If you re-elect Museveni you will lose your land

Let me clear two things upfront: (1) we Ugandans must stop the deceptive habit of pleading ignorance when things go wrong and (2) we Ugandans must know that Museveni derives his mandate and instructions to govern Uganda from external sources.

I meet Uganda ministers, MPs and officials regularly. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard them deceive us that they did not know that Museveni would do such and such a thing. They would argue that if they had had advance information they would definitely have advised him against such commission. But when you probe them, more often than not, you discover that they knew but did not have the courage to confront Museveni lest they lose their jobs.

Most MPs are there to protect their jobs and get Museveni’s backing for reelection and are not going to risk all that for the sake of defending their constituents’ interests – they are not there for that! So Ugandans do not rely on your MPs to present and defend your interests. Do not return MPs that have done a poor job. That way you send a message to the new MPs that if they do not work for you they will suffer the same consequences like the ones before them who lost re-election bid.

Before Museveni takes decisions on major and controversial issues, he strikes a deal with external sources to protect him should the going get hard with the people of Uganda. Here are a few examples.

1. Museveni invited British Asians back to Uganda and returned all their properties after striking a deal with interested European powers. He then ignored the strong views of Ugandans against the return of non-Uganda Asians. This dictatorial action was described in western media not only as a demonstration of bold leadership that was badly needed in Uganda but also observance of human rights.

2. Museveni launched shock-therapy structural adjustment (SAP) in 1987 after he realized that that is what western donors wanted although he knew that there would be adverse impact on the people of Uganda. Museveni knew that shock therapy had been rejected in Chile and Ghana and the World Bank was not happy about it. The external forces led by Linda Chalker then minister under Thatcher and IMF triumphed over the minister of finance and central bank governor and senior staff who pleaded for a softer version to lessen the pain of adjustment on Ugandans especially women, children and the elderly. The minister, central bank governor and some of their senior supporting staff were fired or marginalized. The combined ministry of finance, planning and economic development was handed over to mostly British junior experts and Uganda surrogates who received instructions from abroad. After 24 years of SAP Uganda has reaped diseases of poverty (jiggers, scabies, trachoma etc), rising infant and maternal deaths, unemployment, under-nutrition, underweight babies and insane people, poor quality education and health care systems, crime, alcoholism, violence, human sacrifice and environmental degradation as more land is cleared of vegetation to grow export crops and sell timber. Notwithstanding Keith Muhakanizi, ministry of finance spokesperson, continues to lecture that poverty has declined drastically, more Ugandans have shoes, blankets and mobile phones. It appears that Museveni has finally realized the hollowness in Muhakanizi’s reporting and has promised to fix the poverty problem should he get re-elected although many think he will forget once campaigning is over.

3. Under pressure from external forces Uganda has launched birth control program to stop population explosion which is not defined. They argue that fertility is high and that the economy has suffered because of high dependency ratio of 115 percent (too many mouths to feed without showing how many children survive per woman) without explaining how it was computed. This analysis is wrong. First, it is not fertility that causes population to rise. It is declining mortality. And mortality has not dropped so drastically in Uganda as to cause a population explosion. Second, fertility has not remained static at 7 children per woman as reported in 2010 Uganda population status report. It has dropped from 7.1 to 6.4. Third, Uganda’s population that is growing at some 3 percent per annum cannot be responsible for declining standard of living when Uganda’s economy is growing at 6 percent as reported by the government. But because western powers have decided that Uganda’s population is dangerously exploding, the poor must limit their reproduction because they are producing more than the rich and producing children they cannot afford. This is a one-dimensional approach that skips other factors that encourage large families. These three examples show that major decisions in Uganda are initiated externally.

Because of global problems with food shortages, the mood is now tilting towards focusing on selling or mortgaging Africa land to foreigners in order to increase food production and supply global markets (in the past foreign experts said that Africa did not have fertile soil and adequate water and recommended food imports and birth control. All of a sudden they have discovered much fertile and idle land which must be sold or leased to foreign states and companies to increase food production to feed the world – those that can afford to buy the food thereby excluding Ugandans). This is a problem of relying on foreign advisers who come to Africa with fixed ideas and outcomes. And Africa “often receives more bad advice per capita from foreign consultants than any other continent in the world”(Development 1996:2).

