As we assess Uganda’s progress over the last fifty years of independence, we need to draw a distinction between processes and real outcomes. Often governments have recorded processes as outcomes thereby giving themselves underserved credit. Let me clarify with a few illustrations beginning with gender which is a cross-cutting issue.
We all know that Uganda girls and women face serious challenges. In order to address them, NRM government set up a ministry of gender and has until the recent cabinet reshuffle appointed a woman as minister in charge of gender affairs. The creation of the ministry of gender should not be recorded as an outcome but as part of a process towards addressing gender challenges. In order to get to real outcomes we need to ask to what extent has the ministry helped to reduce maternal mortality and domestic violence; empower women through education and gainful employment to take independent decisions that affect the quality of their lives. That way you can measure real outcomes.
By popular demand we shall continue the discussion on birth control in Uganda that we began last Sunday, January 27. Let me begin by restating that having children: how many, when and how to space them is a human right which must be exercised voluntarily. Anything done otherwise is a violation of that right.
Throughout human history, couples have controlled their reproduction behavior for various reasons on a voluntary basis or through coercion. For example, ancient Greeks kept their families small through abortion or women taking drinks that brought on violent vomiting and subsequent miscarriages. Others exercised vigorously through repeated jumping that terminated unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.
On the other hand, ancient Romans preferred large families. Even so they exercised birth control as well especially by women who married early. The first recorded use of contraceptives occurred in ancient Egypt (Reader’s Digest. How Was It Done? 1995).
Even in Uganda some couples decided and still do on their own about how many children they wish to have, when and how to space them. For example, longer periods of breast feeding coupled with prohibition of sexual relations during this period delayed pregnancy.
As campaigning for February 2011 presidential elections enters the last phase, Ugandans need to consider the following illustrative events before deciding whether or not to re-elect Museveni for another five-year term.
1. There are increasing allegations that Museveni and/or his collaborators murdered key Ugandans to discredit Amin and have him overthrown.
2. There are increasing allegations that human, physical and institutional destruction in the Luwero Triangle was committed by Museveni and his guerrilla fighters to discredit Obote and have him overthrown.
3. There are reports that Museveni prolonged the northern and eastern war causing much destruction in human, physical and institutional terms. He was forced by the international community to end the war. Museveni should not earn credit for ending the war and be re-elected by northern and eastern voters.
4. A few months after he formed the government, Museveni introduced new Uganda currency and charged 30 percent conversion tax against the advice of IMF as such a tax hike would significantly reduce household incomes and cause untold suffering which it did in many families. It is not clear where that revenue went.