Troubling developments in the Great Lakes region

It has been difficult to fully understand the nature and causes of conflicts in the Great Lakes region because much information is kept away from public view or distorted in favor of Nilotic Tutsi and against Bantu Hutu.

A combination of geopolitical conflicts over Great Lake’s resources in collaboration with Tutsi, anti-sectarian laws in Uganda and Rwanda and reporting the region largely since 1994 in the wake of Rwanda genocide has left many things unsaid like the fact that Tutsi committed genocide against Hutu in Burundi in 1965, 1972, 1988 and 1993 as recorded by Lemarchand (1994) and reported by Patrick Duport in the undated paper titled “The Sub-regional context of the crises in Rwanda and Burundi”.

Evidence is turning up that RPA (Rwanda Patriotic Army) committed atrocities against Hutu people since 1990 but as Amnesty International has reported “The international community appears to be making excuses for the new Rwandese authorities and turning a blind eye to human rights violations committed by RPA soldiers on the ground that they are not as serious as those committed by its predecessor” (New Africa December 1994).

Getting to know Uganda leaders better

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.

If you think foreigners will initiate change in Uganda, you are mistaken

There are some Ugandans who are still calling on foreigners to initiate political change in Uganda preferably through the barrel of the gun to end abuse of power and the suffering it has caused there. Why should they? Foreigners have had it so good until now under Museveni like never before. Conditions for them (enabling environment) are better than in colonial days in many respects. Take land as an illustration. Governor Bell, Commissioner Spire and Director Simpson refused foreigners to own or lease land except for a few plantations. They argued successfully that land in Uganda belongs to peasants and it should remain so and convert it into commercial enterprises.

Museveni is changing all of that. He has given foreign developers the land they want and where they want it. A model school that Ugandans were proud of was pulled down in Kampala City because a developer wanted the site. Construction has taken place in previous water drainage channels in Kampala City because those are the sites the developers wanted, causing flooding and breeding ground for mosquitoes. Museveni shouted down advisers who argued against such developments. Uganda farmers have lost their land where they grew a variety of crops for own consumption and sell surplus in urban areas in the Entebbe-Kampala corridor in order to create space for cut flower production for export. Mabira forest is under constant threat because that is where the developer wants to grow sugar cane for export. It is reported he has refused other sites. Although Museveni has delayed the decision on Mabira forest he will likely yield in the end because foreign interests have triumphed over national ones.

Uganda in deep crisis; needs intensive care attention

Admitting failure is a sign of wisdom and maturity and represents flexibility to look at the situation objectively with a view to identifying the real causes of the problem and provide appropriate solutions. Uganda’s economy had been sick for quite some time but it slipped into a comma in 2011 in part because of the global crisis but more critically as the result of reckless practices during the election campaigns. But the NRM government has refused to accept the obvious hoping presumably that time will correct the situation and return Uganda to normalcy. The author wrote to the president, speaker, prime minister, leader of the opposition and minister of finance advising that Uganda’s economic health was faltering, needing urgent attention. The advice was ignored, not even acknowledged.

To appreciate Uganda’s problems one has to go back to the 1987 decision by NRM government to abandon the ten point program in favor of ‘shock therapy’ structural adjustment program (SAP). The foreign advice NRM received and adopted is similar to what was imposed on Bolivia. During the 1980s and 1990s, Bolivia like Uganda, was a poster child for Washington Consensus market doctrine. Bolivia swallowed shock therapy neo-liberalism whole. Using privatization as an illustration, Bolivia sold off the airline, trains, phone and electric companies, public water system of Cochabamba City and gas and oil fields.

Museveni’s image has been irreparably tarnished

Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Nelson Mandela of South Africa left power when their images as great leaders had reached a watershed. Yoweri Museveni could have joined their ranks as a great leader not only in Africa but also the world had he stepped down at the right time. Regrettably, Museveni missed that opportunity at a great cost.

After capturing power through force, Museveni quickly established himself as the ‘dean’ of the new breed of African leaders determined to break with the past by ending sectarianism and poverty, launching democracy and the rule of law and strictly observing human rights. At home, the launching of the ten-point program which had been drafted after extensive consultations and compromise marked him as a listener and pragmatic leader. The formation of a government of national unity which embraced representatives from all political parties, all religions and all regions and took into consideration the special needs of women and disabled persons erased any lingering doubt about his sincerity to forge a new Uganda. On their part Ugandans were prepared to sacrifice even more to make him succeed.