Donors are satisfied with our record – Museveni

Years ago, I concluded that the NRM government under the leadership of President Museveni has failed to deliver on human security – Ugandans still live in fear, in want and in indignity.

At the United Nations Millennium Summit (New York, September 6-8, 2000) world leaders adopted a Millennium Declaration on peace and security; development and poverty eradication; and human rights, democracy, and good governance. They declared that (1) they would spare no effort to free people from the scourges of war within or between states; (2) they would spare no effort to free fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty and (3) they would spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.

These declarations are similar to what is contained in Uganda’s ten-point program launched by the NRM government when it came to power in 1986. As noted above despite these declarations at the national and international levels, massive international assistance and excellent national policy documents Ugandans still leave in fear, want and indignity and the situation is getting worse. Because of space constraints, this article will focus on development and poverty eradication – freedom from want.

The NRM government succeeded abroad, failed at home

When the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government came to power in 1986, it inherited an empty treasury and many problems that needed vast amount of foreign currency. The export sector and tax base had collapsed. The government tried to raise money through bilateral engagement with western governments to no avail. It was advised to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) first (New African 1987-88). The IMF and World Bank were looking for another African country to experiment stabilization and structural adjustment programs (SAPS) model which had failed in Ghana. Paul Nugent (2004) observed that “…Ghana quietly dropped off the World Bank/IMF list of high performers, to be replaced by other countries like Uganda”.

The signing of a structural adjustment agreement between the IMF and the government in 1987 was of mutual benefit to both parties. It gave the IMF and World Bank the opportunity to introduce a rapid and comprehensive (shock therapy) form of structural adjustment which included inflation control to single digits, balanced budget, economic liberalization and privatization of public enterprises, export diversification and labor flexibility. Donor funds would be released contingent on adherence to the terms of the agreement.

Kagunga residents want their land back

Rukungiri town in southwest Uganda was recently (mid-2010) upgraded to a municipality by expanding its area into Kagunga sub-county. In upgrading the township to municipality status, the procedures at the district council and parliament levels were not followed, raising many suspicions. Since the upgrade and expansion, more suspicions are emerging from Kangunga residents due to a number of factors.

First, Rukungiri town is surrounded by two other sub-counties besides Kagunga. The other two sub-counties are Buyanja and Nyakagyeme. Buyanja and Nyakagyeme have flat topographical features suitable for urban expansion. Yet the expansion has covered only Kagunga sub-county which is hilly with deep and narrow river valleys making the area not suitable for urban growth. Kagunga unlike Buyanja has no electricity supply and Nyakagyeme can easily be supplied with electricity because it is closer to the town center. Technically and geographically Buyanja and Nyakagyeme should have been chosen over Kagunga. A better alternative is to let the town expand naturally.

The politics of birth control

Politics is the science and art of getting power and how to use it to stay in power. Thus, politics is essentially about conflict or struggle among groups or social categories which allow those who get power to hold on to it and benefit from it. In these circumstances, politics by and large serves to maintain the privileges usually of a minority against the majority. The minority group uses power to disarm opponents (M. Duverger, 1966).

The minority knows that numbers matter. It tries various ways to weaken the numerically superior group. Strategies include dividing the majority group, reducing numbers through conflict, forcing some to migrate out of the territory or marginalizing the group so much that it becomes politically powerless. In the extreme case, the minority tries to reduce the number of the majority group by launching targeted birth control programs.

At the global level birth control was launched after the Second World War because population in the Third World was growing faster than in the developed countries. By early 1970s the global population had ‘exploded’ from 2.5 billion to 3.7 billion over two decades. This growth took place mostly in developing countries. Developed countries expressed fear that if the population explosion is not controlled it would lead to mass starvation and societal catastrophe. Third world governments rejected that view, stressing that economic and social development would take care of population growth (Critical Trends. United Nations 1997).

Western bias has undermined human security in the Gt. Lakes Region

The great lakes region of Africa including DRC, Rwanda and Uganda is one of the richest, if not the richest, region in the world. It has natural resources in diversity and abundance and many resilient, intelligent and hard working people. In spite of these attributes, the region has some of the poorest people in the world.

Before slave trade and colonialism, Bantu people in east and central Africa had developed economic and political systems and institutions that ensured human security. Bantu groups such as Ganda, Nyoro, Kongo, Luba, Lunda and Rwanda had established great kingdoms (The World Book Encyclopedia 1983) which ensured human security through law and order, food security and respect for human dignity for all Bantu peoples. All these developments and civilizations were undermined by the arrival of Europeans through slave trade, colonialism and bias against Bantu people. Slave trade took place in all parts of the great lakes region. The introduction of European weapons and hunting human beings caused too much damage in demographic, economic and social terms.

Immigrants and population growth in Buganda

Uganda’s ‘explosive’ population growth has become the single most important development challenge to date. It has been reported in major newspapers in Uganda and at international conferences. Seminars have been conducted on the subject and more are planned. The population topic has attracted people from many disciplines, many of them with insufficient knowledge, experience or data to handle the subject professionally.

