We [NEED] assert that there must be a correlation between the regions’ resource endowment and the welfare of the local people.
By Odaka Asuman
Tororo—22, December 2021: In his book, “My African Journey” published in 1908, Sir Winston Churchill wrote: “For magnificence, for a variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life – bird, insect, reptile, beast, for vast scale, her natural wonders and above all her hospitable welcoming people”, Uganda is truly the “Pearl of Africa”.
It’s worth noting, however, this declaration was with only the limited knowledge about the natural wealth. But we must also not forget that very few white men will praise an African country at or above its actual worth.
Years later, much more was discovered about Uganda.
Uganda has virtually all mineral [re] sources ever created by God. Those not spoken about are not confirmed, but will soon be confirmed as well.
Despite this abundant God given diversity of wealth, the people of Uganda are extremely poor amidst rosy Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures being flagged by their (mis) rulers.
This paradox precipitated the formation of the National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED).
NEED is a brain growth of runners up in the 2021 general elections, led by former presidential candidate Joseph Kizza Kabuleta.
Our specific objectives are: to facilitate a home grown, customized and achievable process of economic empowerment of Ugandans using natural resources heritage in their respective areas, promote the culture of dialogue among the citizen, protection and preservation of our diverse cultural identities, champion citizens’ rights, duties and responsibilities through increased civic competence, wider networking and coordination through a pro-active actions which foster governance accountability and responsibility
Our mission is to create an ideology that can speak to the needs of all Ugandans; our vision is to ensure that Ugandans are aware of their resource heritage that is unique to their regions and actively pursue fair sharing of those resources.
NEED’s non-negotiable ideals include;
1 Use of local natural resources heritage to economically empower the local people in those respective communities. We assert that there must be a correlation between the regions’ resource endowment and the welfare of the local people. We reject and seek to change the current status quo where our natural resources are owned by particular families, some jointly with foreigners.
2 Preservation and promotion of our cultural identities. This country is a resultant settlement of 14 nations (clearly printed at the entrance of Parliament). Each of these nations had unique cultural identities and sacrifices they made. It’s very agonizing to know the ongoing clever efforts to tamper with these identities, including re-writing history.
It started by renaming regional towns not according to the identities they represented, but by prominent town name. Speaking to Hon. Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, who was the local government minister then, he told me it was to lower identities, claim and ownership of particular people.
All Constitutional amendments, including the many sections of the Land Act, were intentioned.
Today, it’s not surprising to find someone referring to Savannah area and not Acholi, Sipi and not Sebei, Elgon and not Bugisu, Albertine and not Bunyoro, etc. These trends, if not checked, are a recipe for erosion of our cultural identities, which are normally foundational stone for any development.
3 People centered dialogue. The anger amongst Ugandans is too much. For the last [nearly] 40 years, this government failed to correct historical injustices amongst various communities, instead created more and even worse than the ones they found.
If we still need this country in one piece, then people centered national conversations need to be supported. That is our belief as NEED.
Two weeks after the launch, we started dialogues in the various regions of the country. The dialogue activities started in Busoga where the Keynote address was by Hon. Dr. Frank Nabwiso on the topic: “The Busoga we want.” It then went to Bukedea where the Keynote speaker was Dr. Joseph Okware and his paper was discussed by Hon. Oketch Lazarus on the topic “Repositioning Bukedea in the new development trajectory”.
We then went to Bugisu where we were honored to have his Highness Ambassador Wilson Wehasa Wamimbi (the founding Omukhuka of the Bagisu) as our Keynote speaker. In Sebei, Hon. Chelengat Getrude of Bukwo gave a Keynote address on the “Sebei of the 21st century”.
These dialogues were very useful, eye opening, full of lessons and, above all, enriching, especially in ways of how the struggle should be constructed.
The specifics and details of the dialogues are what I will be handled in subsequent serialized articles.
But for now it’s very annoying to report about how the ruling family has dis-empowered the people, grabbed their land and personalized the natural resources.
The writer is the National Coordinator, National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED).