Role of women in changing course of history

For various reasons, women have played key roles in changing the course of world history. In France and Russia women have been particularly effective. In the course of the French Revolution of 1789, besides demonstrations in Paris and other cities, the Parisian women marched twelve miles from Paris to Versailles to demand that the king help them address their difficulties including food shortages and rising prices of bread. The king, his family and bags of grain were moved from the comforts of Versailles Palace to Paris where voices for change were loudest. The National Assembly also relocated to Paris from Versailles. Women also provided places called salons where meetings took place to discuss national and other issues.

Food shortages and rising prices also caused Russian women to help change the course of Russian history. In February 1917, the situation was so serious that women stood in long lines for bread having worked in factories for twelve hours. A police report sheds light on the gravity of the situation.

No leader can build a strong nation by neglecting food, education and health

There is no country in the world that has progressed without paying sufficient attention to food and nutrition security, healthcare and education. The vital role of nutrition, healthcare including safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and general hygiene has been stressed in mortality decline. General education has also been recognized as a pillar in nation building.

Mothers Union in Uganda provided women with general education in home economics: adequate and balanced diet, drinking boiled water and avoiding eating raw food, washing hands with soap or ash after using a toilet and before touching food, draining stagnant water to eliminate breeding space for mosquitoes, washing clothes, bathing regularly and keeping the house and its surroundings tidy etc.

At school teachers made sure that pupils were clean: bathed, brushed their teeth, had no lice and wore clean uniforms. Pupils were required to bring lunches and by sharing different foodstuffs they ate balanced meals. Parents therefore made sure that there was enough food at the household level. Consequently, they tended two fields: one specifically for foodstuffs for domestic consumption and the other for cash crops such as coffee, cotton or tobacco. Food for domestic consumption was never sold. Parents would be alerted when their child showed signs of sickness and would be taken to a dispensary for check up. Schools were inspected regularly to make sure standards of teaching, quality of lunches and the general health of pupils were maintained.

If you think Museveni picked up a gun to save Uganda, you are mistaken

If you think Museveni picked up a gun while still a student at Dar es Salaam University in the 1960s to remove Amin (who had not yet become president) you are mistaken. Amin became president in 1971 after Museveni had left the university in 1970.

If you think Museveni abandoned his family and waged a very destructive five year guerrilla war in Luwero because of the rigged 1980 elections you are again mistaken. Museveni had begun recruiting fighters well before the 1980 elections. He had some 10,000 fighters (Communication from the Chair April 23 1985) – not 27 as he claims – when he launched the guerrilla war in 1981.

If you think Museveni adopted shock therapy structural adjustment to end the suffering of the people of Uganda quickly you are even more mistaken. He was already aware of its devastation in Chile and Ghana. He was also aware (because he had a good source of information) that even World Bank officials had expressed alarm at the negative impact on the African people. For example, in 1984 Ernest Stern senior vice-president at the World Bank was candid when he observed that structural adjustment had failed the Africa region. He continued “We … have failed in Africa along with everybody else … we have not always designed our projects to fit the … conditions in Africa”. Julian Samboma amplified that “… with their usual arrogance, the IMF/World Bank continued to force these self-same policies down Africa’s throat”(New African February 1993). Some African countries like Tanzania and Ghana protested but not Uganda.

Museveni has deceived the world about democracy in Uganda

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with an old friend. We discussed a wide range of global issues and accidentally stumbled on Uganda. My friend confirmed what others have been saying that Uganda and Museveni have become indivisible – you cannot discuss Uganda meaningfully without putting Museveni at the center. He added a new dimension – Museveni is two persons in one. He elaborated by observing that what Museveni says about Uganda is often different from what he does. He emphasized that the difference between rhetoric and action is planned. He suggested an analysis of what Museveni says about democracy and what has actually occurred on the ground. Below are the findings.

