What lessons can Uganda learn from the French Revolution?

By Eric Kashambuzi

Uganda has entered a phase of intense debate about its future which is commendable because everyone has a chance to express their opinions provided it is done in a civil manner (threats and calling names are counterproductive) to produce constructive outcomes for every Ugandan. As the debate continues it may be useful to draw lessons from history because what Uganda is going through is not new. Conflicts between governors and the governed over political, economic, social, cultural and spiritual matters have happened before. The French Revolution (1789-99) seems a good place to start. As you read the following paragraphs try to see if there are similarities to what is happening in Uganda.

The French state reached a peak in performance and prestige in the early years of Louis XIV’s long reign. He began his personal rule in 1661 and died in 1715. The king’s many wars and heavy expenditure on the royal court overburdened a rich country with industrious people. To maintain the high level of expenditure, new and heavier taxes were imposed on the middle class and peasants. The nobility and clergy were exempt from paying all taxes. Louis XVI introduced fiscal and economic reforms including cutting government expenditure and abolishing trade guilds which restricted economic growth.

Implementation ran into difficulties because of heavy criticism from the affected stake holders especially the nobility. The king got scared and dismissed the controller general of finance (minister of finance). The new minister resumed borrowing and increased spending, making the financial crisis worse. Public administration was also in disarray. Various departments had ill-defined and often overlapping functions, delaying action on important or urgent matters. Costly wars and extravagant royal expenditure by Louis XIV, XV, and XVI bankrupted the state. As the financial and administrative crisis mounted, the minister of finance was fired, signaling the king’s failure to address problems. The mushrooming political, economic and social complaints led to the French Revolution.

The political complaints included regular abuse of power by the monarchy. The king with absolute power could order the arrest of anyone on any charge and have them tried in secrecy without a jury. The principal economic complaint was associated with the unfair system of taxation that fell disproportionately on the middle and lower classes and the already overburdened peasantry that paid the highest taxes. The peasants were heavily exploited by both the government and the nobility. The social complaints revolved around the unequal structure. The nobility and higher clergy formed a small but privileged class at the top of the social pyramid. The Church owned half of France’s land but paid no property taxes. The nobility enjoyed tremendously and was supported by government pensions. The rest of the population was angry at heavy taxation and restrictions imposed on them in church and government career advancement. They did not participate in national decision making process. They were thus taxed without representation.

To avoid further borrowing, the king convened the Estates General (parliament) in order to raise taxes. The Estates General had not met in 175 years! On May 5, 1789 the Estates General began deliberations. Louis XVI ordered the three estates to meet separately and vote by estates not as individuals. The Estates General was divided into three estates or social classes. The First Estate represented the clergy, the second the nobility and the third the rest of the population but members were chosen from the middle and lower classes, not from peasants. The Third Estate had the most members and represented some 98 percent of the population. Because voting was done by estates with each estate having one vote and the first and second estates voting together on issues, the third estate had no way of outvoting the other two estates. Upset by this arrangement, the Third Estate refused to participate in the discussions. Joined by a number of aristocrats from the Second Estate and many especially parish priests from the First Estate, the Third Estate formed a National Assembly in which representatives would vote as individuals rather than by estate thereby outvote first and second estates. They vowed not to disband until a new constitution had been drafted. Members of the Third Estate wanted government reform to give them a share of power moderate enough to assure peace and stability. If the king had agreed to this proposal, he would have given France a constitutional and moderate revolution, with himself as leader. Instead, he chose to stick with the nobility and clergy to preserve the feudal institutions. The king ordered the National Assembly to disband. The National Assembly had no alternative but insurrection because it had vowed not to disband until a new constitution had been produced. Surrender was not an option. Fearing that the king might order troops to disband the Assembly, Parisians mostly poor, hungry and downtrodden (read the poor and hungry in Kampala) mob took matters into their own hands. On July 14, 1789, crowds stormed the Bastille a prison for political dissenters hoping to obtain weapons with which to fight the king’s army. The storming of Bastille (a fortress prison that stood as a hated symbol of the arbitrary rule of French kings) was a success for the masses. In honor of that moment, July 14 is a national holiday celebrated every year in France as the Bastille Day. While crowds gathered and collected guns in Paris, peasants in the countryside staged their own protests. They invaded nobility homes, destroyed their property and seized records of peasants’ feudal obligations to the nobility. Protests in Paris, other towns and the countryside sparked the flames of the French Revolution. The moment for moderation was lost.

The revolution was primarily against feudalism. For more than three centuries feudal institutions had survived in France. The nobility and clergy had lost relevance. Instead of dispensing justice the nobility had increased injustice and the clergy had become a social parasite. The institution of monarchy had lost value as protector against aristocratic and clerical abuses. To do away with these injustices the National Assembly adopted a Declaration of the Rights of man (there was also a declaration of woman). It introduced the slogan of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Also included in the document was the notion of resistance against oppression. The Declaration further stated that “men are born free and remain free and equal in rights”. Feudalism was declared dead, the powers of the king were limited and the government was empowered to make appointments in the Church and Church land was seized and sold to peasants at low prices. The outcomes of the revolution included a shift in political power from the nobility to the bourgeoisie (middle class); nationalist feeling increased; and the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity spread to other parts of Europe and eventually to the rest of the world. These ideals are incorporated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”.