The causes of Uganda’s problems – poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, crime, violence, food insecurity, urban congestion and slums, poor quality education and health care, lack of adequate savings and investments etc – are being blamed largely on Uganda’s high fertility rate. Development partners and experts are increasingly concerned about the future of Uganda if the fertility rate is not checked. One reporter in Observer magazine (Uganda) of August 8, 2010 suggested that “Uganda must start aggressively [using force] promoting and funding family planning services” reminiscent of what happened in India and China. Some readers have supported the suggestion without indicating how it should be done and on what groups.

Correcting Uganda’s distorted history

One of the reasons Uganda is engulfed in a political economy crisis is partly the result of colonial distortion of Uganda’s history and attributes between Bantu people on the one hand and Nilotic people on the other hand. Because of race theories that dominated Europe at the time of Africa’s colonization that put whites at the top and blacks at the bottom of the racial pyramid, it was assumed that black people including Bantu of eastern, central and southern Africa had no civilization and lived in darkness which is not a subject of history hence the teaching of European history in African schools.

The first European explorers, colonial and missionary officers to Africa came from the aristocratic class imbued with racial prejudices. “Britain had access to the cream of the Oxbridge [Oxford and Cambridge Universities] crop… targets were those energetic young men of aristocratic demeanor worthy of the colonial calling…”(D. Rothchild and N. Chazan 1988). ”The European colonists of the 19th and early 20th century described Africa as ‘the Dark Continent’. According to them it was without civilization and without history, its life ‘blank, uninteresting, brutal barbarism’… So strong were their prejudices that the geologist Carl Mauch, one of the first Europeans to visit the site of the 12th century city of Great Zimbabwe, was convinced it could not be of local origin, but must have been built by some non-black people… The Tory historian Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote in 1965, ‘There is only the history of the European in Africa. The rest is largely darkness” (C. Harman 1999).

The relationship between Kagame and Museveni raises a fundamental question

Is Kagame a Muhororo like Museveni?

When an individual becomes a public figure citizens have a right to know who this person is and who his close allies are within and without the country. Because of the close relationship between Kagame and Museveni since the 1981-85 guerrilla war in Uganda, it is rumored that Presidents Kagame and Museveni of Rwanda and Uganda respectively belong to the Bahororo group of Nilotic people whose Luo-speaking and cattle herder ancestors entered the great lakes region from Bahr el Ghazal of southern Sudan.

Bahororo are Batutsi from Rwanda who under the leadership of Kahaya Rutindangyenzi of Bashambo clan founded the Kingdom of Mpororo in north-north-east of contemporary Rwanda and most of south-west Ankole in mid-17th century (Karugire 1980; Ehret 2002 and Chretien 2006). Before Mpororo kingdom was founded the area was occupied by Bantu people. All the people of Mpororo kingdom (Bantu ‘agriculturalists’and Nilotic Batutsi cattle herders) became Bahororo (the people of Mpororo kingdom).

Because of internal feuds the kingdom disintegrated within one hundred years. Bahororo cattle herders who came from Rwanda lost their special political positions in an overwhelmingly Bantu population and many returned to Rwanda where prospects were better. Others remained in former Mpororo kingdom or got scattered in Uganda and possibly beyond.

Why birth control in Uganda will be difficult to implement

Suddenly Uganda is witnessing a flurry of birth control activities. Where the urgency has come from is still baffling. Uganda is a country that has lost – and still losing – so many people since the 1970s due to the Amin murderous regime, the guerrilla wars in the Luwero Triangle and in northern and eastern Uganda, AIDS pandemic, malaria particularly in Kabale due to climate change that facilitated mosquito invasion of the district with devastating outcomes and increasing diseases of poverty. According to Shifa Mwesigye (Observer {Uganda} August 2010) there is a conflict between on the one hand Uganda leaders and politicians who want more children and on the other hand donors and experts who want fewer children. That is already a major stumbling block that needs to be resolved first.

Birth control programs in Kenya that started in the late 1960s experienced implementation difficulties because they were imposed on an unwilling national leadership soon after independence that was won after a devastating Mau Mau liberation war. But since birth control was a prerequisite for foreign aid, the Kenya government went along but was not keen on birth control implementation. This lesson should not be lost on those eager to implement birth control in Uganda where resistance is still very strong.

“I will go back to war” – A Response

The Sunday Vision online dated August 7, 2010 published an article about remarks made by President Museveni at a rally in Kanungu district where there have been clashes within the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party along religious lines. Museveni is reported to have reminded the audience at the rally and all Ugandans and indeed the whole world through the media that sectarian tendencies (ethnic, tribal, religious) forced him to fight previous regimes. He added that he will go back to war to fight people sowing seeds of disunity. He then advised religious leaders “to preach to followers how to get to heaven and told politicians to educate people on how to fight poverty without necessarily involving religion”.

With due respect, I disagree with President Museveni on the need to go back to war and on the comparative advantage he spelt out between religious leaders and politicians.

When Museveni became president in 1986 after the bushwar he preached in broad daylight, loud and clear that he would end sectarianism in Uganda once and for all. Everybody – Ugandans and others – applauded because sectarianism had done great harm to Uganda since colonial days when chiefs were favored over commoners and Protestant followers over followers of other faiths. To overcome this problem, Museveni reasoned, and subsequently announced that merit would be the only criterion for nominations, appointments, assignments, promotions in public domain and awarding of scholarships. Who could disagree with this innovative and appropriate leadership approach?