Museveni has stressed that meaningful democracy must embrace “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. He adds that in the case of Uganda democracy must be three-dimensional: “parliamentary democracy, popular democracy and a decent level of living for every Ugandan… There should be an elected government, elected at regular intervals and such elections must be free of corruption and manipulation of the population… There must be people’s committees at the village, Muluka [parish], gombolola [sub-county], saza [county] and district level…

World Bank needs balanced approach to Uganda’s development efforts

On May 6, 2010 Sylvia Juuko reported in the New Vision (Uganda) that the World Bank effective July this year will focus its assistance on the oil sector, urban development and governance. While these are no doubt important areas one wonders what criteria were used in selecting them over rural development and agriculture – which is Uganda’s economic mainstay and the World Bank’s recent announcement that it would direct more resources to agriculture which had been neglected – unemployment, nutrition, health, education, school feeding program, industrialization and environment.

Kundhavi Kadiresan, World Bank representative, reported that Uganda is one of the largest recipients of soft loans from the World Bank, noting that Uganda’s portfolio of International Development Assistance (IDA) financed operations stood at $1.3 billion. Instead of reporting dollar figures, it would have been more helpful if Kadiresan had presented outcomes of these investments and the extent to which they have helped to reduce poverty. It is known that much of World Bank resources go to pay high salaries, allowances and travel costs of foreign advisers and consultants who then deposit the money in their home bank accounts.

The second African star has fallen

On April 19, 2010, President Museveni launched a five-year development plan in Uganda with a focus, inter alia, on full employment and state intervention, reminiscent of Keynesian economic model which drove the post world war economic boom until the second half of the 1970s when a combination of stagnant economic growth, rising unemployment and inflation (stagflation) rendered the model irrelevant. It was replaced by the Washington Consensus or stabilization and structural adjustment programs (SAPs). Unlike the Keynesian model which focused on creating jobs and promoting state participation in the economy, the Washington Consensus focused, inter alia, on macroeconomic stability through inflation control and private sector participation in the economy as the engine of growth under the guidance of the invisible hand of the market forces and a trickle down mechanism.

In Africa Ghana was among the first countries to embrace the Washington Consensus. A combination of factors which included excess capacity, the return of Ghanaians from Nigeria that boosted the numbers of cheap labor, generous donations, good weather including adequate rainfall, favorable trade conditions, guidance from the IMF, the World Bank and prominent international development economists as well as a committed government under the leadership of Jerry Rawlings, Ghana registered rapid economic growth and per capita GDP. It became a “star performer and success story” to be emulated by other developing countries.

The trouble with NRM double standards

Since 1980 when the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) won the general elections and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) began a guerrilla war in 1981 to unseat the UPC government by force since the Uganda People’s Movement (UPM) had failed to defeat UPC at the polls, I have followed NRM’s policy statements to the present day in 2010. NRM’s statements before 1986 are contained in two publications – Yoweri Museveni (1985), Selected Articles on the Uganda Resistance War; and Mission to Freedom (1990). I have had the opportunity to read the contents of the two publications.

NRM’s policy statements since 1986 are found in many publications or hard copies that have been distributed at conferences and summits. Since 1986, I have had the opportunity to attend major conferences and summits at the OAU/AU and United Nations in New York where these statements have been delivered by senior civil servants, Ambassadors, Ministers and the President.

The genesis and demise of structural adjustment in Uganda

Studies conducted by the World Bank in the 1980s and 1990s concluded that Africa was not doing well economically and socially largely because of distortions in the domestic domain. In its 1994 report entitled Adjustment in Africa: Reforms, Results, and the road ahead, the Bank noted that although there was no single explanation for Africa’s poor performance, economic decline was due in large part to poor domestic policies at macroeconomic and sector levels. The distortions were compressed into state intervention in production and economic regulation; overvalued exchange rates; large and prolonged budget deficits that undermined macroeconomic stability needed for long-term growth; protectionist trade policies and government monopolies through nationalized enterprises and financial institutions that reduced competition vital for increasing productivity; and a bias against exports especially of agricultural produce through heavy taxation.

The Bank recommended a new development paradigm (structural adjustment) to correct these policy distortions. It called for the state to be limited to the provision of basic services and a stable policy environment; promotion of exports with a focus on agriculture; promotion of private sector; maintenance of macroeconomic stability; and avoidance of overvalued exchange rates.