Explaining the unique importance of 2011 elections in Uganda

Let me make two observations at the start of this article to clear the air. In my writings I have referred to Museveni as president, not in his personal capacity. Second, you cannot meaningfully talk about NRM government without talking about Museveni – for all intents and purposes Museveni has become NRM government. I do not hear much from ministers or senior civil servants. And in the absence of a government spokesperson, we are left with Museveni.

In a month’s time, Ugandans will elect a president, members of parliament, district councilors and mayors. These elections are taking place in unique circumstances which voters must be very familiar with before they cast their votes. Voters must therefore choose leaders that will genuinely represent their interests. The last twenty five years were dominated by structural adjustment (macroeconomic stability) and national security (defense of the state from external threats) at the expense of human security (protection of individuals economically and socially).

Since 1986, Museveni’s priorities have been national security and to a certain extent inflation control and production for export that have disadvantaged the overwhelming majority of Ugandans. Since 1987, structural adjustment focused on productive sectors at the expense of social sectors. This focus was confirmed by the minister of finance when he addressed parliament in 1991 that the government concentrated on the needs of the army and other security agencies and to some extent on production sectors mainly exports. “Because of scarcity of resources therefore the basic social services [particularly education and health] have appeared to be marginalized. Improving basic social services therefore represents a pressing area for government action in the next phase of the reform agenda”(Budget Speech July 2, 1991). To this day in 2011 the social sectors have remained marginalized and are on the verge of total collapse with unhappy consequences as evidenced by diseases of poverty and rampant unemployment of functionally illiterate graduates.

While not ignoring national security, the new government must pay increasing attention to human security. Given NRM’s 25 year governing record, it will not be able to do a satisfactory job in this area of human capital formation if the president and NRM MPs are re-elected. A new president and a new party must therefore win the elections.

The elections are taking place at a time when there is talk of privatizing land and selling or leasing it to foreign states or corporations to increase food production to feed the world. This will result in Ugandans losing land and without income outside of agriculture (because many Ugandans are functionally illiterate), the majority of Ugandans will not be able to purchase food produced in Uganda. If re-elected Museveni is likely to go along with privatizing and selling Uganda land to foreigners or rich Ugandans. Why am I saying this?

Since Museveni came to power, he has consistently preached that Uganda has plenty of idle arable land that Ugandans are not using, implying that someone else should use it and that has resulted in an influx of migrants (Batutsi, Kenyans and Somali etc) that have illegally occupied Uganda land causing many land problems which the government has ignored.

Some of the ministers are also complaining that there is too much idle land particularly in northern and eastern Uganda where land owners fled and others were herded into camps. Most of land owners have not yet returned and their land should not be sold to foreigners. And when they finally return they should be helped to use their land efficiently and productively instead of persuading them to sell it and start business in towns which Museveni appears to favor. He believes that to develop Uganda must urbanize first.

In addition ministers are saying – wrongly – that smallholder farmers in Uganda are less productive and should be replaced by large scale farmers. This is a view favored by some of Museveni’s principal external advisers including Paul Collier. However, scientific evidence demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that when facilitated peasants are more productive, more efficient and more environmentally and socially friendly than large scale farmers. In many developing countries (including Uganda) small holder farmers generally use available land more efficiently than those with larger farms although policy makers often see large farms as more desirable (J. P. Gittiger et al., 1987).

That is why the United Nations, G8 and indeed the entire international community have rallied behind small holder farmers. The World Bank came to the same conclusion in its 2008 report. Therefore Uganda will need a government that is pro-small holder farmers which Museveni’s is not. Uganda’s budget to agriculture and rural development has been around four percent of total national budget as opposed to the recommended 15 percent. Being a large farmer himself interested in production for export rather than for domestic consumption Museveni is anti-small holder farmers.

It is also important to note that European demand for beef from Africa is increasing although western countries produce more beef than they can consume. African beef is preferred to European because it is grass-fed and therefore leaner and healthier than grain-fed western beef (Jack W. Bond 1996). Therefore if Museveni is re-elected you are going to see more agricultural land turning into large ranches by rich Ugandans including Museveni and foreigners producing more beef for export at the expense of food crops for consumption in Uganda. This may explain in part why Museveni is not worried about agricultural land turning into grazing land due to climate change because that change will expand rangeland. Re-electing Museveni and NRM will encourage a focus on beef production for export at the expense of foodstuffs for domestic consumption.

It is interesting to note that export of fish has deprived low income families the main source of protein. Before fish exports began under NRM government, fish provided more than 60 percent of animal protein consumption in Uganda. The minister of finance in NRM government confirmed this when he reported that “Fish is providing over 60 percent of the much needed animal protein consumption in this country” (June 28, 1990).

The elections are taking place at a time when Uganda is entering a sensitive stage in the negotiations for East African economic integration and political federation. Integration and federation are very complicated matters that need patient, multi-sectoral and comprehensive consultations (in a simple language that ordinary people can understand) to give a full understanding of gains and losses so that informed decisions are taken for present and future generations. This has not happened. It has been largely a matter between Museveni, Kategaya and their representative in Arusha. During a recent retreat of Uganda Ambassadors, complaints were expressed at the lack of knowledge about progress on East African economic integration and political federation.

