Uganda Peoples Congress

A short treatise on Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC)

by Prof. Patrick Rubaihayo

Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) has in a number of its documents always indicated that it is a social democratic Party. In order to appreciate this position, it is important to give a brief background of the history of Uganda Peoples Congress. The roots of Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) can be traced to the Uganda National Congress (UNC), which was formed in 1952 under the leadership of Ignatius Musazi. The UNC emerged out of the Uganda African Farmers Union UAFU which was a movement of small holder farmers agitating for better prices of coffee and cotton. At the time, the main economic and political activities were concentrated in Buganda and naturally the leadership was mainly drawn from Buganda. Katwe was used as the headquarters of political activities of the day. With time, the Baganda lost out on the political leadership because they lacked the local base and support of Mengo establishment. This therefore, changed the ethnic and character of the leadership of the party. The Party was the first Ugandan Party to be established and to have branches country wide.

In terms of ideological outlook, UNC was generally socialist in orientation.

There were reasons why UNC adopted a socialistic stance. In order to be able to negotiate for better prices the UNC leadership sought their assistance of Fenner Brokway a Fabian Socialist and Labour Party Member of Parliament in Britain. Soon after its formation Fenner Brokway sent John Stonehouse, another socialist to help in organizing both the farmers' cooperatives movement association and UNC itself. Stonehouse was also able to arrange for Ignatius Musazi to take time off to go to Britain and be further exposed to socialist ideas. Because of the global politics at the time, both the Soviet Union and the western world had great interest in Africa. Most African freedom fighters looked to the Soviet Union for assistance basically because they were fighting colonialism which was perpetrated by the western world.

It was in that vain that UNC established an office in Cairo under John Kalekezi the father of the current Inspector General of Police Maj. Gen. Kale Kaihura as a communication and transit center. Since that time, Uganda has maintained close links with Egypt.

The fact that UNC adopted a socialistic orientation meant that it had an uphill task dealing with the colonial administration and religious establishments. The result of this was that the party was consumed by internal conflicts fermented by the colonial rulers. Very many small parties were encouraged to form like the Progressive Party under E. M. K Mulira, In January 1955. The Progressive Party never achieved much of a following.

United Congress Party was formed by a splinter group in 1956 under Dr. E. Muwazi but was unable to capture the branches of UNC. UCP decided to take the line of Buganda Government to fight direct elections. In 1958, political leaders in the LEGCO particularly those from outside Buganda formed Uganda Peoples Union under the leadership of W.W. Rwetsiba. The Uganda Peoples Union represented the first major effort at political organization lead from outside Buganda. The Democratic Party which was formed in 1954, partly as a bulwark against communism and marginalization of Catholics in Buganda was later in 1956 led by Matayo Mugwanya who was a minister in Buganda government and in 1955 lost the Katikiro position by 41 votes to Kintu with 42 votes.

Major political developments took place in the country following the recommendations of the Wild Constitutional committee, appointed after the Partial General Election of 1958. The 1958 elections were partial because they did not cover the whole country. The colonial administration gave Districts and Kingdom Administrations an option whether to have direct or indirect representation in the reformed and expanded Legislative council.

Ankole and Bugishu chose indirect elections while Buganda Kingdom refused to participate in the entire electoral process. The Kabaka's government claimed that the appointment of the Speaker to replace the Governor as the Presiding Officer in the LEGCO was a major departure from the Hancok arrangement of 1955, which enabled the Sekabaka Mutesa to return from deportation.

Karamoja at the time was considered a Special District and was not invited to participate in these elections. The Governor continued to represent their interests of the district in LEGCO. The reason for these serious divergences of policies and actions were many, but the consequences were bound to be cumulative and grave.

Between 1956 and 1960 UNC was characterized by internal conflicts and splits which culminated into the emergence of A. M Obote as a compromise candidate to replace I. K Musazi. The change took place at the Annual Delegates Conference held in Mbale on the 12th January 1959. On 9th March 1960, UNC Obote faction merged with UPU to form UPC. In June 1960, a moderate group of Baganda launched the United National Party under the leadership of Apollo Kironde the former member of UNC and Y.K Lule a lecturer at Makerere University and Abu Mayanja as its publicity secretary. This signed the death warrant of UNC. UNP soon afterwards decided to merge with UPC.

Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) immediate platform was:

  • Immediate and complete Independence for Uganda
  • Recognition and preservation of hereditary rulers.
  • Promotion and maintenance of Unity.
  • Creation of a welfare state, where citizens regardless of their class, tribe, colour or creed would have equal rights and the basic needs of modern life.

During the fact finding process by the Wild constitutional committee, the British wanted to manipulate the formation of a Party acceptable to them to which they could eventually hand power. The British had realized that the demand for independence was unstoppable. They requested Yusufu Lule to organize the various parties of the time so that he can form one such strong party. The Democratic Party, refused to take the bait.

Mengo establishment was not comfortable with the political developments in the country and threatened to declare Unilateral Independence (UDI) in December 1960 as the country was preparing for political changes. It was the political maturity and vision of the leadership of UPC during the Lancaster House constitutional conference that helped to avert UDI and brought back Buganda into the fold. The efforts of UPC in convincing Buganda to remain part of Uganda was not motivated by greed for power, but rather by UPC`s commitment to negotiation dialogue leading to national unity and stability.

This was quickly followed by the need to define the relationship between the central government, the Kingdoms, Busoga Territory and other District Administrations in the rest of the country. A commission under the chairmanship of Lord Munster helped to define these relationships.

The colonial administration held a general election in March, 1961 for the legislative council (LEGCO) in spite of Buganda's refusal of the direct elections. The Mengo establishment boycotted these elections. These elections were won by DP whose base was Buganda and had fielded candidates in all the constituencies throughout the kingdom. The Democratic Party won with 43 seats and 407461 votes and UPC received 35 seats with 488334 votes.

In the same year, Uganda was granted internal self government and the DP leader, Benedicto Kiwanuka was named Chief Minister and Leader of Government business. Later that year a Lancaster House Conference was held in Britain attended by all political stakeholders to determine the political future of the country. This pre-independence Conference decided that a new mandate should be sought before Britain relinquished her responsibilities and "protection" among other decisions. Accordingly, another General election was held in April, 1962. These elections were for the areas outside Buganda.

Buganda had been allocated 21 seats which were to be indirectly filled by the Lukiiko as decided at the pre - independence Lancaster house Conference.

All the 21 seats went to Kabaka Yekka (KY). The UPC won 37 seats with 494,959 votes and in alliance with K.Y formed the majority in the National Assembly and hence formed the Government. The Democratic Party received 24 seats with 415,718 votes.

Early Challenges

The first challenge of UPC Government at independence was how best to involve the majority of the population into meaningful and beneficial economic activities without arousing racial animosity and hostility. The immigrant Asian minority issue was delicate and could have led to racial and emotional overtones. The Asian dominated the country's trade and commerce and formed a strong cadre of middle technicians in Industry and the Public Service. At the end of 1959, the breakdown of the entire civil service was composed as follows:- Africans 464, Europeans 677 and Asians 488.

The other most politically explosive challenge at independence was the implementation of the constitutional provision which required a referendum to be held within two years of independence to determine the wishes of the people of Bugangaizi, Singo, Buhekula and Buyaga whether they wanted:

  1. To stay under the jurisdiction of Buganda kingdom or
  2. Transfer their allegiance to Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom or
  3. Form a separate District.

The lost countries issue was a test for all stakeholders, whether or not Independent Uganda, was to be governed under the rule of law. As the government of the day, UPC imbued with democratic principles had no alternative, but to abide by that provision of the constitution. The KY which was partners of UPC apparently had hoped that some how UPC government would find a way of not fulfilling this constitutional obligation. However, the referendum was run according to the rules that had been set in the constitution and the people of Bugangaizi and Buyaga elected to join Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom while those of Singo and Buhekula decided to remain as part of Buganda Kingdom.

The next challenge was that Sekabaka Mutesa II who was also President of Uganda found himself in a dilemma when presented with the lost counties statutes for signature. The constitution did allow for the signing of statutes by the Executive Prime Minister in case the President for one reason or another was not able to sign such statutes in a given time.

