Ending Week 3 - Small Victories and Constitutional Crisis
While my hands and back would beg to differ, I am really learning a lot from washing my own clothes. I am learning how disconnected I can be at home from basic things in life - food, clothing, shelter, electricity - things that we take for granted all the time. We eat, wash and do so many basic things without realizing the very intense processes and energy that provide these things for us. Here, without the luxuries of packaged foods, washing machines and showers, the Ugandan people have to put much more energy and time into these basic activities. Yet, there is something very humane and rewarding about seeing where things come from and not being "disconnected" from these basic necessities. In many parts of the world, people believe that food should be eaten with hands to savor and enjoy it more. I thought this was foolish when I first heard it, but I am now starting to believe there might be a truth there. Those of us who are from the privileged classes of the "developed" world can learn a lot from being more conscious of the very simple things that make up our lives.
Returning to the macro level, there is a raging debate here (called the kisanja debate) over a governmental White Paper that seeks to make certain constitutional changes, including allowing for presidents to serve more than two terms. President Youweri Museveni, president for 19 years now (two official terms after the 1995 constitution) is pushing for the "third term" change to happen. Yet, many are avidly against this because they believe such a change will hinder democracy and rule of law in a polity that is already deteriorating due to corruption and lack of transparency. Since the 1995 constitution, Uganda has yet to have a "transitional" moment with a peaceful change of power. Parliament is currently debating this White Paper, yet there are many pressures from the Executive Office for it to pass. As part of my research, I will be exploring this issue, so I will write about it more in depth soon. However, I wanted to note it here because it is the dominant issue in Ugandan news. It is also connected to the Northern conflict because Museveni seems to suggest that he is the only president that can bring peace to the north (that is certainly debatable given his failure over 19 years). Yet, others see his presidency as contributing to an ethnic divide that fuels the conflict. So, there is a long history and many intricacies here, but it seems to me that a Museveni third term would be a major defeat for constitutionalism, democracy and political development in Uganda. So, more to come on it.
Well, our group heads for Kigali, Rwanda tomorrow. I am sure I will have lots of reflections when I return from a week in Rwanda and western Uganda. Weraba!