Late last year, Uganda and SADC representatives reported to the UN in New York progress that had been made in integration and federation matters in East and southern Africa respectively. Delegations were more in support of SADC’s slow, calculated and incremental approach as opposed to the East African federation’s fast track model. The East African arrangement gave the impression that a house was being built starting with the roof. Should such a house be built finally, how long would it stand?

There are many examples to demonstrate that a rush into these areas could be dangerous. If you examine the experiences of EU and NAFTA and even Tanzania federation (Tanganyika and Zanzibar) you begin to see that East Africans need to move cautiously. Therefore, East African presidents should not push their citizens into this potentially harm’s way especially Uganda. As things now stand, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi stand to gain disproportionately. Uganda would be the net big loser particularly with respect to land and labor. It is even less clear what roles of member states of the federation would be vis-a-vis the federal government.

And that is why some Ugandans are disturbed by Kenya’s involvement in Uganda’s current political campaigns. Ugandans should be left alone. Museveni has been interested in becoming the first head of the East African federation which will also help him towards realizing his Tutsi Empire dream. Thus, electing Museveni and NRM will put Uganda at a big disadvantage in East African economic integration and political federation. That is why I have campaigned openly for the first time that Museveni and NRM should be defeated to save Uganda and her people. Integration and federation are serious matters and Uganda leaders should not take them lightly because they want to pleased Museveni in order to get juicy jobs. Enlightened leaders should think about the future of their children first and foremost, not a short-term four wheel drive (SUV) vehicle and a high-sounding job title without responsibility much less authority to decide anything. Those who are there know what I am talking about.

The issues of cultural leaders and local languages incorporated into the 1995 constitution need to be reexamined. They are presented so vaguely that anything can happen provided there is an ‘artificially manufactured’ demand for it. We began with cultural leaders and we are now installing kings and kingdoms. Soon the whole country will have kings that will be so divisive and if Museveni is re-elected will use this disunity excuse to make a case for turning Uganda into a kingdom with himself as the first hereditary Muhororo king.

As king of Uganda Museveni will own land and use it as he sees fit. I have written on this subject and published it on my blog and on Ugandans-at-heart website but none has commented for or against including those that have had negative comments on everything I have written except this one. Does that signal consent or fear to touch this hot potato?

Mpororo has already been inserted on some Uganda maps joining Eastern DRC in the west to Rwanda in south east and cutting off Kabale and Kisoro districts from the rest of Uganda. Once elections are over and Jim Muhwezi and Yoweri Museveni are re-elected there is a possibility they are going to create ‘artificial’ conditions for Rukungiri and Ntungamo district so-called leaders to demand Mpororo kingdom under one cultural leader who will obviously come from Bashambo clan of Bahororo tribe. From media and cartographic coverage and high level visits to Rukungiri, the message is clear for those who have cared to follow. Once Mpororo kingdom has been created and a king installed and then there are complaints Museveni and Muhwezi will turn around and say that it was the wish of the people through their elected leaders.

To prevent this from happening and avoid inevitable trouble no matter how long it takes, Muhwezi and Museveni should be defeated. If voters re-elect Muhwezi and Museveni and they restore Mpororo kingdom, the people of Rukungiri and Ntungamo districts should never complain that they did not know. Now that you know, vote wisely.

While Ugandans should appreciate the use of local languages and freedom to settle anywhere in Uganda, these two freedoms are being abused. We have seen people occupying other people’s land claiming that it was unoccupied. Batutsi are taking Uganda land claiming they are Bafumbira because they speak Kinyarwanda that is similar to Kirundi language in Uganda.

It is important to note that since 1994 Bahutu have avoided coming to Uganda because collaboration between Museveni and Kagame would endanger their lives. Therefore the people in bus loads coming from Rwanda and Burundi are Batutsi and/or Bahororo from Rwanda.

Those in power in Uganda who do not want this information revealed have instructed their surrogates to accuse authors of reports of inciting sectarianism, racism, terrorism and even genocide. Ahmed Katerega of New Vision (Uganda) recently accused me of inciting terrorism and genocide because I wrote that Bairu people of Rujumbura have been exploited and impoverished by Bahororo ruling tribe in Uganda and recommended that corrective measures should be taken.

My family and I have become a potential target and we are living in a state of fear because anything can happen any time because of Katerega’s reckless statements and others before him whose accusations are in writing in the Observer and New Vision newspapers. Let me make one thing very clear: threats will not stop me from telling the truth about social injustice in Uganda. No matter what the protectors of Museveni – at home and abroad – may say, the majority of Ugandans are suffering too much while a few are growing richer by the day now that they are in control of oil funds. The message is already out there. The solution is not to kill messengers or their relatives and family members but to work with them and find lasting solutions for all stakeholders.

That is why a new government should come to power after elections on February 18, 2011 to amend the troublesome sections of the constitution and create conditions for Ugandans to regain their rights and freedoms.

Finally, Uganda leaders need to understand that Uganda has entered an enlightenment and dialectical phase, implying that they will ask questions and demand satisfactory answers. The divine right of presidents and local leaders is coming to an end and present and future leaders must get used to the new environment. Using derogatory and threatening language directly or through surrogates and dispossessing dissenters will only make matters worse because the enlightened population will fight back.