Accordingly, Prime Minister Milton Obote signed both the laws that enabled the referendum to be held and affirmed the results. This led to an internal uprising in Mengo resulting in the ouster of Katiikiro Kintu basically as an escape goat. Michael Kintu was succeeded by Joash Mayanja Nkangi then a Minister of Industry in the central government.

The 1966 political crisis gathered momentum with Daudi Ocheng's Parliamentary motion on 4th Febuary, the arrest and detention of Ministers on 22nd Febuary, and the May Lukiiko resolution demanding the removal of the Central government from Buganda soil which threatened the peace and tranquility of the country. The May 1966, Lukiiko's resolution was reminiscent of the 1960 UDI. The government of Uganda viewed it as a confrontation and treasonable. Therefore, the government had to act to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of the country. The issuing confrontation between the central government and Mengo establishment resulted in the loss of life and the flight of Sekabaka Mutesa II into self exile. This was a very sad episode in the history of Uganda. In order to contain the situation, the government of the day put in place an interim constitution which came to be known as the Pigeonhole constitution. After relative political stabilization, a draft constitution was presented to the National Assembly. The National Assembly dissolved itself into a constituent Assembly to debate the draft. The new Republican Constitution was promulgated in 1967.

Socioeconomic Policies

The economic policy platform of UPC has always been the based on the party's political and economic ideology. Its ideology is molded by the party's struggle and history of the country. UPC believes in serving the masses and its policies have always been motivated by consideration of the wishes of the people of Uganda in consonance with the principles of democracy and social justice. At the Delegates' Conference of the Party held in December 1969, UPC promulgated the common man's Charter. This was the first ideological statement marking the attempt by the party to set out a socialist agenda for Uganda. In the "first step to move to the left", the party: -

  • Marked the beginning of a new political culture and a new way of life, where by the people of Uganda as a whole - their welfare and their voice in National Government and in their local authorities - were paramount.
  • UPC declared to be anti-capitalism and feudalism
  • UPC denounced tribalism, colonialism, and privilege class
  • In the Nakivubo pronouncement, UPC as part of its move to the left, announced the nationalization of some private properties.

The move to the left, caused a great concern to the western powers. They could not understand or tolerate the pronouncements. Partly as a result of the move to the left, the UPC government was overthrown on the 25th of January 1971 which was largely engineered by the western powers using Israel as a proxy.

Achievements of the 1960's

In spite of the various challenges of the 1960's, the UPC Government was able to published and successfully implemented two-five year development plans and was able to:

  • Build and equip 23 rural hospitals through out Uganda and manned by a professional health workers. These Hospitals included Aim, Anaka, Apac, Atutur, Bududa, Bugiri, Iganga, Itojo, Kagadi, Kambuga, Kapchorwa, Moyo, Kawolo, Kiboga, Kiryandongo, Kitagata, Pallisa, Gombe, Nakaseke, Yumbe, Bundibugyo, Busolwe and Nebbi.
  • Tarmac thousands of miles of roads.
  • Build and equip many primary schools, secondary schools, and technical institutes.
  • Extend the rail services to the Eastern and Northern Uganda.
  • Expand district farm institutes and the delivery of agricultural extension services.
  • Develop the tourism industry with a number of hotels under Uganda Hotel built in many places.
  • Improve the co-operative movement to the extent of starting its own bank - the Cooperative Bank.
  • The Universal Primary Education (UPE) which has been terribly mismanaged by the highly corrupt NRM Government was conceived and formulated by UPC1969 annual delegates' conference. It was passed by the parliament as one of the projects in the five years plan 1966 to be operationalized in 1970s in phases.
  • Transform the small Uganda Credit Savings Society into the giant people's own Bank, Uganda Commercial Bank.
  • Start Television Broadcasting and expand radio broadcasting.
  • Africanize and expand the civil service.
  • Negotiated and agreed on the East African treaty which ushered in the East African community.
  • Strengthened and expanded UDC including UGADEV, the forerunner of Uganda Development Bank.
  • Established Bank of Uganda
  • Established the Diary Corporation
  • Established ranches and Kibimba rice scheme.

