Ugandans with support of friends and well wishers should craft a strategy for defeating NRM that suits local conditions. We should not emulate Egyptians, Tunisians, Philippinos, Ethiopians and Iranians etc if circumstances in Uganda are different. However, we should draw lessons from their struggles. One lesson is very clear: they all overcame fear and sectarianism. Egyptian Muslims joined hands with Christians, for example. Similarly, Ugandans must overcome fear, selfishness and parochialism. We should be guided by modesty and truth, not lies and deception. We should put Uganda and the future of our children first so that they can live happier and fuller lives than we have because that is what development or modernization is supposed to be. We should use our comparative advantages because every Ugandan has something to offer in this post-2011 elections liberation struggle that has just begun. Furthermore, we should be pragmatic and not idealistic.
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.
There is sufficient evidence in time and space to confirm that when people are sufficiently galvanized and fully understand the causes of their pain, and who is benefitting from their sweat, they will revolt spontaneously. They only need a spark such as the enforcement of poll tax in England that led to a countrywide spontaneous revolt in 1381. In Rwanda, the Social Revolution of 1959 was sparked by Tutsi youth assault on a Hutu sub-chief. The introduction of Afrikaans in Black schools sparked student unrest that enhanced the demise of apartheid system in South Africa. The eviction of a dissident priest from his residence sparked a revolution that ended communist rule in Romania.
Galvanization of people takes place inside and outside the country. Archbishop Desmond Tutu galvanized Black South Africans from home. Oliver Tambo did so in exile. Civic organizations such as Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia galvanized their citizens from home. Radio Free Europe made a significant contribution to the 1989 Revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe from outside. In turn, the 1989 Revolutions influenced the introduction of multi-party politics in Africa.
Museveni and I have disagreed on many issues in Uganda’s political economy discourse. However, we agree fully that to solve a problem we must get to the root cause (Y. K. Museveni 1989). I also agree with the late Samson Kisekka that education and mass media play crucial roles in public debates to take informed decisions (Samson Kisekka undated).
To solve Great Lakes problems in which Uganda is located we must accept that inter-ethnic conflicts are still alive and well. We also have to recognize that Batutsi from time immemorial have conflicted with other groups in Eastern DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. However, addressing the problem is difficult because any mention of Batutsi wrongdoing leads to automatic accusations of inciting genocide against them by those who want the status quo that has favored them since 1994 be not disturbed.
Since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda Batutsi are seen as victims and others as genocidaires (genocidaire is a French word which means those who commit genocide). Genocide means committing any of the following actions with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:
1. Killing members of the group;
I developed an inquisitive, listening and retention mind at an early age. People discussed all sorts of sensitive things in my presence thinking I was too young to understand. When I travelled by bus passengers talked freely and I obtained useful information. And I grew up in an atmosphere characterized by church gatherings that enabled me to hear incredible stories about human relations. My home village is strategically located and enabled me to gather information from Ankole, Rwanda, Burundi and Belgian Congo (now DRC). These stories mostly about brutal exploitation of the weak by the strong disturbed me – to say the least. As I grew up I witnessed some of these brutalities that continued under indirect colonial rule. Then I went to school and what we were taught (hunger, African laziness and too many children that cannot be fed properly) did not match most of what was happening on the ground at least in my home area. At times it was difficult for me to answer some questions or engage in discussions full of distortions. In some discussions I simply kept quiet or spoke in disagreement based on what I had heard. I decided early in my life that I would gather this information and share it at the right time. Thus, the information I am sharing with the public represents many years of accumulation from primary and secondary sources, checking and revising it as new information becomes available.
During the 2004 hearings by the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, many African participants equated globalization with the re-colonization of Africa. Many Ugandans believe that Uganda which was never fully de-colonized has already been re-colonized since entering into structural adjustment with the IMF in 1981.
In order to appreciate that re-colonization has actually occurred, one needs to understand what the objectives of colonialism were. They were to secure a strategic advantage, evangelize the natives and obtain tropical raw materials and food for British industries and population respectively and land for surplus British population; and finally markets for manufactured products.
Britain, France, Germany and Belgium conflicted over the control of areas that eventually became Uganda. The agreement between Germany and Britain involving Heligoland is well known as is the Fashoda incident between Britain and France. The interests of White settlers in Kenya and Egypt’s reliance on the waters of the Nile affected the final shape and size of Uganda. Ultimately Uganda lost big chunks of land in the east and the north to Kenya and Sudan respectively. In the south and west of Uganda land was also exchanged among Germany, Belgium and Uganda. Uganda remains a battleground for old and new colonizers as a gateway to the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. During the cold war era, Uganda sat at the intersection between the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ belt states that contributed to the 1971 coup.
On July 4, 2012, my articles on Ugandans at Heart Forum generated a vibrant, constructive and informative as well as – I must add thankfully – civil debate. Even those who were rough in the past were gentle this time. Those who tried to divert attention from the core message of my articles in the hope of discouraging further writing along similar lines ended up confirming what I have been saying all along; namely that NRM has destroyed Uganda – intentionally or otherwise – which is now a failed state under a military dictatorship (so that NRM stays in power an extra day because it has lost popular support) no matter what the defenders of NRM – in or out of government – may say. Others concurred that Uganda is indeed in deep trouble but complained that NRM has been disproportionately bashed. Overall, there is agreement that NRM has performed far below expectation and has therefore failed the test. We have discussed at length what has gone wrong and the factors involved since NRM came to power in 1986. The differences have narrowed considerably on the following factors behind NRM failed performance.
When military leaders overthrew governments in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region beginning with Yoweri Museveni in Uganda in 1986, those who didn’t understand their real motives quickly christened them a new breed of African leaders in search of peace, democracy and development led by private sector and market forces. The new leaders hired lobbyists in western capitals and received support from sympathetic reporters especially after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In Rwanda, Bahutu were depicted as “bad guys” behaving like wild beasts that should be punished en masse. And Bahutu were hunted down with millions of lives lost in jungles and in camps of displaced persons. Reports of atrocities perpetrated by Rwanda and Uganda were ignored by the international community or issued statements of condemnation that were meaningless without the force of law.
Museveni’s address was not directed at Ugandans but donors who have withdrawn support largely because of rampant corruption and mismanagement of public funds. He was I think also addressing the United Nations on one Millennium Development Goal – Achieve universal primary education. He focused on the glass half full, leaving out the empty half.
He was telling donors that his administration met the requirements or conditionality of stabilization and structural adjustment program (SAP).
1. That is why he talked about growth of the economy or GNI and per capita income;
2. That is why he talked about inflation control to single digits;
3. That is why he talked about export growth and diversification;
4. That is why he talked about accumulating international reserves;
5. That is why he talked about his determination to stamp out rampant corruption as part of good governance practice.
These were the conditions together with market forces, austerity and trickle down that were imposed by donors including IMF and World Bank which Uganda adhered to rigidly with serious social and environmental costs that he left out in his address. In other words, Museveni was saying that he did religiously what the donors wanted him to do except stamping out corruption which he has begun addressing and calling on the resumption of aid and technical assistance.
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?