The cost of having Museveni as Uganda’s president

As campaigning for February 2011 presidential elections enters the last phase, Ugandans need to consider the following illustrative events before deciding whether or not to re-elect Museveni for another five-year term.

1. There are increasing allegations that Museveni and/or his collaborators murdered key Ugandans to discredit Amin and have him overthrown.

2. There are increasing allegations that human, physical and institutional destruction in the Luwero Triangle was committed by Museveni and his guerrilla fighters to discredit Obote and have him overthrown.

3. There are reports that Museveni prolonged the northern and eastern war causing much destruction in human, physical and institutional terms. He was forced by the international community to end the war. Museveni should not earn credit for ending the war and be re-elected by northern and eastern voters.

4. A few months after he formed the government, Museveni introduced new Uganda currency and charged 30 percent conversion tax against the advice of IMF as such a tax hike would significantly reduce household incomes and cause untold suffering which it did in many families. It is not clear where that revenue went.

5. In 1987 Museveni launched the most severe version (shock therapy) of stabilization and structural adjustment which he knew had failed and rejected in Ghana. The first three to five years required belt tightening by Ugandans to help clear the economic mess (reducing inflation, retrenching staff, repaying external debt and balancing the budget) to pave the way for long term economic growth, structural transformation and development, and poverty eradication. It is now 24 years since structural adjustment began. Belt tightening has got tighter, not looser; colonial economic structures have deepened by adding non-traditional commodity exports mainly of foodstuffs; poverty has remained above fifty percent and 20 percent in the lowest income bracket has become poorer. The undisputed visible, deepening and spreading diseases of poverty throughout the country is clear evidence that poverty is rising and not falling and social conditions are getting worse than better as Keith Muhakanizi (Ministry of Finance) would want Ugandans and non-Ugandans to believe. Increased use of shoes should have translated into fewer jiggers but the problem is getting worse in many parts of Uganda besides Jinja region. When you have infant and maternal mortality rising, under-nutrition especially of mothers and children rising, the number of children born underweight rising, the number of people wearing temperate second hand clothes in a tropical climate rising, the number of people using soap to wash their bodies declining (as evidenced by increasing repellent body odor) etc, it simply means (to a technical and non-technical person alike) that people are getting poorer and not richer. Because Uganda’s economy has performed badly since the MDGs were launched in 2000, Uganda was not able to present its report on the MDGs at the United Nations MDGs Summit in New York in September 2010. The president who was listed to address the Summit did not show up presumably because he did not have good news to report to his fellow presidents. So he stayed away and showed up after the MDGs Summit was over! Some of us are familiar with the abuse of statistics. So Muhakanizi’s statistics should be read bearing in mind that statistics can be abused or can omit important information as on social and environmental indicators.

6. There is no government the author is aware of except NRM that has sold all national assets overwhelmingly to foreigners. The balance went to his relatives, friends and in-laws. Museveni has started dishing out public land to foreigners as if it was his. There is no government land at Museveni’s disposal for distribution to foreigners. In privatizing Uganda public enterprises and handing them over to foreigners, Museveni argued that the revenue collected would be used to construct infrastructure (roads and energy in particular), build institutions and fund social sectors. The public does not know how much revenue was collected and even less the use it was put to. Roads and energy have not been built, institutions are decaying and social sectors such as education, health and housing (urban slums) are on the verge of collapse. Children ward at national Mulago teaching and referral hospital has been described as a hospice (where children die rather than get cured).

7. Museveni diversified exports by selling traditionally domestic consumer foodstuffs such as beans and fish, sim sim and maize to increase foreign currency for technology transfer to enable Uganda undertake technology revolution. Technologically Uganda is stagnant or declining, yet Uganda has been selling mountains of food to neighboring countries and beyond. Meanwhile the number of people going to bed hungry has increased to around 10 million, under-nutrition has increased and eating too much maize and cassava has resulted in neurological abnormalities. That is why the number of mad (insane) people in Uganda has increased considerably in all parts of the country. Stress has made matters worse.

8. Uganda as the ‘darling of the west’ received so much money which was complemented by remittances and foreign exchange earnings from exports. This money was meant for development which has not taken place. Let me repeat this message for emphasis: when you examine human and environmental indicators Uganda is retrogressing, not progressing. Diseases (jiggers, trachoma, scabies etc) that had been forgotten have resurfaced with a vengeance. This is clear evidence that Uganda is getting worse, not better as Keith Muhakanizi would want us to believe with statistics he released recently. FAO has warned that if drastic measures are not taken urgently to reverse environmental degradation, Uganda will turn into a desert inside 100 years – and a hundred years is a short time. Museveni does not see it this way because degradation has increased since the report was released about three years ago as more vegetation is cleared to graze cows and goats to export meat and grow cut flowers etc for export as well.

9. Museveni has deliberately refused to provide or subsidize school meals to improve attendance and performance especially of girls while governments in developed and developing countries are providing school lunches. NEPAD of which Uganda is a member agreed that African governments should provide school lunches using locally produced foodstuffs to give peasants cash income. Museveni has single handedly refused. Consequently, over 80 percent of primary school children are dropping out of school, getting married and becoming parents in their teens and are blamed for irresponsible behavior. If they had stayed in school longer, pregnancy would have been avoided and there is concrete evidence from around the world to prove that.

10. Museveni unlike other leaders in developed and developing countries has deliberately refused to create jobs through public works for unemployed youth that stands at over 80 percent with some 60 percent of them university graduates.

11. Museveni’s political and military involvement in Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC has created bad neighborly relations that one day will cost us heavily if the current trajectory is continued into the future.

12. Ugandans should therefore take these few illustrations into account in deciding whether to reject or re-elect Museveni for another five year term as president of Uganda. If re-elected, you can be sure he will continue to refuse to provide school lunches, refuse to create jobs for unemployment youth and will continue to export Uganda food while citizens starve etc because by re-electing him you will have endorsed his programs that he has been implementing. Therefore do not complain (if he refuses to provide school lunches etc) after you have re-elected Museveni pleading that you did not know he would continue his bad policies. Now you know that he will likely continue. The choice to re-elect or reject Museveni is yours.