Patriotic Ugandans and friends have cause to worry about the future of Uganda which is being shaped by current developments. As we know the past impacts the present and the present influences the future. What makes a country grow and develop are its people underpinned by an enabling environment including education, health and nutrition care, infrastructure, institutions, good governance and the political will and commitment of leaders.
The first decade of Uganda’s independence witnessed commendable progress in these areas. In its 1993 report covering the 1963-70 period, the World Bank observed that “Uganda’s social indicators were comparable to, if not better than, most countries in Africa. The country’s health service had developed into one of Africa’s best. Uganda pioneered many low-cost health and nutrition programs. There was a highly organized network of vaccination centers and immunization program reached 70 percent of the population. Although school enrolment was still low, Uganda’s education system had developed a reputation for very high quality”. Uganda had also made substantial progress in infrastructure particularly road construction and institutions in research, extension services and cooperatives.
We should all congratulate the government for admitting, like the IMF and the World Bank before it, that mistakes had been made in Uganda’s development efforts. This is a wise move and there should be no regrets about it. When President Museveni addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009 and said in part “We have started doing what we had left undone for a long time…” I got a sense that the government had finally admitted the failure of its development model. This was confirmed a few days later when ministers and permanent secretaries acknowledged at a retreat that the development model pursued since 1987 had failed to produce the desired results.
When former President Pinochet whose government was the first to introduce structural adjustment in 1973 with ‘Chicago Boys’ (Chilean economists who had been trained at the University of Chicago in USA) and advice of the late Milton Friedman, father of monetarism, realized that the policy was not working he made a bold move. He dismissed the entire team of Chicago boys, appointed a new minister of finance and recast the development model by combining state and private sector in a new development agenda. The recessions ended and the economy has been doing very well since then. So what should Uganda stakeholders do?
Uganda is hungry for regime change even by progressive and well placed members in the NRM government and security forces. Some senior police officers have resigned, others fired for refusing to apply disproportionate force against peaceful demonstrators presenting to the government reasonable demands like ending corruption, sectarianism and cronyism so that national benefits are distributed equitably. Some army officers are complaining openly about injustices in the military. Some religious leaders are opposing the government in broad daylight.
Thankfully, the donor community is beginning to hear the voices of dissent and to act appropriately by issuing statements from their capitals or missions in Uganda, calling on the government to respond to the needs of the people. That some donors are demanding return of their stolen (donor) money is a sign that there is a wind of change in the donor community. It is estimated that over $30 billion has been donated (free money not loans to be repaid) to NRM government but there is virtually nothing to show for it. Add on $1 billion annually sent home by Ugandans in the diaspora, the revenue from exports, taxes and now oil and you have an idea of the magnitude of money that has been stolen by Museveni and his collaborators.
Here are the principal highlights.
1. The mysterious death of a twenty four year old member of parliament has cast a thick shadow over the credibility of the government. Rightly or wrongly, the people of Uganda appear to have made up their mind thereby denting the image of Tutsi-led NRM government. The puzzle that MP Hussein Kyanjo was poisoned remains unsolved. The latest scare that the vice president had been poisoned and had to rush to hospital has left Ugandans wondering who is safe in Uganda and abroad. The allegation of poisoning Ugandans needs to be taken up in 2013.
2. Politically, NRM fared badly in 2012. A new government within NRM government was formed by Ssekikubo, Baryomunsi and Nawagaba. The fight for presidential succession by the first lady, prime minister and speaker of parliament raffled NRM feathers. To put a halt to it, the president announced a year after he had been fraudulently re-elected that he was seeking re-election in 2016. The potential for NRM implosion shouldn’t be underestimated. Meanwhile, Museveni is grooming his son Muhoozi to succeed him, witness rapid promotions including the one conferred on him by the late Gaddafi. To keep NRM together and his involvement as chairman of regional organizations, Museveni is spending less time on Uganda’s economic, social and environmental development.
Some issues have been raised that call for explanation.
1. A federal government system doesn’t mean elimination of central government. It means sharing power between central (federal) government and local administrations (state, province, region or district, etc). How much power is shared depends on negotiations and adjustments overtime. A federal system is not an event but a process subject to amendments to accommodate the new reality.
