No place for a Third Force in Polarized Uganda


The writer, Morris Komakech

The idea of a “third force” in Uganda’s body politics is improbable. Such an idea compounds the ideological confusion in our politics.

The third force idea appeals as an excuse for laggards or an easy escape route for those who are afraid of dramatic change to the politics upon which they have derived privileges.

This group is problematic as it galvanizes the lackadaisical elite attitude of hanging-on the fence when a call for change beckons.

The social and political history of Uganda is fraught with sensational and yet tragic episodes of polarizing politics. These historical experiences generate and sustain social and political inequalities that are compounded by a protracted dominance by one group over the others. The central premise of this argument is that organized and peaceful transition in leadership of the country offers the most considerable chance to lessen the burden of social and political inequalities exacted on us by our tragic history. In the first instance, these dominant groups rose to power by escalating the polarization in this society. Polarization, and not national unity, became the mobilizing tool or ideology of the ruling class.

The culture of mutual exclusivity in the nation’s polity further ferment a permanent state of instability that gives relevance to the use of colonial era laws and repressive instruments. The polarising forces become too compelling to accommodate any new middle position such as a third force – considered treacherous and essentially subversive.

 A case for FDC and NRM reveals such a lack of clarity of nationalist mobilizing ideology.

 The actual difference between these Parties arises from the mainstream NRM parting ways with their original socialist- cum – Marxist ideals that once made the group coherent and formidable. As adherents of neo-imperialists/neoliberal economic policies of the Brenton Woods Institution, the NRM is now self-serving and imperial in all its facets.

 In making sense of that development, the FDC party strives to rediscover their original ideological standpoint, maybe even adopting a neo-Marxist or centre left politics.

 The ruling NRM has increasingly become right wing (similar in policies to the US Republicans or Conservatives) – embracing radical neo-liberalism with a confusing mix of Pan-Africanism or whatever hogwash they call “liberation ideology” that uses colonial modes of oppression and social control.

Ironically, with total disregard to Uganda’s communitarian ideals. This ideological confusion persists across the extremes, and prominent in the ruling Party through contradictions in what they say (the rhetoric) and what they do (the practical).

The free market works best where liberal rights, democracy and individualism thrives. Neoliberalism is not just an economic policy. It comes as a package including liberal rights, deregulation, privatization, cost-sharing and strong anti-statist sentiments. Many western countries have tried this economic theory and realized after the WWI that liberal markets do not after all eliminate poverty. They then proceeded to establish welfare state systems and where welfare states are weak, like in the US, strong direct state intervention in critical section of the economy through subsidies to farmers and tax relieve to big business take place. Critical social service such as public education, libraries, transportation, healthcare, social security is made universal.

 Unfortunately, Uganda’s market economy is infantile, atypical and blindly implemented for purposes of political survival of the ruling class. The NRM became an imperial agent striving to under-develop Uganda by staking and destroying the resources of Africa for their own survival.

 The third force formed out of fear of a mere transition, without fully comprehending the ongoing frontier of social, economic and political contestation, cannot gain relevance.

 The FDC seems to demand for increased role of the state in mediating essential social services delivery such as education, health, social security, energy on the basis of good governance. It offers a far better option than the so-called third force.