The majority of people in Rujumbura county of Rukungiri district in southwest Uganda want a peaceful environment in which to grow up, raise their families and retire. The history of Rujumbura since 1800 has made it extremely difficult to create such a suitable environment because Bahororo minority ethnic group want to dominate Bairu forever. Bahororo think it is their God given right to suppress others with impunity whether they are educated or not. In fact the more you are educated and progressive the more you suffer under Bahororo because they want to send a discouraging message to those on the way up. They divide up family members favoring some with temporary inducements to dominate them.
The situation of Bairu turned a corner onto a very dangerous road when Bahororo deliberately incorporated Kagunga sub-county into Rukungiri municipality without consulting residents who are mostly Bairu. The principal intention of this incorporation is to finish off Bairu by rendering them landless and homeless. People without a home have no identity and could even be denied their rights.
To fully understand Uganda’s current problems which will get worse in the foreseeable future, we must revisit the country’s colonial history and geographical location, corruption and the new notion of ignorance.
At the start of the colonial rule, Uganda was an industrialized and food self-sufficient country. Under the guise of static comparative advantage Uganda was converted into a producer of raw materials and foodstuffs to serve British industries and feed British people respectively. Uganda became an agricultural country and an importer of manufactured products. Uganda’s industries disappeared and hunger shifted from famine to endemic with serious under-nutrition and stunted growth among children.
Globalization has retained the status quo and in fact increased export of traditional crops of cotton, coffee, tea and tobacco and encouraged diversification into non-traditional exports dominated by foodstuffs. Consequently, Uganda has become even more dependent on raw materials and become hungrier. Some ten million people or roughly one in three Ugandans are believed to be going to bed hungry especially mothers and children. Hunger reduces productivity and increases susceptibility to disease and both of them increase abject poverty. Poverty in turn leads to hunger, sickness and low productivity, creating a vicious cycle. This bleak trajectory will certainly continue.
First and foremost, Museveni is president of Uganda to advance his own interests. In true democratic sense Museveni is not popular because of corruption and sectarianism as can be deduced from elite and peasant comments. He has used a combination of security forces, impoverishing Ugandans and collaborating with western powers in structural adjustment and anti-terrorism – areas that are not popular in the Horn and Great Lakes regions – to stay in power.
When structural adjustment ran out of steam in Ghana, the experiment was transferred to Uganda in 1987. Museveni adopted the extreme version (shock therapy) of structural adjustment favored by western sponsors the implementation of which required an authoritarian leader who would not tolerate riots. Museveni was also needed in great lakes geopolitics that resulted in changing governments in Rwanda in 1994 and in Zaire in 1997.
In return Museveni was saved from early multi-party politics which were imposed on others, allowed to strangle pre-independence Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) and Democratic Party (DP), received huge amounts of money and training for his security forces and consolidated military, economic and political power in his hands. He threatened Ugandans that he would go back to the bush and cause another hell if not elected president in 1996. Most development partners did not raise a finger when all these things were happening because they did not want to upset a reliable ally.
Discussions about Uganda by Ugandans convey a simple message: there is anger out there. People have been hit hard (insanity, joblessness, alcoholism, domestic violence, jiggers, human sacrifice etc) and blame Museveni for this suffering. In Uganda culture, the head of the family has overall responsibility. He/she takes credit when things go well and accepts blame when they go wrong. They seek guidance on how to make things better. Similarly, Museveni as Uganda head of state has responsibility and accountability for commissions and omissions in Uganda. Like head of the household, Museveni should seek guidance on how to improve the desperate situation. Here are examples of the damage he has caused as president for twenty five years.
Damage number one: The first responsibility of the head of a family or nation is to make sure that every member of the household eats enough breakfast, lunch and dinner. Men travelled long distances in search of food when there was famine in their locations. Others committed suicide as punishment for failure to feed their families, demonstrating the importance of food security.
It is always admirable to have dreams and to take calculated risks to accomplish them. Museveni has had big dreams. People take different routes to realize their dreams. Some take political routes dodging obstacles on the way while others resort to the barrel of the gun in a hurry and crush every obstacle on the way. Some get to the top of the mountain, others fail to do so.
Museveni started off his long journey by becoming president of Uganda using the barrel of the gun (the political route was too slow). He wanted to use Uganda, a small country, to rise to greatness which included restoration of Mpororo kingdom and formation of Tutsi Empire in the great lakes region and first head of the East African political federation and play a leading role on the African and global stages.
The inclusion of cultural institutions in the 1995 constitution was designed to help restore Mpororo kingdom. The project has run into difficulties because the idea of kingdoms or cultural heads is not popular in southwest Uganda. Discussions of Mpororo in the media, reappearance of Mpororo kingdom on Uganda maps and singing Mpororo benefits are attempts to sell the idea which has remained unpopular. Twisting arms to restore the kingdom will have unintended results especially as it violates the human rights of others.
To solve a problem, one needs to fully understand its causes first. The current challenges in Uganda represent many years of wrong policies and priorities starting in 1971. For instance, Amin’s wrong policy of ‘economic war’ which called on Ugandans to use every piece of land to boost production led to serious environmental degradation, warmer local climates and spread of disease vectors like mosquitoes that spread malaria in areas that had previously been too cold for mosquito survival. When economic and social conditions continued to deteriorate, Amin government identified population ‘explosion’ as the number one problem to be addressed through birth control. The problems got worse and forced Amin to invade a neighboring country to divert attention from the mushrooming domestic anger.
