During and since our last broadcast on radio Munansi (February 20, 2011) many questions have been raised including whether Uganda is ready for change, where are the leaders, when should the change take place and, will Museveni and his security forces behave like Qaddafi in Libya? Let us look at history lessons for guidance.
Is Uganda ready for change? Yes it is. Historically, in countries where rebellions, revolts or revolutions take place, societies are characterized by extreme inequalities, high unemployment especially among the youth, high levels of poverty and high prices. For example, at the time of the French Revolution, France was characterized by high inequalities in wealth and privileges between the monarch, nobility and high clergy on one hand and commoners on the other. Also, poverty and unemployment levels were high and food prices were high. Uganda meets all these characteristics as discussed in previous debates.
Where are the leaders? Changes have taken place with or without leaders. History shows that some revolutions have had leaders that mobilized the discontented people through advocacy. The England’s peasants’ revolt of 1381 was prepared through agitation by priest John Ball and peasant Wat Tyler. After this revolt, no medieval English government attempted to impose a poll tax again. When Margaret Thatcher attempted to restore it she was forced out of office as prime minister.
February 18, 2011 signaled the beginning of the end of Uganda’s history as we have known it. On February 18, 2011 Museveni massively rigged the election while the whole world watched and got re-elected to another five-year term. According to the interim report of the Commonwealth Observer group it was an election that lacked a level playing field. Museveni is now in a position to end the history of Uganda. In the next five years he is going to do the following things to achieve that goal.
1. Following his swearing in ceremony Museveni will form a cabinet of ‘yes’ men and women that will rubber stamp his wishes particularly in the ministries of foreign affairs, finance, internal affairs, petroleum and energy, lands and east African affairs. Ugandans are urged to also watch carefully the ministers of state he will appoint in these ministries. In many cases ministers of state are more powerful than full ministers. We need to know the profile of each minister and minister of state.
The purpose of this story is to know from those familiar with Uganda’s economic policy whether there are parallels with the situation in Argentina between 1990 and 2003. Like Argentina, NRM government adopted and implemented religiously the Washington Consensus conditionality with strong IMF backing from 1987 to 2009 when the Consensus was abandoned. This would help to have an idea about Uganda government’s plans to deal with the IMF following the launching in September 2009 of a new development plan along Keynesian model of state active intervention in the economy.
Countries like Argentina, Ghana and Uganda that followed the Washington Consensus conditionality religiously with strong external backing performed remarkably well initially. They were graded as ‘star pupils’ or ‘success stories’ to be emulated by others and their leaders were garlanded for their boldness and consistency through thick and thin. In the end they failed. As Uganda and Ghana cases have been covered already in my book titled Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century (2008) this story will focus on Argentina beginning with the government of Carlos Menem who was elected president at the end of 1989 and ending with the government of Nestor Kirchener who was elected president in 2003 and his initial thoughts on Argentina’s economic policies and external support.