How Museveni is changing the face of Uganda

Museveni came to power with a hidden long term plan: to change Uganda’s human and natural landscape beyond recognition. The plan is embedded in his philosophy of metamorphosis which Ugandans interpreted wrongly to mean agricultural, industrial and technological revolution.

To divert attention while mobilizing mass support Museveni presented a carefully drafted and broadly supported ten-point program which won him support mostly in central and western regions. Museveni knew he would discard the program (as well as those who drafted it) because it did not fit into the neo-liberal ideological framework of market forces and laissez faire capitalism and the interests of those foreigners who funded, provided media and political cover during the guerrilla war.

However, because of pressure from some of his supporters, Museveni delayed implementation of structural adjustment until 1987. The minister of finance and governor of central bank and many others who opposed shock therapy adjustment were dismissed or marginalized. The period between 1987 and 1989 was devoted to winning over many other dissenting voices because the strong bitterness of adjustment had been tasted under Obote 11 regime between 1981 and 1983.

The adoption of structural adjustment began the process of Uganda’s metamorphosis through re-colonization of Uganda by Britain, transformation of the professional class in favor of Bahororo people and pushing Uganda into the East African economic integration and political federation.

First, Museveni has facilitated re-colonization of Uganda by Britain as part of his metamorphosis plan. How do we know that Uganda has been re-colonized? To answer that question we need to know what colonization was about in the first place and what Uganda is doing under Museveni.

The colonization of Uganda was in large part to procure raw materials for British industries, foodstuffs for British consumers and markets for British surplus manufactured products. The white settlement part fell through in the 1920s due to the economic recession that proved that Uganda peasants were more resilient than white farmers.

To create a market for British manufactured products Uganda’s dynamic and diversified indigenous industries were phased out. Uganda became a raw material producer and exporter (cotton, coffee, tea and tobacco) according to British (economist) Ricardian principle of comparative advantage. The commercial and service (banking etc) sectors were also controlled by British especially Indians.

The management of Uganda was carried out by British professionals assisted by a few brainwashed Ugandans. The colonial administration was headed by a white governor. So what do we have in Uganda under Museveni?

Apart from having an African president, everything else done in Uganda under Museveni fits into a (neo) colonial framework. Uganda as in colonial days is producing and exporting traditional raw materials of cotton, coffee, tea and tobacco. Diversification of exports (non-traditional exports) has gone basically into raw food exports such as maize, fish, beans, sim sim and meat.

Uganda industries are as in colonial days disappearing to make room for imported manufactured products largely used items such as clothes. Uganda’s commercial and service sectors are dominated by British Indians as in colonial days.

As in colonial days the administration of Uganda is firmly in the hands of foreigners particularly British especially in the ministry of finance, planning and economic development and central bank (S. Mallaby 2004). British experts are funded by Britain directly or through other organs such as IMF, World Bank and the UN. The British Department for International Development (DFID) is playing a crucial role. As in colonial days, few brainwashed Ugandans particularly in the finance ministry and central bank are working in close collaboration with foreign experts.

The commercial and service sectors in Museveni’s Uganda are as in colonial days dominated by British Indians who Museveni invited back (against Ugandans’ strong objection) and returned all their properties including possibly those that had been compensated.

Thus, apart from an African president, Uganda’s economy today is a carbon copy of what obtained during colonial days. Hence Uganda has been re-colonized by Britain.

This return to colonial rule economy (with many immigrants) and foreign management under Museveni has marked a major departure from the initiatives began in 1962 including Ugandanization programs which Museveni has undermined by encouraging brain drain.

Second, the application of structural adjustment ideology gave Museveni an opportunity to implement his hidden agenda wrapped up in his metamorphosis ideology. The application of neo-liberal (or neo-classical) fundamentalism was supposedly based on Adam Smith’s ideas of capitalism and free enterprise. Smith believed that governments that governed least governed best. However, Smith emphasized that governments should preserve law and order, enforce justice, defend the nation against external aggression and provide social needs that could not be met through the market. These social needs included education. But the implementation of structural adjustment supposedly based on Adam Smith deliberately left out other areas that Smith had singled out for government intervention. As reported by Jeff Madrick (2009), “In fact, less popularly recognized, Smith had justified substantial government intervention for education, defense, and other areas”. “Other areas” could include healthcare and housing.