For the majority of Ugandans who are functionally illiterate land is the only asset and source of livelihood there is. Already selling land to foreigners has caused problems in Madagascar, Mali and Ethiopia. I have written on land issues in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa and addressed Ugandans on the importance of retaining Uganda land for Uganda people. I wrote a 56 page chapter on Uganda land security in my book titled “Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st century”. I captured the views of Ugandans on land issues contained in the Odoki Commission report of 1993 as background information for the 1995 Constitution. Ugandans expressed their deep concern about land grabbing by the rich and foreigners and called for government’s protection so that peasants do not lose their land.

My contribution on land and other related issues has been officially submitted to the president, speaker, prime minister, leader of the opposition, minister of finance, planning and economic development and Uganda’s ambassador to the UN in New York etc. So my views and advice are known in the right circles.

Uganda’s land situation today in the second decade of the 21st century is similar to what Uganda went through in the second decade of the 20th century. Some colonial officials wanted Uganda land taken over by white settlers as in Kenya and Zimbabwe etc. However, there were dissenting voices represented by S. Simpson, Director of Agriculture from 1911 to 1929 and F. Spire, Provincial Commissioner of Eastern Province (V. Harlow & E. M. Chilver 1995). They pleaded that Uganda land should remain in peasant hands who should continue their traditional agrarian practices and institutions which should be improved upon as appropriate. Following extensive discussions between London and Entebbe a final decision was taken in favor of peasants.

In the second decade of the 21st century, Paul collier, a British economist and principal adviser to the president and staff of Uganda is advocating the opposite of what Simpson and Spire stood for. Paul Collier is in favor of large-scale farms using modern inputs which if adopted in Uganda would consign close to 90 percent of Ugandans to landless, penniless and homeless status.

However, globally, there is consensus that small holder farmers are more productive, efficient, environmentally and socially friendly and should be facilitated to increase productivity further. The United Nations and the World Bank and the Group of 8 (G8) most developed countries all support small holder farmers. In this regard, the World Bank in its 2008 World Development Report hailed the role of small holder farmers in leading the way out of hunger and poverty. It also recognized the role of the state in agricultural investment and application of some subsidies (Foreign Affairs November/December 2010). Thus Simpson and Spire advocacy for small holder farmers (peasants) still commands overwhelming support. And this point should not be lost sight of by Uganda governments.

As Ugandans know, Museveni has and is continuing to dish out Uganda land to private and foreign entrepreneurs. The Mabira incident is still fresh in our minds. Mabira forest was saved largely by external environmental lobby groups. Such pressure won’t be there when Museveni if re-elected decides to sell or lease Uganda land to foreigners. He knows foreigners like Collier will defend his decision as a wise one that will increase food. But how will landless and penniless Ugandans access that food?

Although land is so important it has not featured in the campaign as it should. Presidential and parliamentary candidates should be asked to state clearly their position on land tenure (ownership) and use. There is still enough time to get answers on this bread and butter issue.

And let no body deceive Ugandans that large scale farmers will hire peasants who lose their land. This is not going to happen because large farms use machines from clearing land all the way to bagging the dried crop. Simply put there won’t be jobs. And being functionally illiterate, landless peasants will not find work outside agriculture. That is why peasants can’t let go of their land.

Those in urban areas who may not be bothered about land, you will be inundated with relatives that have no jobs after they have lost their land. Do you still remember how many retrenched relatives knocked on your door or you accommodated after the introduction of structural adjustment and you probably still support? This time you can be sure that you will get many more than before.

Therefore to save yourselves this headache and ulcers etc you must not allow Uganda land to be sold or leased to foreigners. The easiest way to do that is to block the re-election of Museveni. We know that once Museveni is re-elected he will sell or lease Uganda land to foreign states and corporations. That is almost guaranteed.

So if you re-elect Museveni and then you or your relative lose land to foreigners do not complain that you did not know that Museveni could do a thing like that. Now you know. The choice is yours.