposes of this work, the intention is not to deal with the total Ugandan socio-economic and political environment in which the formal political structures operate but to establish the dynamic interactions between select interest groups and the formal political structures to see the extent to which these interactions have affected institution-building processes. I have covered the period between 1962 and 1971 because the momentous events of this period critically affected if possible institution-building processes. There had been the 1962 Independence Constitution which was uneasily adhered to until 1966/1967 when Obote abrogated that and replaced it with the 1967 Constitution. In 1971 there was the Idi Amin coup. Throughout Amin's rule, the 1967 Constitution was largely ignored in favour of his interests.
Interest groups may be defined as that collectivity of individuals who seek to attain their formally declared or undeclared long-term or short-term objectives, in their interactions with the general socio-economic and political environment or formal political organs.4 In the classic Anglo-American model of interest groups, there are clearly defined boundaries between the formal politico-bureaucratic organs such as parties, legislatures, bureaucracies and judiciaries on the one hand, and interest groups whose basic motivation may be to attain specific objectives limited to them and seek to influence policies to the extent that these policies affect interest groups. In this model, the role of parties, legislatures, etc. is to "aggregate" competing demands from interest groups and translate them into policy options.
Almond and Powell have broadly identified different kinds of interest groups institutional, associational, non-associational and anomic interest groups.5 Institutions such as bureaucracies, armies, judiciaries etc. may be established to perform formally declared functions, but may, in the course of time, generate interests peculiar to themselves and may pursue these interests, which may, at times, be antagonistic to the formally declared objectives. Anthony Downs has demonstrated how bureaucracies can promote interests which may contradict formally declared bureaucratic goals.6
Associational interest groups are those formally established to attain declared objectives. Non-associational groups are those interest groups whose behaviour may be purely reactive to a specific issue and boundaries around this group are drawn by a realisation that the individuals concerned may be positively or negatively affected by the issue in question. Any one of the above groups may degenerate into anomic if they advance their interests, or react to issues or policies in an unstructured way by demonstrations or riots.
The authority on the character and behaviour of interest groups in "developing areas" and their dynamic relationships with formal political institutions is dealt with by Samuel P. Huntington, who argues that the line between interest groups and formal political institutions is very thin, this arising out of failure to build viable political institutions which can mediate successfully with interest groups. He characterises interest groups politically:
Each group employs means which reflect its peculiar nature and capabilities. The wealthy bribe; students riot; workers strike; mobs demonstrate and the military coup. In the absence of accepted procedures, all forms of direct action are found on the political scene. The techniques of military intervention are simply more dramatic and effective than others because, as Hobbes puts it, "when nothing else rums up, clubs are trumps".7
In this study, I focus on interest groups with particular reference to religious, trade union, students/youth and ethnic groups. Of course, in addition to the above groups there are many other groups on whom we do not focus such as women, cooperative unions and traders. There is some kind of arbitrariness which has been dictated by problems of space. The inclusion of additional interest groups would, however, not necessarily lead to different conclusions and in any case the groups which have been chosen are representative to satisfy the basic objectives of this study.
A study of interest groups in Uganda must take into account a wide range of literature on colonial and post-colonial developments in this country. Some of these works focus on Buganda and the colonial power as the major political actors and such other actors as are dealt with simply react to policies and positions taken by the former two. The works of Anthony Low and R. Pratt, Kenneth Ingham, David Apter, Samwiri Karugire, Grace Ibingira, Tarsis Kabwegyere and Jorgensen, generally fall under this category.8
There are works which have focused on specific interest groups and a few geographical areas. Holger Bernt Hansen has studied Church-State Relations covering a period of twenty five years (1890-1925). He has convincingly demonstrated that the Churches, especially the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Uganda, were vigorous political actors, seeking to influence colonial policies related to the Churches' interests and colonial state-building.9 The work, brilliant as far as it goes, however, is somewhat tantalizing as it does not cover the Churches' political roles during the subsequent years up to independence and beyond and the consequences arising out of Church -State relations for institution-building processes. The same can be said of Waliggo's work on the Church in Buddu (1879-1925) in which he describes the growth of the Catholic Church in Buddu and how it worked out a modus operandi between the Buganda Protestant establishment and the colonial power on the one hand and the Catholic Church in Buddu, taking care of the Church's interests under Pax Britannica.10
Fred Welbourn11 and Gingyera-Pinycwa12 in their respective works have described at some length how religions have influenced the behaviour of political actors during events leading to Uganda's independence. Pinycwa, in particular, has shown that the Catholic Church was on the forefront, indicative of the raw deal Catholics had and they agitated for putting their grievances right. The Church agitated for control of Catholic schools and its moral right to educate its followers. He outlines the achievements of Catholic Church agitators and shows how they contributed not only to the political awakening of the North, but also articulating the interests of Catholics, and to the Democratic Party victory of 1961. Welbourn and Gingyera-Pinycwa's studies, however, fall far short of our basic objective. For purposes of building viable and durable political state institutions, what consequences arose out of political agitation by religious groups and forces aligning themselves with others along religious lines?
