The publication of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) in 2011 accessible at www.udugandans.org which presents a sharp contrast to what NRM is doing necessitated civic education on a wide range of issues. We have therefore dealt with some ‘hot’ topics that others have avoided so that Ugandans fully understand why with all the natural and human resources Uganda is retrogressing which is no longer a debatable issue. Even economic growth rates and per capita income which were used to present ‘rosy’ economic performance have declined precipitously. Economic growth has plummeted from 10 per cent in mid-1990s to around three percent currently while population is growing at 3.5 percent ahead of economic growth of 3 percent. This is not development. It is retrogression. Under these conditions Uganda cannot become a middle income country in a few years from now.
In our assessment of Uganda’s performance, we have separated processes from outcomes of development such as a higher standard of living. NRM government reports processes. For example, writing an excellent modernization of agriculture document per se won’t transform subsistence to commercial farming. Writing an impressive Poverty Eradication Action Plan with little or no implementation won’t reduce poverty. Programs have to be implemented which NRM has failed to do. Constructing schools and graduating students every year is necessary but not sufficient. Education makes sense only when graduates get jobs and earn good income to meet at least the basic needs of life.
So those who complain that we don’t report on the achievements of NRM need to understand this distinction. Those who advise that we should keep Yoweri Museveni out of Uganda deterioration need to understand that he is head of state and ultimately accountable for all commissions and omissions. He can’t blame anyone else when things go wrong. As you already know, we don’t comment on his private life provided it doesn’t impact his public performance. We comment only on NRM policy formulation and implementation.
In Uganda human condition of the majority of Ugandans has deteriorated. So has the environment. When you eat one meal instead of the normal three a day; when you bathe in cold water instead of warm because you can’t afford the heating charges; when you move residence from a house to an apartment or when you carry a mobile phone without air time in it for a week, it means you are worse off. That isn’t progress. How many Ugandans fit what I have just described?
UDU was created, inter alia, to highlight these challenges and recommend solutions. We therefore have to get to the root cause of the problem, regrettably making some readers uncomfortable. If we are wrong tell us exactly what you disagree with and why and we shall respond. Telling us not to seek the truth or distort facts to please some sections of our society isn’t the way to deal with Uganda’s daunting challenges.
As an aside, let me clarify one thing: once a politician has been elected by a section of the population, he/she becomes leader of all the people and governs in the interest of all. Until then a candidate tries to sell his/her ideas and in the process garners support enough to get him/her elected or not enough and he/she loses the election.
Let us return to the main story by way of a brief introduction. We have written about the shortcomings of military commanders becoming presidents especially in the absence of checks and balances as in Uganda. We have seen how Oliver Cromwell, a military commander behaved in England in the 17th century when he removed hereditary absolutist king who governed by divine right and then made himself a hereditary dictator for life and governed by divine right. The English people rejected the institutions he created.
We have also shown how populations elsewhere mobilized against absolute rulers with the help of religious institutions and church leaders in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa won a Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of the role he played in ending apartheid in South Africa. Religious leaders therefore have a vital role to play when their flocks come under severe pressure from government excesses.
In this article, we share information about military intervention in Brazil politics and then direct authoritarian military rule. We also show how resistance through strikes and demonstrations was mobilized by opposition parties and workers unions as well as the crucial role the church played. As you read the article try to see the similarities concerning military intervention in Uganda politics in the 1960s and direct authoritarian military rule from 1971 to 1979 and dictatorial military rule disguised as democracy under NRM since 1986 (a few hints are given below). You should also see how civilian resistance was mobilized in Brazil and whether Uganda is on the right track in its efforts to unseat the failed NRM regime.
Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1822 under emperor Dom Pedro I who abdicated under political pressure and was succeeded by emperor Dom Pedro II who was overthrown in a military coup.
Until 1964, the country that became a republic following departure of Pedro II in 1889 was ruled by a coalition of military officers, technocrat administrators and old-line politicians but the single most important group was the military.
“Army officers have had a long history of intervention in politics since the empire was brought down. There was the military regime of Floriano Peixoto (1891-94), and later the military intervention in state politics in 1910-14, followed by revolts of junior officers in 1922 and 1924. In 1930 the military ended the Old Republic by delivering power to Vargas, whom they kept in power by the coup of 1937, only to depose him in 1945. It was a military manifesto that led to Vargas’ suicide in 1954 and it was a ‘preventive’ coup in 1955 that ensured Kubitschek’s succession to the presidency. Finally, the military led the fight against Goulart’s succession to the presidency in 1961 and then conspired to bring him down in 1964. Army officers were seen by all to be vital actors in Brazilian politics” (Thomas H. Skidmore1997).
In the 1960s Amin together with other military officers played a considerable role in Uganda politics and kept Obote in power until January 1971 when they took direct charge of state affairs.
The Brazilian army then decided to take full control starting in 1964 for 21 years because in that year (1964) Goulart introduced what appeared to the military to be a fundamental change in social relations. He mobilized peasants and workers against the interests of the socio-economic establishment including the military that couldn’t accept a class-wide coalition against the status quo. Divide and control was better for the military.
From 1964 to 1985 Brazil was governed by a succession of authoritarian military regimes, each headed by a four-star General supported by technocratic administrators and politicians while retaining congress without much power. Opponents of the regime were removed except moderate ones. The authoritarian military executive governed by decree. The parties existing in 1964 were replaced by two parties with a pro-government party facilitated to form the majority. The elections of 1966 and 1970 were held under virtually impossible conditions for the opposition and favored the pro-government party (compare with what NRM has done to parliament, opposition parties and elections since 1996). However, the 1974 elections conducted under better conditions saw the opposition gain many seats and deprived the governing party of the majority, reflecting military unpopularity and waning influence.
Between the late 1960s and early 1970s, Brazilian economy experienced rapid growth reaching 10 percent per annum, repeating the ‘golden age’ economic record of the 1950s. Manufactured goods replaced coffee as the leading export, marking the ‘Brazilian economic miracle’ and made possible by low wages and easy credit. However, the miracle didn’t last and by 1980 inflation had risen to over 100 percent.
The associated economic and social hardship was accompanied by mobilization and protests largely by factory and working-class communities. They were organized by the Roman Catholic Church led by Cardinal Arns (do you remember Cardinal Jaime Sin and the fall of Marcos of the Philippines?), opposition parties and workers organizations. They stressed the disproportionate share of the sacrifice workers shouldered largely through low wages during the economic miracle period. To deal with the external debt crisis, the government ran a recession in 1981, causing high unemployment and more hardship (compare with post 2011 elections economic recession in Uganda to deal with inflation and the associated human suffering).
The political fortune then tilted towards the opposition that gained momentum as the military government could not handle economic problems. The 1982 elections in Brazil were won by opposition parties. The transfer of power from military to the civilian government took place as scheduled on March 15, 1985.
In Uganda, as in Brazil, the economic difficulties are making it very difficult for NRM to hang onto power. Demonstrations and strikes are gathering momentum and NRM has been losing bye- elections one after another and is decaying at its core with a possibility of implosion as corruption gets out of control, forcing development partners rightly to withdraw tax payers’ money which has been disappearing into private pockets for a long time with impunity. Is that a good sign of what is in store for the opposition? To speed up NRM demise, opposition parties need to come together quickly under one credible leader with impeccable experience and knowledge of Uganda, regional and international credentials and character ready to govern for all Ugandans if elected.
Elections experiences in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Chile, etc are that opposition parties have a good chance of winning when they combine their forces. Uganda falls in the same category and we should not allow NRM to keep us divided.