NRM came to power at the height of the Washington Consensus ideology based on market forces, laissez-faire capitalism, economic deregulation, macroeconomic stability and trickle down mechanism, etc. Government was seen as part of the development problem and not the solution.
In 1997 the Washington Consensus was declared over at the G20 Summit in London. Since then the economically troubled world with high unemployment and slow economic growth has been influenced largely by a return of Keynesian model of demand management. Governments have returned to stimulate the economy working strategically in partnership with the private sector and civil societies and addressing imperfections of the market mechanism including deregulation.
Although NRM government abandoned the Washington Consensus or Structural Adjustment in late 1997 and replaced it with a five-year development plan, implying an active but strategic role of the government in the economy, in practice the government has continued to implement many of the Washington Consensus elements.
Preliminary reports coming out of London indicate that the Uganda conference on November 12, 2011 was well attended and interactive. That NRM attended the conference is commendable. It appears though that the agenda was tilted towards political aspects related to the NRM regime perhaps as a result of participants’ profiles. A contribution to the conference on the National Recovery Plan (NRP) is available at www.udugandans.org.
Understanding where we are in Uganda is a historical and multi-sector process that needs to take into account political, economic, social and regional aspects that have contributed to the present impasse. Political conflict is by and large a reflection of economic and social inequities that undermine liberty, justice and dignity.
We hope that this is the first meeting in a series of others to follow. A report of the meeting with a clear message on outcomes and follow-up actions made available to the public will be helpful.
Those who deny that Uganda is not at a crossroads need to reexamine the basis for drawing that conclusion. Uganda is in real trouble politically, economically, socially, morally and environmentally. The long-term intentions of current leaders need to be understood clearly as a pre-requisite for finding solutions.
On November 12, 2011 political parties and organizations met in London to discuss Uganda under the theme: “Uganda at Cross-Roads: Which Way Forward?”
I had planned to attend the conference but was not able to get a visa because of a time constraint. I prepared a statement on the National Recovery Plan (NRP) as an alternative to the failed policies of NRM government. I submitted it to the organizers for their necessary action. The full statement is available at www.udugandans.org.
I had also planned to make an oral presentation on the impact of the silent pursuit of Tutsi Empire on Uganda’s future. Museveni has championed the idea for a long time disguised as East African federation, going as far back as his Ntare School days in the early 1960s. Museveni has worked on this project silently, methodically and incrementally, starting with capture of power in Uganda and using it to extend his imperial tentacles.
We are in the age of enlightenment and can no longer take things at face value regardless of the source – reason has become order of the day. Thus, to understand Museveni’s mind one needs to reason dialectically, by looking at and exposing that which is not said but done.
Good medical doctors always insist they will not prescribe medication until they are sure they have diagnosed and identified the problem. The tests and consultations involved are sometimes expensive in time and money.
Similarly challenges in other areas of human endeavor should be correctly analyzed before solutions are presented. This takes time, money and above all patience.
As I read and hear commentators about developments in Uganda and the Great Lakes region, I am impressed by the depth of analysis and understanding of issues. For example:
1. People are correctly saying that economic growth is necessary but not sufficient condition for social development;
2. They are saying that rapid economic growth that destroys the environment is not sustainable;
3. They are saying that focus on urban development at the expense of the countryside will create more problems than solutions;
4. They are saying that without educating girls and empowering women and controlling immigrants into Uganda it will be difficult to reduce population growth;
5. They are saying that export of raw materials however diversified in commodities and markets will not generate enough foreign exchange earnings, keeping Uganda dependent on donations with strings attached;
Many Ugandans falsely believe that they were destined to fail, however hard they worked, because they were cursed at birth or even earlier – at conception. They have given up trying and resorted to destructive practices.
When I returned from exile in 1980, many families in my home village had given up hope. They had cleared all wetlands – began under Amin’s economic war – which provided thatch materials. Accordingly, they were living in houses with leaking roofs. They had also cut down all the trees to sell charcoal and had no firewood to cook beans that provide a rich source of vegetable protein.
One of the reasons my family decided to invest in Rukungiri – my home district – was largely to change this mood of despair by creating jobs. The employees soon realized that their being poor was not a curse after all but lack of opportunities and absence of a caring leadership. With their savings they started small scale projects and are doing pretty well.
Precolonial reports demonstrate that Ugandans enjoyed a comfortable livelihood except during temporary periods of famine and conflict. They produced according to their natural endowments and sold surplus in local and regional markets to obtain what they did not produce.
Queen Elizabeth I of England who worked well with parliament was succeeded by James I who had been king of Scotland. He insisted he was king by divine right and rejected the English tradition of parliamentary government. He believed kings ruled by the will of God and were responsible only to God.
As expected, opposition to the king grew in parliament in response to James’ extreme demands especially in financial matters.
James I was succeeded by his son Charles I who was even more inflexible. Charles wanted to levy taxes without parliament’s approval which was rejected. To assert itself, parliament passed the Petition of Right, insisting that the king was subject to the law of the land and could not raise taxes without parliament’s approval, impose forced loans on the English people, etc.
The relations between the king and parliament deteriorated to the extent that a civil war occurred. During the war the king was joined by some parliamentarians and other royalists known as Cavaliers. Those parliamentarians and others who opposed the king – the Roundheads – were led by Oliver Cromwell. The king was defeated, tried and executed.
For general information I have read world history from the earliest to the present. I also watch movies about nature. One thing is common to all creatures. They all defend their territory – broadly defined – and protect their young. When conditions are right all creatures live in peace with one another – they are peaceful like doves. But when disturbed disproportionately, all creatures strike like thunder, witness the French Revolution. Ugandans are no exception.
Sad events in Kenya in the 1950s and 2007 and in Rwanda in 1959 and 1994 should serve as a wakeup call that when people long considered docile are very disturbed and fear suffering heavy losses they can switch from dove to thunder behavior – with heavy destruction in the end.
The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa had vowed to effect political change and gain majority rule by peaceful means. But after the bloody shooting at Sharpeville in 1960 in which many peaceful demonstrators were killed and others injured ANC changed from dove to thunder tactics.
When students ask questions or make comments or readers/audience seek more information, it means that they are following the story under discussion but need more information before drawing conclusions.
As more Ugandans read my stories largely on Ugandans at Heart Forum and on www.kashambuzi.com, I am getting more questions or requests for more information. Sometimes I am asked to comment on articles written by others. And that is good news for Ugandans and our country because knowledge is power.
Questions I have received relate mostly to why Ugandans have remained poor in spite of abundant natural resources, generous donations from development partners, remittances from Ugandans in the diaspora and foreign exchange earnings from our diversified exports.
As you know, I have been a constant critic of NRM policies since 1987 not because I want to give the government a headache but because I am convinced that the government is driving Ugandans on a wrong bus in a wrong direction. With all the resources and revenue at our disposal, Uganda should have enough money to get everyone out of abject poverty and the associated ills. Instead human conditions are getting worse. When people eat one meal of maize or cassava a day or in two days or when households reduce eating meat from three times to once a week that is regression. And that is what is happening in many homes in Uganda. It has been reported that some mothers give their children warm water for dinner because there is no food! The poor are getting poorer and the rich richer.