Between 1971 and 1979, the leadership and many members of UPC took refugee in Tanzania and Zambia. The party is very grateful for the hospitality and assistance extended to the party leaders and members during those difficult times. The struggle against Idi Amin which was spear headed by the party was greatly assisted by the government's and citizen's of these countries.

UPC Performance 1981 - 1985.

When UPC regained power in December 1980, several public demands shaped its ideological stance. First, the party was conscious of the fact that its move to the left had partly contributed to its overthrow in 1971. Secondly, the economic decline during Amin's regime necessitated a new strategy for economic reconstruction. Thirdly, Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), a new party formed in 1980 attracted several of its members with radical and socialist ideological orientations. Lastly on the global scene, socialism as an ideology was loosing appeal. On the African continent much as it had been successful as an ideology for liberation against colonial rule where it had been adopted as an ideology for economic transformation such as Tanzania and Guinea, it had not achieved much.

As a result of the above factors, UPC strategically adapted to the new World economic trend. It accepted World Bank and IMF advisers in the bid to halt the disastrous economic decline in the country. With the World Bank and IMF, UPC ushered in a new era of liberalism where the private sector and market forces other than the state were to be the engine of economic recovery.

Where as the party also encouraged the development and the strengthening of cooperative societies, by and large the second UPC regime from 1980 to 1985 was characterized by the ushering in of a free market economy.

In the forward to the UPC manifesto of 1980, the party declared that "the liberation of Uganda is not yet completed and life continues to be insecure and difficult". In the view of the Uganda Peoples Congress, complete liberation could only mean a united, democratic, stable and prosperous Ugandan in which all people could live and pursue their activities in peace and security. During the second stage, UPC's efforts were directed towards salvage operations which were to be completed as quickly as possible in order to set up a platform for the third stage.

The effects of the prolonged years of destruction and mismanagement of the country by the Idi Amin regime included large quantities of arms in illegal hands then causing insecurity, low production due to neglect of the economy in which some sectors collapsed, others stagnated and the rest declined. The same sorry state of affairs obtained in the provision of social services where schools and hospitals underwent dehumanizing deterioration. The UPC government strengthened security and ensured the protection of lives and property of the citizens, and restored the health of our economic and social life. Once we had completed the second stage, UPC energies were directed towards the development and expansion of production sectors and social services. This involved well conceived short, medium and long term development plans with definite goals".

The UPC government made good its electoral promises, order and security were quickly established through out the country. The government then embarked on the important outstanding task of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the economy. To this, the UPC government first gathered and analyzed data and then wrote and published the recovery programme 1982-84. In October 1983 UPC government published the Revised Recovery Programme 1982-84.

Under the comprehensive revised recovery programme and in spite of the treacherous and diversionary war waged by Yoweri Museveni and other gun men, the government was able to:-

  • Achieve macro economic stability by 1984. In June 1984 the two-window exchange system merged into one.
  • Imported over 3000 tracters to boost Agricultural production,
  • Rehabilited the tea plantations from forest like estates to the extent of returning to exporting tea on international market.
  • Increase agricultural production to the extent that by 1985 coffee exports exceeded Uganda's Coffee Quota of 2.5 million bags by 1.8 million bags.
  • Industrial production was revived and by the end of 1984, sugar, soft drinks, beer, soap, edible oil and other essential commodities were readily available.
  • The GDP measured against 1966 prices increased on the average by 7% p.a.
  • Civil service salaries were gradually revised as the economy picked up.
    There was 20% increase in 1982/83 budget an additional increase of 50% in1983/84 and an increase of about 4.5 times in 1984/85 budget.
  • Educational and health facilities were rehabilitated and in 1984 Nakawa and Kyambogo announced as separate Universities.
  • Secondary schools rose from 70 to 1250. More tertiary institutions were setup throughout the country.
  • Build many Primary Teacher Training Colleges to boost the number of trained school teachers in preparation for the introduction of UPE.

All these achievements and future plans were of course interrupted and ruined by the military regimes of Tito Okello and Yoweri K. Museveni in succession after July 1985.