Museveni’s hidden agenda is to change Uganda’s professional landscape largely dominated by Baganda to one dominated by Bahororo. At a meeting of Bahororo leaders chaired by Museveni (see report of a meeting of Bahororo dated March 15, 1992) it was decided to promote the dominance of Bahororo principally through excellent education at home and abroad. This would open up unlimited opportunities for Bahororo in all areas of human endeavor at the expense of other Ugandans.

To cater to the interests of the chosen few groups including Bahororo people, Museveni promoted establishment of private institutions such as schools and hospitals to provide excellent services. Facilities that were not available at home were accessed abroad. Bahororo people have benefited the most. You need to meet Uganda students abroad or fly between Entebbe and Europe during the end of year holiday season to see how many Bahororo students are studying abroad privately funded or government sponsored. You can tell by their accent and by who meets them at or takes them to the airport!).

By contrast, programs that had benefited the general public such as education, healthcare, food security (fish and beans), agriculture and cooperatives were virtually axed from the adjustment program through removal of subsidies, imposition of user charges, elimination of cooperatives, retrenchment of staff and neglect of infrastructure such as roads and energy and agriculture. The departure of professionals due to retrenchment and brain drain resulted in the hiring of licensed teachers etc that lowered the quality of services and the product – hence many unemployable and functionally illiterate graduates.

Thus, Museveni’s push for a new class of Bahororo professionals while undermining the quality of education for other groups is changing the professional landscape. Where, for example, Baganda dominated as in the ministry of finance, central Bank and ministry of foreign affairs, Bahororo are visibly in the ascendancy.

Third, should the East African economic integration and political federation processes be concluded in their present form Uganda will be metamorphosed demographically and economically. It is important to recall that the concepts of economic integration and political federation are not new. They were tried in the colonial days principally to protect the interests of white settler community in Kenya. Similarly, in Central Africa, the political federation of North and South Rhodesia and Nyasaland was designed to protect white settler community in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It did not last because liberation movements in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) objected very strongly and the federation was dissolved.

The overall idea of federation to protect whites in East and central Africa was captured by Brian Gardner (1970) who observed that “As well as a Central African Federation, Lennox-Boyd had hoped for an East Africa Federation, an old prewar idea, of Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda, in which the Europeans’ position would be protected”.

Under globalization and structural adjustment the British are returning to East Africa in large numbers and entering other countries in the great lakes region including Rwanda. The British and other European position will therefore need protection.

In Uganda commercial and service sectors as well as the remaining few industrial plants are dominated by British including British Indians (Britain is the largest investor in Uganda). British citizens are still many in Kenya and others are spreading to Rwanda. The European position in a neo-colonizing East African community will need protection as much as it needed it during the colonial days through economic integration and political federation.

Museveni is Britain’s champion pushing these ideas using a fast track methodology (that leaves many things not discussed or even proposed) and he hopes to benefit by using this arrangement to also push his Tutsi Empire mission. Therefore Ugandans need to go beyond rhetoric as presented in seminars to arrive at the truth (net positive benefits for Uganda) because the truth more often than not is in that which is absent from public view. And what is absent in seminars is inter alia the grand idea of protecting European interests in East Africa and promoting Museveni’s Tutsi Empire which would probably serve British interests better because Tutsi Empire is supposed to be larger than the East African federation.

Economic integration and political federation will mean more Europeans, more Kenyans, more Burundians and more Rwandese flocking, grabbing land and settling in Uganda with their families and their animals. This will change the demographic and economic face of Uganda fundamentally as foreigners, cattle and very large modern and mechanized farms will overshadow indigenous population and small holder crop cultivation.

Let me end by repeating what I have said before. Uganda’s land is not for sale or lease. Land has unique value. Jeff Madrick (2009) has reminded us that “If you could own your own land, grow your own food, have a safe abode, you need not be beholden to any man or any ruler. Material self-sufficiency in an agricultural society of affordable land for the many was the source of freedom and ‘happiness’”. Don’t forget this piece of advice.

Uganda leaders who will go along with integration and federation as currently presented (that will rob Ugandans of land, labor and industries etc) in return for short term benefits of a big office, high sounding title and a four wheel (SUV) vehicle will have denied Uganda children their freedom and happiness. Keep this in mind as you reflect on the disadvantages of the East African economic integration and political federation.

As Ugandans, we should not allow leaders to push us into harm’s way. For the sake of our children we need to gather courage and defeat candidates including Museveni who are advocating this kind of metamorphosis (integration and federation) on Uganda soil. Fellow Ugandans land is an area where we should not hesitate to invoke our inalienable (God-given) rights which as you know none can take away – not even the worst dictator.