Works on trade unions by R. Scott, R. Gonsalves, B.Nicol and J.J. Barya, for our purposes, also have their limitations. Scott's is a description of the origins of the trade union movement in Uganda and factors militating against its growth.13 Gonsalves focuses on the internal organisation of trade unions and, more specifically, industrial relations.14 Nicol is concerned with industrial relations framework and industrial arbitration.15 Somewhat closer to the concerns of this study is J.J. Barya's thesis on Law, State and Working Class Organisation in Uganda, 1962 - 1987. Barya sets out to study "the historical development of legal regulation of the Ugandan trade union movement and assesses the relative importance of law in the determination of the character of trade union organisation in the Post-colonial period".16 He argues that trade union legislation was an instrument of control and restrictive but in spite of such legislation the trade union movement maintained its autonomy. Restrictive legislation and autonomy, according to Barya, rendered Ugandan trade unions "apolitical, economistic and deradicalised".17
Barya attributes the autonomy of Ugandan trade unions and their "deradicalisation" to restrictive legislation and the colonial ideology with which trade union leaders were imbued.18 But trade unions legislative restriction and control were not unique only to trade unions in Uganda. In all colonial situations there were restrictions on chiefs, civil servants, teachers, etc., although such restriction was not necessarily legal. In any case, even if the argument that trade unions were depoliticised as a result of restrictive legislation is accepted, for our purposes, we are interested in consequences arising out of this depoliticisation for institution-building processes.
It is, however, curious that in other colonial and post-colonial situations attempts to introduce restrictive legislation and thereby depoliticise trade unions failed miserably. Trade unions in such situations were politicised and radicalised precisely because attempts to depoliticise and deradicalise them failed. The trade union movements in Kenya, Tanganyika, Zambia and Zimbabwe were some of the critical power bases of the nationalist movements in these areas, legislative restrictions and control notwithstanding. If we are to account for the deradicalisation and depoliticisation of the trade union movement in Uganda the answer may lie in examining the socio-economic bases of trade unions and the critical power bases considered by political leaders as priorities.
Other than A.B. Mujaju's thesis on Youth and Political Development, there is hardly any literature on youth/students in Uganda. Mujaju, in describing the political activism of the youth, especially the UPC Youth League, National Union of the Youth Organisations and National Union of Students in Uganda, argues that the political activism of the youth can only be understood in the socio-economic, cultural and political contexts in which they operate and that they may base their political activism on ideological deprivation, material deprivation and nationalism or parochialism.19 Although part of the thesis seeks to show the youth's contribution to "political development", no successful effort is made to link youth political activism to the institution-building processes. If the political behaviour of the youth is an aspect of political development or underdevelopment Mujaju does not convincingly spell out the short-term and long-term consequences arising out of this behaviour for institution-building processes during the period under study. While he liberally uses such epithets as "conservative" and "radical" for the youth, he does not show the dynamic relationships between youth behaviour and institution-building processes.
Works on ethnic politics have mainly been concerned with Buganda seeking to define her political status in colonial and post-colonial Uganda. In this regard, we have cited the writings of Kenneth Ingham, Anthony Low, David Apter, Samwiri Karugire and Jorgensen. Political activities of other ethnic groups at a national level were treated as reactive responses to Buganda's claims. The works of Dan Mudoola, Roger Southall, Martin Doornbos, Colin Leys and Cherry Gertzel are, however, exceptions to this.20 True, while we treat Buganda as a major actor, we are also interested in the political actions and interests of other ethnic groups in the context of institution-building processes.
In this work, we seek to demonstrate that attempts to build national institutional structures, have been neutralised by the interest groups and political leaders whose pursuit of self-interest has inevitably distorted institution-building processes and culminating into political instability. Related to this basic argument are the hypotheses outlined below:
· The colonial conquest process, the carving up of Uganda into administrative units and subsequent socio- economic changes conditioned the emergence of interest groups which were eventually to play critical roles in the post-colonial political processes.
· The colonial situation generated polarised sub-cultures among interest groups, which sub-cultures could not sustain cohesive institutions for conflict resolution and resource allocation.
· Until 1962 the colonial power had established sufficient legitimacy to enable it to act as arbiter among conflicting interest groups but on its retreat there were no strong institutional mechanisms to successfully mediate among conflicting interest groups. Such institutional mechanisms as there were at independence were soon overwhelmed by the dictates of competing interest groups.
