Museveni must be accountable for his government failures

Museveni behaves as though he does not understand the concept of accountability even though he grew up in an environment where accountability is very well understood. For example, in western Uganda culture – where Museveni comes from – when your cows destroy a neighbor’s garden when your son was tending them, it is the father who is accountable and pays the fine. Similarly when Museveni’s employees (national or foreign) make mistakes he should be accountable and accept the consequences. Instead Museveni blames others. But before coming to cases where Museveni and those who support him have blamed others, let us examine briefly why Museveni has done poorly with a view to drawing lessons for future leaders and whoever forms the next government after February 18, 2011 elections.

1. Museveni’s school performance through undergraduate studies was not bright. This can be deduced from his own writings and reports (subject to confirmation) that he obtained a pass at the university of Dar es Salaam. At that time a pass was like a certificate of attendance. He did not pursue graduate studies that introduce students to analytical tools and research methodology. So he has a deficit at the academic level. And he became president when the world economy had shifted from Keynesian to neoliberal ideology known as the Washington Consensus that requires a lot of adjustment from state to market forces and laissez-faire capitalism.

2. Apart from a short period as a junior civil servant, Museveni did not have civilian working experience much less at a managerial level. He was familiar with a five year guerrilla experience and thought that was enough. But when his guerrilla record is examined closely, you will find that had Obote not been denied foreign support particularly by IMF and World Bank (Kanyeihamba 2002 and New African 1987-88) that led to a military coup by a section of Obote’s army in 1985, Museveni would probably have not succeeded. In fact at that time of the coup, Museveni was already in Sweden where his family lived. He was about to announce that he was stepping down as commander of the guerrilla forces.

3. Museveni has a serious superiority complex, believing that he is above the intellectual level of Ugandans. This is tied in with his belief that he is European perhaps of the Aryan group. He raised this issue with John Nagenda during an interview shortly before he became president in 1986. So he is more comfortable with white advisers or instructors.

4. As president he has relied more on loyalty than competence. It is not surprising that you find (no offence) medical doctors as ministers of finance and foreign affairs, police men as ministers of education and health, lawyers as ministers of trade and education and even people who did not complete high school or have questionable diplomas in key policy making positions. Museveni dismissed experienced public servants in public enterprises and civil service (mostly Protestants) because they served under Obote and refused to invite experienced Ugandans back home as he confirmed in an interview. He has since becoming president encouraged Ugandans (the very qualified and experienced that should stay at home) to seek work abroad, appointing junior and inexperienced Ugandans and foreigners to key positions. Good foreign experts have good jobs at home and are rarely interested in assignments abroad in third world countries like Uganda. If they do, they visit for a short period to collect materials for their work like writing books.

5. Museveni suffers from a one dimensional approach deficit and this has been a major part of the problem. For example when he chose to diversify export base by increasing food exports, he did not pay attention to food security at home and resource depletion. Most of the food and particularly of the nutritious value such as fish and beans are being exported. Domestic prices shot up beyond the means of many families and the result has been massive under-nutrition, physical and mental underdevelopment and neurological abnormalities and increasing insanity. Fellow Ugandans, the future of Uganda is very bleak with this human problem! Museveni saw increased exports in terms of foreign currency accumulation to import goods and services for the few rich families. Museveni did not realize that clearing too much vegetation for ranches and cut flowers to increase and diversify exports would damage the environment resulting in adverse hydrological and thermal changes such as frequent and severe droughts and floods. What is even worse is that Museveni ignored advice from nationals including those that had no political affiliation. I volunteered and advised the government on adverse consequences of overfishing and excessive foodstuff exports and on other issues. My advice was ignored, not even acknowledged by the offices of the president, speaker of parliament and prime minister. I have written ten books on development issues with a focus on Uganda (copies were sent to the government through appropriate channels) and many articles published in the local media and on my free of charge blog There was sufficient advice on impending problems but it was ignored by the intellectual who picked up the gun to liberate Uganda.

6. Museveni has relied heavily on foreign advisers particularly in the all powerful ministry of finance, planning and economic development and central Bank. Most of these foreigners were junior without experience and knowledge of Uganda’s history and complexity. Here is what Sebastian Mallaby (2004) wrote on this matter. “Distinguished development professors visited Uganda regularly and had audiences with the president, and Tumusiime would sit back happily while the visitors gave tutorials to Museveni that reinforced his [Tumusiime] promarket advice. Within his own office, Tumusiime always had a team of young British economists working for him, even though Ugandan colleagues chided him: ‘How can you open up the ministry to these foreigners?’ they asked”. These foreigners had ideas different from those needed to meet the needs of Ugandans. They designed excellent documents that never got implemented in part because they were poorly funded as a result of corruption and shortage of skilled human power at the district level.