What lessons can Uganda draw from the French Revolution? First, France had an oppressive political, economic and social system that favored a minority (the nobility and clergy that constituted some 2 percent of the French population) and punished the majority of peasants, middle and lower classes that constituted some 98 percent of the total population. Under the NRM government, Uganda has a similar system that is favoring a minority of the population and is oppressing the majority of Ugandans. Second, the demand of the Third Estate for moderate reforms to give them a share in governmental affairs that would assure peace and stability was rejected by the king leaving the National Assembly no choice but to rebel. Similarly calls on NRM to negotiate a transitional government to accommodate all parties and prepare for genuine multi-party elections have fallen on deaf ears leaving opposition groups no choice but to resort to civil resistance in the first instance. There is still a window of opportunity which Uganda should utilize so that it does not miss the moment of moderation as France did.

Lake Bunyonyi: Best Things to Do in the Switzerland of Africa

Many of know Uganda as a home of mountain gorillas the prime tourist attraction   of the country but the country also owns the most beautiful island called Lake Bunyonyi  in western Uganda. No matter what your travel interest could be, Lake Bunyonyi has something for everyone including rewarding hiking adventure, leisure ambience, bird watching, great views, swimming and much more. It may not be your place of interest during your safari in Uganda but a one day break at this Lake counts and adds more meaning to your Uganda safari tour. Those heading to Rwanda for more tour adventures, it’s a perfect place to continue your journey from Uganda. There is plenty to do from this Lake and here is our list put together based on our tour experts travel experience.

A Trip to the Magical Islands

If gorilla trekking has been your main highlight for all trips to Uganda, a day or two days at Lake Bunyonyi changes the all story becoming another fantastic Highlight for your Uganda safari tour. The paradise Islands have too much to offer including wildlife viewing, paddling, nature walks and leisure ambience. A trip to any of the islands adds a lot of meaning to any Uganda safari year round. Magical sunsets and incredible Lake Views start your day at the Lake giving you a reason to look out for much more in the day. Nights are fun with campfires at your lodge that keep you warm and happy as you get a chance to chat with all other travelers.

Hiking around the Lake

Do not miss the hiking tour around the lake that gives you a chance to view all the twenty nine islands on the lake and also mix up with locals in different life aspects. Those in their homes will say hello, children in schools will wave for you and those in their gardens will definitely make it a point to become your new friends. The people living around the lake are very friendly and welcoming that you will just have a wonderful hike all through. Why not visit the orphanage and the only island school that was once a leprosy hospital built by a European missionary and support the young generation that needs a bring future. Books, pencils, pens and much more can be appreciated by the little ones.

Boat ride on the Lake

Though it’s one of the most thought of tourist activity by many tourists, it’s an absolute must for you on a hot day especially in the afternoon hours after lunch if you have a free day on around Lake Bunyonyi islands. Catch up with spectacular views of the islands, home steads and the boat transport crew of locals. This alone and the quiet village life is an amazing experience that make your visit to Uganda to be called a holiday.

Bird Watching

Lake Bunyonyi is another perfect place for birders and if your trip to Uganda was to see a wide number of attractive bird species, this is your place to be. Even walking around on your own freely can enable you spot various attractive bird species returning back to your lodge with memories. The best time to go bird watching is very early in the morning and evening hours when it’s cold. However, Lake Bunyonyi general weather is just perfect for bird watching all day long.

Swimming on the Lake

Swimming is another leisure thing you can do at Lake Bunyonyi and enjoy your stay as you explore the lake beauty. This can be done any time of the day provided you free and just chilling at your lodge of residence. But If you visit the lake and enjoy other fantastic tour adventures please share with us for more exceptional leisure holidays on the lake.

Car Rental Tips in Uganda

Do you feel comfortable while behind the wheels on a trip? Renting a car in Uganda with several car rental companies is an ideal option to deal with and travel Uganda at your own time.  Below are the tips you would consider for car rental in Uganda;

Select a Vehicle of your choice

Uganda has a variety of cars that make you satisfied with the services that are accompanied to it. All vehicles of every rental are available at the company’s desk but it is you who decides which type of vehicle is fit for your trip. Think carefully about what kind of vehicle you will need. If you are traveling with children or with a lot of gear, you may want a large sedan or SUV. If you are simply looking to save money on rental rates and gas, you will want to reserve the smallest available model like the Toyota Rav4 other vehicle for safari include the extended land cruiser that has the loof top, Nissan Patrol vehicles. The services that are accompanied to these vehicles are self drive, camping gear, hotel booking and accommodation on your order request.

Get ready to book your car in Uganda

After selecting your preferred car rental in Uganda, find the possible ways of getting to it. It is non-other than booking the car and being reserved for your purpose in Uganda. You will find a variety of car rental companies like Auto Rental Uganda, Car Rental Uganda, Self Drive Uganda, 4X4 Uganda and Travel 256 among others. Read the reviews of the companies by other people and be sure of the company that you are yet to consider as your next service provider for your trip in Uganda.

Check for the services provided by car rental in Uganda

Self drive in Uganda is one of the services opted in by the travelers in Uganda. It is where one is given the keys to drive through Uganda by his own after fulfilling the required needs to be presented like the scanned photocopies of the passport, the driving part. For individuals who wish to do camping, car rental in Uganda provides all the camping gear on your request and this reduces on your luggage. Other services that are being served to travelers in Uganda is to book for them the hotel rooms for accommodation, booking for permits to visit the different game parks especially the home of the gorillas and chimpanzees.

Shop around

As you wish to visit Uganda, you are advised to shop around the urban centers in order to save on your car rental Uganda. Gas refilling should not be left out because car rental companies do not give full tank fuel, take clear observation of refilling stations and their costs. Off the urban centers in Uganda, the prices of basic items to use are always high and scarce.

Look for special offers and discounts by car rental companies in Uganda

The special offers normally include special items that you would not miss in your itinerary. They are always at a low price and discounted on items like camping gears and accommodation inclusive.