Uganda needs security and development to sustain stability

To sustain stability (permanence of character), Ugandans need security (state of feeling free from fear or danger of joblessness, hunger, sickness, discrimination, etc) and development (advancement in economic and social progress). In other words security and development are conditions that underpin national stability.

In Uganda efforts to realize security and development have been outcompeted by those in favor of stability. The NRM government has focused on peace and political stability in terms of safety of Ugandans from military threat, political instability and internal conflict. The disproportionate effort to build and consolidate national defense, police, intelligence services and macroeconomic stability is a clear demonstration that peace and stability has priority over equitable incomes and social progress. In his address to the nation on Uganda’s 47th independence anniversary, the president observed that “… our nation remains strong, peace and stability are assured, and our economy continues to register high economic growth. … These important milestones which have been established since the NRM came to power in 1986 have been largely due to peace and political stability as well as the prudent macroeconomic management”. One would have expected the president to add that these milestones had in turn improved security and development of Ugandans since 1986.

Is Uganda’s new development plan dead on arrival?

Before we examine the emerging fear that Uganda’s new development plan may be dead on arrival, let us outline the background to, and major players in the death on arrival of NRM’s mixed economy ten-point program launched in 1986.

The serious development challenges of the 1970s marked by slow economic growth, rising inflation, unemployment and external debts undermined the Keynesian economic model based on state demand management with a focus on full employment and welfare benefits. The model was replaced by the neo-liberal economic model with inflation control as its principal goal. (It was feared that inflation rather than unemployment constituted a more serious challenge to governments).

The 1980s witnessed elections of conservative governments in developed countries including in the United States and United Kingdom. The leaders in USA and UK believed that governments were the problem and not the solution to development challenges. Consequently, they favored a return to the invisible hand of market forces and laissez faire capitalism. There was no room for mixed economy models because they contained elements of socialism and central planning.

How Ugandans got impoverished

When I wrote the article on ‘How Rujumbura’s Bairu got impoverished’, I was sending two messages.

First, I was bringing to the attention of Ugandans and the donor community the plight of Rujumbura’s Bairu who face the prospect of disappearing from their ancestral home through impoverishment and displacement.

Second, I was warning the rest of Ugandans what lay in store for them because the Bahororo who have presided over the impoverishment of Bairu in Rujumbura for the past 210 years, are now in charge of the whole country using the same governing tools to impoverish and dominate.

Before proceeding with the story of how Ugandans got impoverished, let us first clear the confusion about Bahima and Bahororo. While Bahima and Bahororo share a common ancestry of Nilotic Luo-speaking people from southern Sudan, they are distinct groups who are silently antagonistic.

When Batutsi from the ruling family of Rwanda founded the short-lived Mpororo kingdom (1650-1750) they took on the name of Bahororo (the people of Mpororo). Mpororo kingdom covered an area occupied by indigenous Bantu speaking people in parts of Rwanda and southwest Uganda. In this context, Bahororo refers to Batutsi people of former Mpororo kingdom hence the use of Bahororo as distinct from Bahima.

Donors are partly responsible for Uganda’s underdevelopment

Uganda’s economy since independence in 1962 has been driven by donors. Reports from the World Bank, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Commonwealth etc made recommendations that have driven Uganda’s economy and society. Dependence on donors for advice, funds, technical assistance and supervision has been particularly strong since the 1980s coinciding with the launch of the Washington Consensus or structural adjustment programs except for a short period between 1985 and mid-1987 when major donors withdrew support because of human rights violations, non-compliance with IMF conditionality and ideological differences. Therefore the donor community has been an integral part of Uganda’s development equation. It should therefore accept praise or constructive criticism as appropriate.

Contrary to popular belief based on GDP and per capita growth rates and macroeconomic stability, Uganda has become an underdeveloped country meaning that the standard of living of the majority of Ugandans has declined. Here are a few illustrations.

Ethnic relations in the Great Lakes region are antagonistic

Let me begin with two statements.

First, when my article on “How Rujumbura’s Bairu got impoverished” appeared in (Uganda) Observer, some Uganda readers were convinced that I was sectarian and hated Bahororo (another name for Batutsi who sought refuge in Rujumbura when the short-lived Mpororo kingdom disintegrated and Rwanda and Nkore troops moved in). Since 1986, Uganda government has been led by Bahororo many of them from Rujumbura or with roots in Rujumbura. With Uganda currently experiencing un-preceded poverty, hunger, unemployment, marginalization and functional illiteracy, many Ugandans have revisited the above article and drawn parallels with how the whole country of Uganda has been impoverished.

Second until the 1960s, the history of the Great Lakes Region was dominated by followers of J. H. Speke, C. G. Seligman – British explorer and academic, respectively – and African scholars mostly from aristocratic families who shared the two British biased opinions led by Alexis Kagame, a Catholic priest and historian associated with Rwanda royal court. The writings of these people were extremely biased in favor of Batutsi (Bahima, Bahororo and Banyamulenge are clans of Batutsi) who were described as white or black Caucasian, intelligent, well built, civilized, wealthy through invasion and plunder of Negroes and born to rule. On the other hand they portrayed Bantu-speaking people (dubbed Bairu and Bahutu {slaves or servants} by Bahima) as reported by J. H. Speke (1863, 2006) as black Negroes, without a civilization, poorly built or ugly and short, unintelligent and born to serve the rulers. They used these racist and psychological instruments to rob Bantu-speaking people of their true identity, civilizations and wealth and reduced them to servants or serfs as in Rwanda.

Uganda’s 47th anniversary was overshadowed by famine and riots

Uganda marked the 47th birthday as an independent nation under thick clouds of famine, riots in the nation’s capital, demonstrations in the United States during the president’s visit there and government’s formal admission that the development model implemented since 1987 had failed to produce the desired results – all happening in September, a few days before the anniversary on October 9, 2009.

Although the theme of the celebrations was unity, the president chose to address the nation on economic developments whose scope and format resembled a budget speech. The president talked about peace and political stability and prudent macroeconomic management. He omitted the term “security” because the country still suffers from food, employment, health, political, ecological and income distribution insecurity. Unity was mentioned as a condition in the protection of Uganda’s destiny and independence rather than in terms of what NRM government had accomplished in building, consolidating and sustaining unity. Notwithstanding heavy investment in international relations, the president mentioned it in one sentence in the last paragraph of his address.

The president’s address left out important information of vital interest to most Ugandans. We shall focus on major omissions.