Individuals, families, communities and nations that succeed are the ones that learn from their past, make the necessary adjustments which are updated as and when necessary to stay on top of developments. Those that remain rigid more often than not run into difficulties. The Stuarts of England, the Bourbons of France and the Romanovs of Russia disappeared because they were unable to adjust to changing circumstances. They wanted others to adjust to their demands. For example, the French high clergy and nobility refused to pay taxes when the country needed revenue badly to settle its debts. They wanted the commoners to pay more. France had a good man but a poor king in Louis XVI who could not take decisions. He became king by accident of birth, not on merit.
United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) committed itself to reporting regularly its activities, achievements and challenges ahead. We believe in transparency, accountability and full participation of all Ugandans regardless of their political label. That is why we created a blog www.udugandans.org, as a channel of communication. We have also channeled our activities through Ugandans at Heart Forum; The Uganda Citizen, firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; UCOCA COMMUNITY in California among others. We thank Dennis Nyondo of UNAA for the excellent work he has done in broadcasting UDU messages. Some of UDU work has been translated into Luganda and published by Kamunye. Because of these efforts, thanks to all of you, UDU has already become a household name in Uganda and abroad.
At the start of 2011 to June, James Ssemakula, Charlie Lakony and Eric Kashambuzi co-hosted an English program on Radio Munansi for three hours every Saturday and Sunday. The discussions were interactive, constructive and fully participatory. We discussed a very wide range of issues including democracy and in particular 2011 elections; governance (transparency, accountability and popular participation in national decision making processes. We debated at length the issues of corruption, sectarianism, cronyism and mismanagement of public funds); economic (low economic growth, skewed income distribution, high levels of unemployment, under-employment, mass poverty and exclusion), social (education, healthcare and housing) and ecological issues as well as East African economic integration and political federation; immigrants and refugees. We covered the role of development partners and the impact of technical and financial assistance to Uganda’s economy and society.
Let me begin with three points of clarification. First, there are some people who are wondering how one person can write as prolifically as I am doing without assistance. I want to assure everyone that I have never received one dollar in assistance; I have never hired a consultant or even a secretary to type my manuscripts. I have done all the research, all the writing and all the typing by myself and paid all expenses from my own resources. I have not been influenced by anybody or any ideology but my own conscience. It is a commitment to my country that has driven me to do what you have read. If unsure you are free to investigate.
Second, I became an author and co-host of an English program on Radio Munansi for various reasons. One of them is that many decision makers in Uganda used to tell me and still do that more often than not they take decisions they would avoid if they had enough information. Some of them urged me to share my thoughts with a larger public. I focused on the Great Lakes region because it has had a far greater impact on Uganda than any other African region, and it could even have more in the days ahead. Notwithstanding human imperfections, I have tried to be as factual as possible, at times examining both sides of the issue before drawing conclusions and offering recommendations.
There is a general agreement even among staunch supporters of NRM that things have got worse for the vast majority of Ugandans (even the wealthy ones are worried about the mushrooming clouds of serious potential insecurity and instability). Yet election after election NRM is winning. Is it because the opposition parties have not offered a convincing alternative in terms of leaders and/or policies? Or is it because elections are grossly rigged or a combination of both? Notwithstanding, why is it that in the most recent by-elections FDC and DP are defeating NRM even in the latter’s back yard? One may venture to suggest that Ugandans are beginning to understand that their suffering is caused directly by deliberate NRM policies. What are these policies that have contributed to endemic suffering? Here are some of them.
First, when NRM took over power in 1986 it introduced a new Uganda shilling to replace the old one. To get the new shilling every Ugandan who had money in the bank and/or in the house lost 30 percent as service charge – a decision that was taken against professional advice. The government also knocked off two zeros from the old shilling, meaning that for every 100 old shillings you got one new Uganda shilling. A combination of these two deliberate policy decisions constituted a significant loss of purchasing power especially for retired citizens.
