The president’s speech appealing to the donor community to restore aid suspended as a result of rampant corruption and massive mismanagement of public funds and other ills that have dented NRM image at home and abroad raised important issues many of them with virtually nothing to do with withdrawal of aid. The bulk of the speech gives the impression that he was responding to criticism he has been receiving from opposition groups and individuals. Here are some of these areas.
1. Genocide in the Great Lakes region had been confined to the Rwanda tragedy of 1994. To correct the record, we wrote that genocide in the region goes back to the genocides against Hutu committed by Tutsi in Burundi in 1972, 1988 and 1993. We have also reported on allegations of genocide of Hutu by Tutsi in Eastern DRC contained in UN reports. We give credit to the president for acknowledging that genocide has taken place in Burundi against Hutu by Tutsi.
2. We have also been saying that in many instances Museveni hires wrong people for wrong jobs presumably for sectarian or loyal reasons while there are qualified professionals at home and abroad. Museveni tends to favor medical doctors, lawyers and politicians at the expense of economists and career diplomats. We have seen medical doctors appointed to wrong ministries such as of finance, foreign affairs and agriculture. The president confirmed that he hired Allen Kagina a lecturer in Psychology at Makerere University as tax commissioner against her wish because she had no knowledge in tax collection. Why do you hire a trainee when there is a qualified and experienced Ugandan? Earlier Museveni had hired a historian for the same job. At the same time, Museveni refuses to hire from a pool of well educated and experienced Ugandans mostly in the diaspora. As a result, we have had people holding positions they are not qualified for, undermining efficiency and effectiveness. I have witnessed low performance among Uganda officials in embassies or at international conferences.
3. Museveni talked about NRM being anti-colonial and anti-feudal. But that is what he has done to Uganda. He believes that he and his Tutsi mercenaries with support of some Ugandans fought Uganda security forces, defeated them and acquired Uganda and her people as colonized. That is why he says he hunted, killed a beast and he is not going to give the carcass to someone else to enjoy the meat. The message is very clear: he conquered Uganda and has a right to govern it as he likes including deciding who should succeed him or when he should retire. He has openly said that if you are stupid you should be colonized and taken a slave. That is why we have human trafficking (which is slave trade) disguised as export of labor in a globalized economy.
4. Museveni also said that NRM is anti pre-colonial feudalism that was somehow continued into colonial rule. Feudalism is an exploitative economic and social system based on lord who owns land, knights who fight for the lord in return for land allocation as fief and peasants who lose their land and become workers on it largely for the benefit of the lord and knights. Feudalism is exactly what Museveni is doing. Land is being grabbed from peasants by the lord (Museveni) and his military officers who have fought and have kept him in power. Peasants in Uganda are losing their land rapidly under all sorts of schemes including willing seller and willing buyer. Expansion of municipal boundaries into peasant territory is designed to deprive them of their land and be sold to rich military officers and other rich Ugandans and foreign investors. It appears that the 9000 square miles of Buganda land may have been lost forever unless another regime comes in and restores it.
5. The president touched on economic and social transformation that he promised at the start of his regime. There is no social and economic transformation in Uganda. Instead, Museveni is creating two countries in one: Greater Kampala as one country and the rest of the country as another. Kampala and areas in the vicinity with less than 2 million people generate some 70 percent of Gross National Income (GNI), leaving the rest of the country with some 32 million people generating 30 percent of GNI. Greater Kampala is targeted for development while the rest stands to be neglected. Museveni has the idea of developing Uganda as if it were Singapore, a city state, hence focusing on Greater Kampala. This is a dangerous approach and should be opposed by Ugandans and development partners. Museveni talks about agricultural and industrial development but does nothing about them. I attended an African Summit in Addis Ababa where a report on Africa Green Revolution was launched. Museveni asked whether for a country to develop it has to undergo agricultural and industrial revolutions first. The answer was yes, but he didn’t seem to have accepted it. He has since focused on the capital-intensive service sector in Kampala at the expense of the rest of the country. Economically, Uganda still relies on agricultural production using primitive implements such as a hand hoe and export of agricultural raw materials as before 1986. Thus, there is no economic transformation in this sense. Socially, Uganda is regressing, witness poor education and healthcare; poor diet and malnutrition and sprawling urban slums. The environment in urban and rural areas has also suffered extensive degradation. Overall there is decadence, not transformation. Blaming population explosion and imposing three children by couple won’t turn Uganda economy and society around. This is to buy NRM more time and generate donor funds. In any case, educating girls, empowering women and attacking poverty have better chances of reducing population growth than contraception alone. Population control is a difficult subject including long term implications that it shouldn’t be left to non-professionals. The public needs more debate which state house prevented. And local news papers don’t publish articles that oppose contraception as the only method. Lessons from China that imposed one child should serve as a guided of what to avoid.
6. Furthermore, expressing economic and social development in terms of economic growth, average incomes and life expectancy gross over major inequalities on regional and class basis. Life expectancy in rural areas is extremely low and possibly declining given crushing poverty that has spread and deepened. The government reports that poverty has declined to 25 percent which contrasts with UN reports which show that absolute poverty is still over 50 percent. Besides you don’t need to read statistics to tell whether Uganda is improving or regressing. You need to look at the condition of people – malnutrition has increased, youth unemployment has increased, urban slums have spread, maternal mortality has increased, school dropout has increased, insanity has increased, environmental degradation has increased and diseases that had disappeared have re-emerged with a vengeance. NRM is presiding over a failed state and economy. Structural adjustment launched in 1987 was abandoned in 2009 having failed to deliver expected results in economic and social sectors. The successor Five Year Development Plan hasn’t been implemented presumably for lack of political will, capable leadership and funding. Consequently, Uganda is being governed without an economic and social agenda.
7. UDU has published an alternative development Plan to the failed NRM policies. It is available at www.udugandans.org.
8. To turn things around, the donor community needs to tighten flow of aid to the NRM government which is still plagued by corruption which the president can’t control, notwithstanding threats to fire those involved. Other avenues should be explored through which aid should be channeled to reach intended recipients because corruption in the NRM government is still rampant. In other words budget support with donor money should be discontinued.
9. Ugandans would like to hear views of opposition leaders on this important address by the president.