The military junta of Tito Okellos was not popular as many citizens did not think that the Okellos had a capacity to run a government. This lack of popularity made the military junta gormless and was subsequently flashed out of power by the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) within six months of existence.

When the NRM through the barrel of the gun formed government on 26th January 1986, they had no idea of economic planning. They experimented with the policy and the practice of barter trade, allocation of commodities and socialistic policies for two years with disastrous consequences. The IMF and World Bank withdrew funding until late 1988 when the NRM plagiarized the UPC's Revised Recovery Programme and presented it as its own new policy document. However, owing to ineptitude, corruption, indiscipline and utter mismanagement, the NRN was unable to implement the remaining aspects of the 1982-84 Revised Recovery Programme.

Management of the economy broke down and instead the NRM abandoned its planning role as government and abandoned the economy to the donors or what are sometimes called development partners without any pretence of any coordinated economic programme covering the entire spectrum of the economy.

Uganda is now managed on ad-hoc Sectoral basis under direct supervision of donors. We know have a host of projects, plans, services and reviews covering different time frames, funded and managed by different development partners and their technical advisors with their four wheel drive vehicle totally uncoordinated.

The New Ideology

Since coming into power over 20 years ago, the incumbent regime of NRM has, through lies, falsehoods, deception, distortions, disinformation, misrepresentation and outright exaggeration, and successfully applied a sustained policy of orchestrated concentration of condemnation, demonetizations, vilification and abuse of UPC and its leaders character, values , actions, policies and history. The regime has skillfully and cleverly hypnotized, anaesthetized and sanitized political feelings and emotions of the people of Uganda, the international community and governments and even several reputable international organizations have come to condemn wholesale the UPC past governments to the extent of ridiculously asserting that the Party was regionally and ethnically based. There is now a belief that UPC was solely responsible for gross violations of human rights.

Nothing could be far from the truth as these ridiculous assertions. UPC has continued to enjoy support from all regions, religions, different social classes and cultures in Uganda.

When the parties were allowed to function again after the fall of Idi Amin in 1980, UPC shifted its ideological position from socialism to a free market economy. It is important to note that UPC as a political party has always had a written ideological framework. The party has been and continues to be amenable to changes. For instance, UPC saw it fit in 1981 to alter its stand on the nationalization policy and initiated economic liberalization based on market forces. In the same way in 1994, the party initiated the policy of Federal status for Uganda.

Again the new political and economic order dictates that between now and 2011, the Party redefines its new ideological position. UPC Should examine its ideology and decide its new ideology based on at least three cardinal premises which have been running through its veins since the 1990s:

  1. Promoting and maintaining national unity
  2. UPC will address issues like building peace and internal security as techniques to promote national unity. It also shall address how prosperity can be distributed evenly throughout the country
  3. Devolving power to regional governments
  4. UPC supports the allocation of authority in various sectors to regional governments. These regional governments will allow population to administer their own services and spread development evenly throughout the country. UPC supports the real devolution of authority to regional governments with democratically elected governments. UPC recognizes the importance of traditional institutions in society but which must be independent of the central government although working in consonance.
  5. Building a social democratic state with equal opportunities for all
  6. UPC supports a democratic state that ensures all citizens have equal rights and opportunities, and the basic needs for life. UPC has all along and continues to fight ignorance, disease and poverty. To this end, UPC supports agricultural support for rural producers, price stabilization programmes for cash crop producers, and development of storage facilities for agricultural commodities. It also supports the creation of a clear unemployment policy, including supporting employment agencies and vocational and technical training. UPC vows to support the enforcement of newly - enacted legislation guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining and creation of a minimum wage. To ensure that the state meets the needs of the population for services, UPC supports the accessibility of affordable quality education, provision of water services at the household and community level, and the improvement of health services delivery at the local level. UPC programs and policies have always ensured that the interest of historically disadvantaged including women, youth, and persons with disabilities are promoted through affirmative action.

Aluta continua.

For God and my Country

Prof. Patrick Rubaihayo

National Chairman, Uganda Peoples Congress