UDU’s first conference at Los Angeles in July 2011 was preceded by six months of extensive and frank discussions about Uganda challenges and prospects. There was full transparency and inclusiveness. At the conference there was a brain storming session that covered all aspects of human endeavor. The conference was attended by Ugandans from different parties and organizations and from all regions of Uganda with different backgrounds, demographic dynamics (gender and age groups) and experiences that enriched the discussions. Detailed instructions were issued on preparing a National Recovery Plan (NRP) as a foundation upon which to build a new Uganda. The draft Plan was circulated widely to Ugandans, friends and well wishers a month ahead of the Boston conference in October 2011 for study, consultation and comment. Comments were incorporated into the draft Plan that was prepared by Ugandans.
Uganda’s society since NRM came to power in 1986 has been dominated by a few rich families that continue to accumulate wealth at the expense of the majority. The rich have been using Social Darwin doctrine – the survival of the fittest – to explain why they are doing well while others are doing very poorly, adding that the poor should be blamed for their poverty and vulnerability. The fact that poverty and wealth have coexisted in time and space, one needs to understand whether or not there is causality. Given my experience in the areas I am familiar with there is a direct relationship. Those who become rich in a particular community exploit those that end up poor.
The discussions within UDU and other forums about the future of Uganda have necessitated an assessment of Uganda’s experience since independence in 1962. This is still work in progress but here are some preliminary findings. Your constructive comments are welcome.
1. Winner-take-all or government of exclusion has created many problems. Future governments should be inclusive on a proportional representation basis. Uganda’s population and natural diversity should be seen and used as an asset;
2. Notwithstanding political deficits, the civilian government in the 1960s performed much better in economic and social sectors than the succeeding military regime of the 1970s and military-turned democratic regime since 1986. Leaders with military background do not appear to be suitable for civilian administration.
3. Learning the art of governing a country on-the-job has proven to be the wrong approach. All the three presidents (Obote, Amin and Museveni) did not have what it takes at the beginning to govern, forcing them to rely on loyalty than competence. Future leaders must show experience, confidence and success in managing a large organization preferably with diverse characteristics as in Uganda. This would avoid or minimize parochialism which has become an endemic problem. Leaders that jump out of a ‘corn field’ onto a presidential stage no matter how educated they are should prove their practical experience. The issues of experience and character should be emphasized. Good character here refers to those leaders that in their lives have demonstrated distaste for corruption and nepotism and are conscious of good public image. When you become a leader you cannot afford to behave recklessly in private or public arena;
A special Message
on the Problem and Causes of Political Apathy,
Lack of Unity and Corruption in our Community
As I write this message the United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) has been in existence for almost ten months. No political miracles were anticipated or promised by the founders of UDU at the time it was formed in Los Angeles, California, on July 9 2011. None has happened so far. The year in which UDU was born has long expired and a new year in which we expect to accomplish some of our primary objectives as enshrined in our constitution has inevitably been ushered in by the irreversible natural stream of time to which all cosmic events and life are subject. The original psychological Euphoria is slowly wearing off and the reality and complexity of our political task is gradually sinking in. These circumstances dictate the urgency of my message. What we need most now is courage, determination and creativity to forge ahead and liberate ourselves from the irrational fear (timidity) of our enemy and the claws of (military) dictatorship that are ruthlessly suppressing liberty in our motherland.
In 1987, NRM government launched a stabilization and structural adjustment program (SAP). The first three years under the stabilization component were devoted largely to cleaning up the house through reducing inflation from triple to single digits, achieving a realistic exchange rate and balanced budget and promoting exports. This was a period of belt-tightening which reduced budget allocations to social sectors of health and education as well as agriculture. After these goals had been reached within a short period, the government was expected to relax belt-tightening and begin the process of development and economic transformation and distribution of growth benefits including increased government revenue to increase funding for social sectors and agriculture. Inflation control as well as monetary and fiscal policies would be relaxed as well. But they have remained a priority area since then, limiting economic growth and job creation prospects.
In the budget speech on June 14, 2012 the minister of finance stated that “Tackling inflation remains government’s overriding macroeconomic objective in order to protect macroeconomic stability”. Therefore a tight monetary and fiscal policy will remain in place as well. This policy poses problems for economic growth and job creation. In the financial year 2011/12 characterized by tight fiscal and monetary policy, economic growth of 3.2 percent was the lowest since NRM came to power and for the first time less that the population growth of 3.5 percent. Although inflation was reduced significantly, economic growth slowed tremendously and poverty rose to the tune of 81 percent.