2. Under a federal system of government, it doesn’t mean that local administrations can do whatever they want. They will be guided by federal and international norms and standards. For example, individual and collective human rights and fundamental freedoms can’t be abused. The local government can’t use its natural resources irresponsibly but sustainably for present and future generations.
3. A federal government isn’t about creating new kingdoms, strengthening or weakening existing ones.
4. A federal system of government isn’t about creating pure ethnic or tribal units. It is about empowering all people in a particular geographic area to use their talents, resources and traditions to develop themselves. For example when a federal system is finally adopted, it doesn’t mean that people say non-Baganda or non-Banyankole will be chased out of Buganda or former Ankole district. Also in areas where there are minority groups the federal government will ensure that their interests are protected.
Fellow Ugandans and friends
One of the major complaints at Uganda meetings that I have attended is that participants are never given reports in good time to study them and consult appropriately in order to debate effectively and take informed decisions. Consequently, meetings end up without taking decisions on the way forward.
Given the vital importance of the London Federal Conference, I have decided to publish my preliminary thoughts before the meeting to give Ugandans and others an opportunity to make comments and suggestion especially on points I may have left out for incorporation into the final statement so that everyone participates in this exercise. I have already circulated a draft statement on “What do we know about federal governments?” on Ugandans at Heart Forum, www.udugandans.org and www.kashambuzi.com.
Please let me have your comments and suggestion as soon as possible before finalizing them for the conference.
Roadmap to achieving a federal government in Uganda
My presentation is in two parts:
1. Renewing national support for a federalism
As we finalize preparations for Uganda’s 50th birthday anniversary as an independent nation, we need to take stock of what we have achieved as a nation and where we have fallen short in order to pave a clear, equitable and sustainable path for the next 50 years.
Most Ugandans today were born after 1970 – a period dominated by political instability, economic and social hardship – and don’t have the benefit of comparing the civilian regime of Obote I and the military regimes of Amin and Museveni. What has been written about UPC and Obote I of the 1960s found mostly in NRM documents picked and emphasized deficit areas and ignored the achievements. To a certain extent Obote, subsequent leaders and supporters are to blame for not writing their stories to provide a basis for comparison. We hope that between now and October 9, UPC leadership will arrange to fill the gap.
With a professional eye, it is difficult to see what NRM government has done right. However, it is very easy to see what it has done wrong. The costs have by far exceeded the benefits, raising serious questions about how long Ugandans should sustain NRM in power. So far, surrogates for the government have failed to convince the public. That they have failed comes through when asked to provide success stories. They don’t even know how to successfully attack their opponents, ending up embarrassing themselves when asked to substantiate their allegations. Let us illustrate what has gone wrong.
Individuals, families, communities and nations that succeed are the ones that learn from their past, make the necessary adjustments which are updated as and when necessary to stay on top of developments. Those that remain rigid more often than not run into difficulties. The Stuarts of England, the Bourbons of France and the Romanovs of Russia disappeared because they were unable to adjust to changing circumstances. They wanted others to adjust to their demands. For example, the French high clergy and nobility refused to pay taxes when the country needed revenue badly to settle its debts. They wanted the commoners to pay more. France had a good man but a poor king in Louis XVI who could not take decisions. He became king by accident of birth, not on merit.
It is now crystal clear that Uganda has leaders suffering from a sleeping ailment. As if that was not debilitating enough, they have begun to quarrel among themselves. When the president addressed parliament last year on State of the Nation, his senior cabinet staff fell into deep sleep – people can doze off once in a while and that is excusable but when you sleep so deeply and repeatedly that is a different matter. One would have thought that the sleeping habit was due to age but young ones slept as well on both occasions. Therefore age has nothing to do with it. Last year’s sleeping incident was not taken seriously. We thought there must have been some specific and temporary reason why so many cabinet ministers could sleep so much. On June 7, 2012 it happened again this time with more ministers – again young and old – in deeper sleep than last year. Leaders who can sleep this deeply and for so long in the presence of their president, how much do they sleep when they are alone in their offices? A non-Ugandan friend of mine who had seen pictures of last year called me after he saw those of this year. He wanted to know whether Ugandans were suffering from a sleeping disease and, if so, what steps were being taken to cure it because no country can develop with that kind of leadership. I had no answer for him.