When NRM government switched to structural adjustment from the ten-point program it made a wrong policy choice by sub-contracting Uganda’s economy to the private sector in an unregulated environment. Because private sector is concerned with profit maximization, it engages in activities, labor practices and selection of locations that minimize costs. The government made other mistakes of focusing on economic growth and per capita income leaving equitable aspects to the imperfections of a trickle down mechanism of market forces, encouraging export diversification into foodstuffs without first determining domestic requirements, dismissing or marginalizing experienced Ugandans to create room for NRM cadres most of whom did not have experience in negotiating agreements and contracts and monitoring program implementation. So how did adverse social and ecological outcomes come about?
I have written this article fully aware of the risks and dangers involved and that I will be criticized heavily by Bairu people currently holding jobs in NRM government who do not want trouble. I will also be threatened and/or abused by Bahima and Bahororo rulers in Uganda who do not want their plans to destroy Bairu (slaves of Bahima and Bahororo) exposed. Ugandans who do not live in southwest Uganda especially in Ntungamo and Rukungiri districts and foreigners associated with Uganda may not understand the historical antagonistic relationship between Nilotic Bahima and Bahororo on the one hand and Bantu-Bairu people on the other hand which is getting worse in subtle ways. Bairu people have been divided and impoverished and denied justice for too long. The little justice they had gained is being taken away since Bahororo-led NRM government came to power in 1986. Bairu, like any other group, demand justice.
On October 23, 2010, I wrote that I had closed a chapter began in 1961 about Uganda’s political economy. The focus of that chapter was to analyze political economy challenges. Now, I am embarking on another one that will state a specific problem and suggest solutions. I will begin with the compelling case of Museveni’s hidden agenda – to promote Bahororo/Batutsi/Bahima dominance from southwest region to the national level – how he crafted and has implemented it without the majority of Ugandans realizing it.
Museveni began preparing his political career while at Ntare School in the early 1960s based largely on local (Ankole) politics. He realized that independence in Ankole (Museveni’s home base) based on majority rule of Bairu (slaves) led by Protestant elites was dangerous for minority Bahororo/Bahima (also Protestants) supremacy. The abolition of kingdoms including in Ankole by Obote – a Protestant, northerner and commoner – was bad news because it removed the institutional shelter that had protected Bahima and Bahororo minority rulers for centuries. Museveni developed a political strategy based on military and religious strength complemented by external forces. But he knew very early on that ultimately what would count most in his rise to power was military strength, not democracy. Religious divisions and external help would supplement military strength.
I have come to the end of a research project that began in 1961 when I was in third year of high school (senior three) at Butobere School in the then Kigezi district. To get a good grasp of the interconnectedness among Uganda’s development variables, I studied Geography, Economics, Demography, International Law and International Relations/Diplomacy, Sustainable Development and History.
My first book came out in 1997 and I have written a total of the following ten books.
1. Critical Issues in African Development (1997)
2. The Paradox of Hunger and Abundance (1999)
3. Africa’s Lost Century (2001)
4. The Failure of Governance in Africa (2003)
5. World Leaders at the UN General Assembly (2008)
6. Uganda’s Development Agenda (2008)
7. Rethinking Africa’s Development Model (2009)
8. Defying Poverty Through Struggle (2009)
9. For Present and Future Generations (2010)
10. Fifty Years Ago (2010).
In 2008, I created a blog www.kashambuzi.com to share information more widely and facilitate debate at the global level with good results so far.
Reports coming in about Uganda’s development record since 1986 are very troubling, to say the least. There are many reasons for this very poor performance. Two of them stand out prominently – the Hamitic myth and guerrilla mentality as well as single sector approach to development. To move onto the right development path will call for an honest and critical analysis of the status quo.
Without any offence intended, Museveni and his Bahororo, Batutsi and Bahima advisers came to power in 1986 with the long-discredited Hamitic myth that they are from a superior (white) race, intelligent, physically fit and attractive and born leaders. That myth bred over-confidence and complacency. Museveni used to tell reporters confidently that there was no problem his government would not handle, adding that the big problems had already been dealt with – successfully. Ugandans inside the country who criticized government policies and method of implementation were branded bankrupt or noisy empty tins in the opposition camp bent on sabotaging government development efforts and sabotage would not be tolerated. Ugandans who commented from abroad were described as people living on another planet and out of touch with the reality in Uganda. Foreign commentators were simply accused of interfering in domestic affairs of a sovereign state. The very poor 25-year record of economic, social and environmental performance hopefully has convinced Museveni (a Muhororo) and his Batutsi and Bahima cousins beyond any reasonable doubt – as confirmed by others many years ago – that they are not superior and more intelligent than other Ugandans and therefore not born to rule others in perpetuity. Most donors, however, turned a blind eye and deaf ear while mistakes were being made by NRM government because of Uganda’s role in regional geopolitics. Geopolitical interests overshadowed those of Uganda citizens. Continued external support to Museveni and his government will only prolong the long suffering of innocent Uganda citizens.