Museveni’s despotism must be stopped

Greetings fellow Ugandans and friends

We have agreed to adequately prepare an all embracing case for rejecting Museveni as Uganda’s despotic ruler who is increasingly relying on foreigners as Ugandans abandon him. We have also agreed that our grievances should be anchored on facts – not emotions or rumors.

Museveni has violated the constitution of Uganda which recognizes the sovereign and inalienable right of Ugandans to establish a socio-economic and political order based on the principles of unity, peace, equality, democracy, freedom, social justice and progress. Museveni has ruled unilaterally using others as rubber stamp through bribery or people with little or no interest in Uganda.

We have analyzed at some length Museveni’s abuse of our political rights through, among other things, rigging elections since 1996 and using mercenaries from the great lakes region.

When Museveni had an interview in 1994 with an American journalist Bill Berkeley he sent a message to Ugandans that we did not pick up. He said that “I have never blamed the whites for colonizing Africa: I have never blamed these whites for taking slaves. If you are stupid, you should be taken a slave”(The Atlantic Monthly September 1994). This was a powerful message. Why should he blame his white cousins? Museveni believes he is white! I am told that in 1986 he was sworn in by a white judge when he became president! He cannot blame white neo-colonialism which has been imposed on Uganda on his watch.

Museveni treats Ugandans as slaves because he believes we are primitive and stupid. That is why he can disenfranchise Ugandans, bring in millions of foreign voters, massively rig the election and we don’t raise a finger in protest. Slaves, according to Museveni, have no rights.

The few who raised their fingers in protest were dubbed sectarians, terrorists and genocidaires. And the rest kept quiet. Ugandans-at-Heart Forum has examples of this intimidation and black mail.

The abuses in the economic sector have been as severe. Last weekend we discussed how Ugandans were swindled in the privatization exercise. There was no room to discuss the status of public enterprises in terms of their efficiency and effectiveness before deciding which ones to abandon or privatize or retain.

An order was issued stating that “It has been decided to begin divestments immediately, and to deal with problems as they arise, rather than to delay the privatization program until all constraints have been resolved. Privatization in Uganda has come to stay”(V. V. Ramanadham 1993).

By selling public enterprises the government would generate revenue and the private entrepreneurs would run them efficiently, ending government subsidies. Privatization of public enterprises has been characterized by the following developments. First, privatized enterprises were mostly taken over by foreign companies virtually privatizing the entire modern economy except peasant agriculture. Second, we do not know how much revenue was generated and in what sectors it was spent. Third, many public servants were retrenched before privatization. Museveni declared that he was not bothered by massive lay-offs. Fourth, many privatized enterprises have continued to be subsidized, perhaps more than when they were public. Fifth, the government took over the outstanding debts before privatization occurred, which were settled with tax payers’ money.

Parliament which has responsibility for clearing policies, learned about privatization exercise largely through foreign media.

A reporter for New African (September 1992) wrote that “President Museveni has done what his predecessors could never dream of doing – privatize the entire economy”. Museveni was prodded by the World Bank to take such a bold decision because he knew he had protection. Privatization as an integral part of structural adjustment has failed to create jobs, compete in international markets and contribute to improved standard of living of the majority of Ugandans.

It has been reported that Museveni is worried about the activities of Ugandans in the diaspora to force him step down. The investment conference in August to be held in London is designed to disrupt their activities abroad by taking trouble makers home and corrupt them so they keep quiet.

Regarding human resources development and utilization, Museveni has taken unilateral decisions especially relating to well educated and experienced Ugandans. In a 1993 interview Augustine Oyowe of the ACP Courier magazine asked “Uganda has a shortage of skilled labor despite the fact that it has many very able professionals living abroad. What measures have you put in place to entice them back?

Museveni replied “We do not mind very much if they stay abroad. They earn and send money to their families. It is one form of advantage to the country. We are training new people all the time in the university and technical schools. So we do not feel their absence”. That was a major loss.

Museveni also encouraged qualified Ugandans in the country who could compete in the international labor market to go. Many had been retrenched as part of structural adjustment. Consequently, the most principled and best educated left Uganda. Those who stayed were under utilized as Museveni preferred his guerrilla cadres some of whom were appointed directors of technical departments when they had never worked in the civil service.

Apart from hiring young foreign experts without sufficient knowledge of Uganda’s history and environment, Museveni prefers to be advised by foreigners. Sebastian Mallaby (2004) wrote that “Distinguished development professors visited Uganda regularly and had audiences with the president [while Ugandans accompanying them would sit back]… while the visitors gave tutorials to Museveni…” on the invisible hand of market forces and laissez faire capitalism. Most of the lessons turned out to be irrelevant to Uganda’s situation.

Human capital formation in Uganda has retrogressed through poor health, food insecurity, school dropout, poor quality education and hiring and promoting less deserving Ugandans while qualified and experienced citizens are ignored.

This retrogression has fed into the poor quality of civil servants. And Museveni is blaming them for incompetence. Museveni is the appointing officer. He appointed the staff that he is criticizing. He should criticize himself and the ministers of public service including Apollo Nsibambi for a poor job. Museveni put nepotism and loyalty above competence.

Besides, the main purpose of cleaning up the civil service is to bring in young loyal servants that will just carry out instructions, just as he did with NRM MPs during the primary elections. The key staff that carries out Museveni’s instructions especially in the ministry of finance and central bank will stay – competent or not. Just watch!

Museveni had hoped he would erase the image of Obote by performing better. That has not occurred.

Museveni had hoped he would carry the same weight as Nyerere and Mandela. That won’t happen.

Finally Museveni’s attempt to develop Uganda like Singapore will not work. Singapore is a small city state with 4.6 million people. All the people live in the city and are middle class and above. Uganda has 32 million people with 30 million outside of Kampala which sadly has become the focus of Museveni’s development strategy. Greater Kampala which has swallowed Mengo as we have known it will not make the Singapore model relevant. Greater Kampala will be filled with foreigners that will form the backbone of Museveni’s political power. He will also have access to funds mobilized for development which he will divert into non-development activities if we allow him to stay in power.

Lack of separation of powers has made Museveni a despot. He has deliberately combined legislative and executive branches. He has killed the independence of the judiciary by appointing NRM cadres. He has killed military professionalism by having commanders elected to parliament supporting NRM.

To sum up, Museveni’s political, economic and institutional arrangements have all ended up in failure. The massive rigging of 2011 elections using foreign voters reflects how unpopular Museveni has become with Ugandans. Social indicators not ‘cooked’ economic statistics reveal the extent of Museveni’s failure over the last twenty five years.

Museveni has used up all his chances. Qadaffi advised him never to leave power because ‘revolutionaries’ do not quit. Qadaffi is being pushed out, so will Museveni if he attempts to hurt peaceful demonstrators. We are watching.

Security forces do not follow instructions that will drive you to the ICC because if you commit crimes against humanity, the commander who instructed you won’t save you.

Museveni will need to be challenged by strong willed Uganda men and women. Half-hearted folks with propensity for corruption won’t do. Future leaders should have impeccable records of public service and contributions to their communities.

Peaceful demonstrations to unseat Museveni must be held regularly at home and abroad until Museveni is removed and pictures taken should security forces harass demonstrators as evidence in court.

Demonstrators do not need permission. They need to inform police when and where demonstrations will take place. Ugandans have the right to assemble anywhere any time in their country. It is not a privilege.

Meanwhile cabinet and other appointments must be scrutinized to ensure we know who they are.

Thank you for your kind attention.