7. Museveni did not realize that at some stage things might go wrong with the kind of foreign advice he was getting and implementing uncritically: economic growth and per capita income (necessary but not a sufficient condition), inflation control (which meant high interest rates that suffocated investment and job creation), liberalization of Uganda economy to cheap imports (that knocked out domestic industries and loss of jobs), reduced wages (to attract foreign investors), hiring expatriates, capital repatriation, privatization of public enterprises (including the all important post office), liberal immigration (rising number of foreigners relative to indigenous population that is declining through scaled up birth control) and taxation policies etc. Museveni has recorded his achievements by pointing at houses in Kampala but he does not tell Ugandans that these houses belong to a few families who probably used stolen public money to build them and rent them to foreigners who pay in dollars that are then banked abroad. Museveni also talks with pride about the fleet of buses on Uganda roads but does not report that they belong to a few families (who also own most of the houses in Kampala and other towns) that charge exorbitant fares and drain scarce resources from poor travelers. The same can be said of mobile phones which have benefited mobile phone companies and impoverished most users since they have become a consumer rather than a producer item.

8. Museveni ignored things that matter to Ugandans the most such as equitable distribution of benefits of economic growth, quality education and school feeding programs, quality healthcare, food and nutrition security, sanitation, adequate housing and lack of investment in agriculture and rural development where some 90 percent derive their livelihood. Museveni ignored industries in favor of capital intensive service sector located mostly in Kampala and foreign-owned that is generating some 70 percent of Uganda’s GDP. Museveni has behaved as though he is the leader of Singapore, a city state, and we advised him against it to no avail.

9. When the economy turned sour and the negative social and environmental consequences were everywhere for all to see, Museveni began to blame others or his spokespersons and others who sympathize with him did it on his behalf. Here are a few illustrative cases.

10. Phionah Kesaasi wrote that the privatization of Uganda’s public enterprises was not Museveni’s idea. It was Margaret Thatcher’s (former prime minister of Britain) and Museveni should not be blamed for what has gone wrong. Jim Muwanga wrote that it is nonsensical to blame Kaguta Museveni for everything. Museveni has often blamed his ministers and civil servants for incompetence, conveniently forgetting that he is the one who appointed them on individual merit. While addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on September 16, 2005, Museveni complained that “Some external advisers have argued that Uganda is better off by allowing second-hand clothes from outside to suffocate our resurgent textile industry! Incredible but true”. After 25 years of Museveni’s rule, Uganda is still importing second-hand clothes which have indeed suffocated the textile industry and all the associated backward and forward linkages. Importing subsidized powdered milk has similarly crippled the dairy industry etc.

11. Let me conclude by returning to what I started off with. When employees, national or foreign, give advice to Museveni on some ideas and he accepts the advice then the ideas become his. Or when his representative presents those ideas on his behalf Museveni is accountable. He can discipline the officer if there is sufficient ground for that but he cannot deny responsibility.

12. If Museveni had the right profile as leader of a nation, most of these mistakes like diseases of poverty and extensive environmental degradation that have crippled Uganda and her people would have been avoided. That is why Museveni’s reelection will mean a continuation of his failed policies and dictatorial style of leadership and therefore more trouble for Uganda and her people. This will be particularly the case in matters of economic integration, political federation and land sale or lease to foreigners. These are very complex and sensitive matters that cannot be rushed through or left in the hands of people without adequate training or sufficient experience or sufficiently patriotic. Unless there is a refocused approach to these negotiations with net benefits to Uganda identified and debated and the role of Uganda as a component of the federation is clearly and unambiguously defined, Uganda stands to lose and lose big especially on the land and labor issues. That is why I have campaigned for the first time that the collective interests of Ugandans must come before those of Museveni as an individual. There is no individual that can be more important than 33 million Ugandans – none. Museveni’s reelection will be disastrous because he is interested in becoming the first head of the East African federation irrespective of what it costs Uganda. And he knows it. And some of us know it. To save Uganda and her people, Museveni must therefore be defeated on February 18, 2011.

President Museveni should not take this decision of mine personally. I have taken it in the best interest of all Uganda children in present and future generations. I am also suggesting that Ahmed Katerega of New Vision (Uganda) who has taken it upon himself to criticize whatever I write should be civil and substantive or else I will be forced to respond to him appropriately.