· There are religious groups which, under colonialism, had been politically marginalised and, therefore, have seen the post-colonial processes as tactical means of reversing this marginalisation. Indeed the Catholics and Moslems who were the most marginalised groups have never recovered from the physical and psychological defeats of the 1880s and 1980s which marked Protestant political ascendancy in the politics of Uganda.
· The Moslems, while in a weak position, have taken advantage of post-colonial developments to seek an alliance with the victors.
· Groups which had relatively benefited through the colonial situation tried to retain and perpetuate their gains by using all sorts of methods to resist the claims of their rivals but this, in turn, provoked counter-reaction from those rivals.
· Tensions within supposedly national institutions such as political parties, parliament, bureaucracies and armies spilled over into interest groups and viceversa, thus frustrating institution-building processes.
· Political parties, in their bid for power, sought support from religious ethnic groups. The labour and student movements more readily aligned themselves with the religious and ethnic groups and by so doing weakened the trade union and student/youth movements. I then argue that the net result arising out of the above argument and the related hypothesis has been that since independence Uganda has been virtually an institutionless arena in which highly polarised interest groups have sought to capture and monopolise power culminating in counter-reactions which have so far confounded the process of institution-building.
This work has relied heavily on secondary sources, newspapers, interviews and participant observation. Secondary works have provided the historical and institutional context in which interest groups have emerged. Newspapers, especially the Uganda Argus during the mid-and late- 1960s, are a rich source of materials related to identifying particular interest groups, their demands, channels of communication and the reactions to these demands. Interviews and participant observation have assisted in putting "flesh" and "life" on events by getting access to actual participants. This is especially more so when we appreciate that the period under study demands were always couched informalistic terms with the "hidden transcript" (see below) always in the background. The author was an adult undergraduate student during the early years under study and a University teacher during the later years, a fact which placed him at an advantage to observe what was going on, especially within the student movement.
There may, on the surface of it, be problems of interpretation of the contents of interest groups' demands, their political behaviour in realising these demands, their channels of communication for these demands and responses to them. Relations among and within interest groups in Uganda are in, a large measure, power relations, all depending on the extent to which "political resources" are available to them. Here, by "political resources", we mean those material, socio-economic and oral advantages a group or groups may exploit to their political advantages. Groups, irrespective of the strength of their political resources may make effective use of what James Scott calls the "public transcript". The ruling groups in power, such as the UPC, used such idioms as "African Socialism" "Common Man's Charter", "Move to the Left" and the marginals such as youthwingers, trade unions and students invoked such slogans as "the African personality", "economic independence and autonomy" and "anti-feudalism", all these were aimed at disguising their peculiar interests. Of the "public transcript", James Scott has written:
With rare, but significant exceptions, the public performance of the subordinate will out of prudence, fear and the desire to curry favour, be shaped to appeal to expectations of the powerful. I shall use the public transcript as a shorthand way of describing the open interaction between subordinates and those who dominate. The public transcript, where it is not positively misleading, is unlikely to tell the whole story about power relations. It is frequently in the interest of both parties to tacitly conspire in misrepresentations.21
Of the "hidden transcript", James Scott writes:
If subordinate discourse in the presence of the dominant is a public transcript, I shall use the term hidden transcript to characterise discourse that takes place 'off stage', beyond direct observation by powerholders. The hidden transcript is thus derivative in the sense that it consists of those off stage speeches, gestures and practice that confirm or inflect what appears in the public transcript.22
According to James Scott, then, there are public and hidden transcripts" which govern relations between dominating and dominated groups. The problem in interpretation is to establish dynamic relationships between the two transcripts in order to capture realities in political relationships and how, for the purposes of this study, they affect institution-building processes. This approach may enable us to get away from formalistic interpretations of political relationships among interest groups. For our purposes, it would be misleading to attach significance to such labels as "conservative", "right wing", "nationalists", etc. Getting at the public transcript of group actors is relatively easy. The public transcript may be found in the writings of sympathetic chroniclers, formal declarations in the form of political manifestos, press releases, etc. The public transcript may also be found among the dominated in the cultures of subservience which expresses itself in the form of formal addresses, gestures etc. But the hidden transcript for the rulers and ruled may be too elusive to get at. This may, however, be found when the rulers and the ruled have no reasons to be on their guard, in such circumstances as when one group may not be within hearing of the other. Hidden transcripts may be detected from casual conversations, interviews given in confidence, "confidential" records, interpreting statements of pronouncements of group actors in the context of the spirit of the times or through content analyses of formal declarations.
In the following chapters, we shall examine the historical and institutional contexts in which interest groups have risen; the religious interest groups, with particular reference to the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches and Moslems; the trade unions, youth/students and ethnic groups. We shall focus on the political resources of these groups, their demands, channels of communications and the responses of the state organs to these demands and the attendant consequences arising out of group interest activities for institution-building processes.