Let me begin with this statement to clear the air hopefully once and for all. The purpose of my many years of research and writing especially about Uganda is not to undermine NRM’s efforts – as some have suggested – but to draw lessons about what has gone right and wrong so that appropriate adjustments can be made. Before I started publishing I had communicated my concerns regularly since 1986 with senior government officials in the cabinet, public service and public sector. So they knew my thinking but chose to ignore it. I have focused on President Museveni – not as a person – but as a policy maker who has dominated and served as spokesperson on Uganda’s political economy affairs (I have also commented on statements by the First Lady – not as a person – but as a public official. Ugandans should understand that when you become a public servant, you should expect that what you say and write will be commented upon, hopefully constructively. So when you get comments that make you uncomfortable don’t complain or use surrogates to do it for you which they don’t even do well. When the heat becomes unbearable, the best thing to do is to step down).
The collapse and abandonment of structural adjustment in 2009 and the disastrous February 18, 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that the two western models have no place in Uganda’s political economy. How did it all begin?
In 1981 the revenue starved government of Obote was forced to sign a structural adjustment agreement with the IMF in order to open the door for other donors to enter and support Uganda’s development efforts. The agreement had stiff conditionality including a balanced budget and low inflation. A combination of drought and guerrilla war necessitated deficit financing slightly above the ceiling agreed with the IMF. The latter would not budge and withdrew support at such a critical moment. IMF action meant that the door was shut to other donors because agreement with IMF is a prerequisite for foreign aid. Therefore, other donors had to leave or reduce support to humanitarian activities. Under the pretext of excessive human rights violations, the World Bank pulled out as well.
Lack of resources to meet the needs of the public and armed forces and other aggravating factors led to a split in the armed forces and a discontented population. Consequently, Obote’s government was overthrown in July 1985 by a section of the national army.
Radio Munansi English program Sunday February 10, 2013
This is Eric Kashambuzi communicating from New York.
Greetings: fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well-wishers. Welcome to the program. We look forward to your active participation in this interactive conversation.
Since Amin time, population growth has been blamed for Uganda’s problems including environmental degradation in rural and urban areas. There is a rumor that NRM government is about to introduce to parliament a bill limiting family size to three children. This is a blatant violation of human right of couples to decide how many children they wish to have when to have them and how to space them. What the government can do is to facilitate and create conditions to enable Ugandans take informed decisions but not to force them especially by some leaders who have more than three children. It doesn’t make sense to force Ugandans to limit their family size when the government wants to eliminate Uganda borders so that other people from East Africa and beyond come is as they like. These are contradictions and one wonders what the overall goal is as far as Uganda population is concerned. Many countries are protecting their borders to eliminate or limit immigrants but in Uganda and Rwanda they want to abolish national borders. Uganda isn’t going to solve other people’s problems to its detriment. Uganda hasn’t benefited from the East African community in terms of trade, labor and population mobility as we discussed yesterday.
While many Ugandans were celebrating the fall from power of UPC and Obote II government, Museveni was busy launching his hidden agenda by introducing concepts including metamorphosis, fundamental change, larger geographic entities and pan-Africanism. We did not bother to analyze what each concept meant in terms of Uganda’s interests. Recognizing that nobody raised questions about what he meant, Museveni went further. He embarked on regional wars and interference in the Great Lakes region. Development partners garlanded and christened him the dean of the new breed of African leaders while some African leaders expressed fear about what was going on in the Great Lakes region which contributed to “Africa’s First World War”. He was elevated to the high level of attending G8 Summits on a regular basis. Some people began wondering whose interests Museveni was serving.
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.
As I listened and heard President Obama’s speech my mind raced to Uganda because much of what he said has relevance to Uganda’s development challenges. The relevant sections are presented below for Uganda and other readers.
My fellow citizens:
Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, business shuttered. Our health care is too costly. Our schools fail too many. And each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of the scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.
The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history, to carry forward that precious gift, the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions, that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
Radio Munansi English program February 17, 2013
This is Eric Kashambuzi communicating from New York.
Greetings fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well wishers and welcome to the program. We look forward to your active participation in this interactive session.
We have been requested to spend some time discussing Uganda’s political challenges since independence. There is hunger for knowledge as Ugandans get more engaged than ever before in affairs affecting their lives.
We study history to understand what happened in the past and what lessons we have learned and how we have applied them to make life better by discarding bad practices and building on good ones. There are those who think we should move on and not look backward because we may discover things that should not be disclosed to the public. However, many Ugandans are demanding to know the history of their country as far back as possible. For this program we shall examine the circumstances surrounding the birth of Uganda as an independent state and how those circumstances have shaped the last 50 years of independent Uganda.
Uganda’s birth as an independent nation took place in a very difficult environment and many important issues were rushed through or delayed as negotiators had to meet a deadline of October 9, 1962. In this session we shall consider the period immediately before independence and up to 1970. In the next session we shall discuss political developments from 1971 to the present.
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.
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.
Radio Munansi English Program on Jan, 27, 2013.
This is Eric Kashambuzi communicating from New York.
Greetings: fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well wishers.
By popular demand I have been asked to address the issue of NRM plan to limit population growth by legislation violating the right of Ugandans to have the number of children they need.
The subject was discussed on London-based Ngoma Radio on January 13 but it wasn’t exhaustive.
As a demographer, I have written and spoken a lot about population issues including birth control which is also referred to as family planning or reproductive health. Whichever word you use ultimately family size will decline.
Having children is a human right and coercive methods should not be used to limit it. Instead, information and facilities should be provided to enable couples decide on their own.
Until the story broke, NRM’s position was that Uganda still has plenty of arable land, meaning that more people could be accommodated. The president called on Ugandans to produce as many children as they needed and he would educate them for free. Based on this assurance, some leaders went ahead and expanded maternity wards or built new ones to cater for an increase in the number of pregnant women. Men were urged to do their job. If the law passes they can’t do it freely anymore as their leaders had suggested.