Message for Uganda youth

Why and how I developed reading, listening, writing and speaking skills

My career as university teacher and international civil servant with responsibilities for preparing teaching materials, writing conference reports or representing my employers at national, regional and international conferences provided me unique and strategic opportunities to develop reading, listening, writing and speaking skills beginning in 1969 when I became a university teacher and research assistant in the Department of Geography and later a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of East Africa, Nairobi campus which later became the university of Nairobi and subsequently a lecturer in Economics at the university of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

My training in Geography and graduating in 1968, Economics, Demography and graduating in 1971, International Law and International Relations/Diplomacy and graduating in 1980 from the University of East Africa; University of California at Berkeley; and University of Zambia at Lusaka respectively helped me a great deal.

My exposure to the negotiations with the European Economic Community in Brussels, Belgium in 1973-75, now the European Union, my participation since 1975 in the work of the United Nations including General Assembly, its principal organs such as Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Security Council, Funds and Programs such as UNDP and UN agencies such as Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) helped me to consolidate my knowledge and experience.

Since 1961, my decades of reflection, research and writing of ten books covering mostly the Great Lakes Region and Uganda and since 2011 my involvement in the work of UDU including as Secretary General and principal author of the National Recovery Plan and anchor of the English program on Radio Munansi on civic education have further sharpened my skills in research, preparation and delivery of messages orally or in writing.

The message being communicated mostly to the youth of Uganda is that you don’t acquire such skills overnight. Put differently, you can’t jump out of the banana plantation or cattle grazing onto a public stage and be an expert right away. Therefore those who want to engage in the kind of work we are doing on Radio Munansi or any other public activity need to prepare adequately in order to deliver accurately and effectively. Good luck.

Eric Kashambuzi is international consultant in development issues. He resides in New York, USA.

Land grabbing has contributed to revolutions and decolonization wars

NRM leaders and those hiding behind them while invoking colonial agreements in independent times to grab land because peasants are currently powerless and voiceless or ignorant of their rights must realize that land grabbing has from time immemorial contributed to revolutions, revolts, rebellions and bloody decolonization wars. Take France before the revolution as a case in point.

France on the eve of the revolution had 26 million people, 98 per cent of them commoners. But see how land was distributed.

The clergy that numbered 130,000 owned 10 per cent of the land. The highest officials of the Church: archbishops, bishops and abbots benefitted enormously from the land while parish priests were as poor as their peasant parishioners.

The nobility that numbered some 300,000 owned up to 30 percent of the land while 98 percent of French who were commoners owned about 60 percent and many of them were landless or had land that was not enough to give them subsistence life. Land shortage combined with rising prices, unemployment and food shortages in 1788 and 1789 contributed to the French Revolution and regaining of land by peasants.

In Russia the serfs were set free in 1861 but were not given land from where to earn their livelihood. In February 1917 landlessness, food and energy shortages, unemployment and unpopular WWI sparked the revolution that swept the Romanovs out of power. Lenin using the motto of ‘bread, land and peace’ wrestled power from the provisional government and turned Russia into a communist state.

The decolonization of Africa was bloody where the whites had grabbed land from Africans such as in Algeria, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Uganda escaped because land grabbing in Buganda went to Buganda king and his relatives; regents; 4000 chiefs and a few notables that turned previous users (the Bakopi) into serfs or tenants.

The current grabbing of land in Uganda largely by foreigners is being watched with different lenses from those of the 1900 Uganda Agreement that dispossessed Bakopi. Ugandans now know better and won’t keep silent for long.


Conflict resolution is a prerequisite to development and poverty eradication

From time immemorial there is ample evidence that countries and societies in conflict situation where human rights and fundamental freedoms are abused experience great difficulties in designing and implementing programs to reduce poverty and inequality. By contrast in stable societies where rights and freedoms as well as the rule of law are respected, poverty has declined much faster. Unstable societies perform poorly in poverty eradication in large part because they don’t have capable institutions and checks and balances due to discrimination, brain drain and corruption.

It has been demonstrated that in fragile or unstable countries, the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 has lagged far behind.

There is also evidence that in societies such as those in the Great Lakes region of Africa that have experienced endemic instability increasing financial assistance is unhelpful in addressing inequality and poverty challenges and their offshoots of hunger, disease and illiteracy because these societies don’t have sufficient absorptive capacity. Ipso facto, availability of large financial donations could promote corruption, waste and mismanagement of foreign aid.

In recognition that instability and fragility undermine development and poverty eradication efforts, African leaders stressed in the Constitutive Act adopted in 2000 that created the African Union the need to promote peace, security and stability on the continent; promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance; and promote and protect human and peoples’ rights.

In its 2005 report titled “Our Common Interest” the Commission on Africa stressed the importance of constructing the capacity of African states and societies in order to prevent and/or manage conflicts that have constrained development and poverty reduction endeavors. At its Summit in May 2013, African leaders underscored that conflict resolution is a prerequisite for development and poverty eradication in Africa.

In their Common African Position (CAP) for the preparation of post-2015 development agenda, African heads of state and government have stressed the need to address the root causes of conflict and strengthen good and inclusive governance, fight against all forms discrimination and forge unity in diversity. They have also agreed to strengthen cross-border cooperation to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict and implement comprehensive, post-conflict reconstruction programs.

This is a welcome development that should be favorably supported by Africa’s development partners during the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda scheduled to run from 2016 through 2030.

Eric Kashambuzi is international consultant in development issues

Educating girls will empower women; reduce poverty and fertility in Africa

There is consensus at national and international levels that educating girls will reduce child marriage and fertility complemented by the provision of safe, accessible and affordable contraception; empower women and reduce extreme poverty in the long term in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It has been recognized that educating girls and lowering fertility in Africa have been constrained by school drop out for failure to raise tuition and provide school lunch. In many cases, household poverty forces parents to arrange early marriage for their daughters. Cultural factors including against pregnancy out of wedlock have a similar effect. Early marriage results in high birthrates and rapid population growth especially in poor rural communities where the needs for voluntary, safe and affordable contraception are not met, calling for improved physical and human infrastructure and supplies subsidized by government as appropriate.

To overcome the school dropout and family planning constraints discussions are underway including in the preparation for post-2015 development agenda that governments with support from the international community provide free and compulsory primary and secondary education for children whose parents can’t afford.

The discussions on free and compulsory education are in line with various United Nations resolutions, declarations and conventions including the 1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education which was adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It called inter alia for making primary education free and compulsory; making secondary education available and accessible to all; and making higher education equally accessible to all on the basis of individual capacity and assuring compliance by all with the obligation to attend school prescribed by law.

As a complement to free and compulsory education it has been confirmed that provision of school lunch improves attendance and performance especially of girls. The World Food Program (WFP) which has been active in school lunch programs has demonstrated that hunger affects children access to school, attention span and class behavior. This phenomenon makes it difficult for children to concentrate and perform complex tasks. Consequently many children drop out of school at an early age, get married or have children out of wedlock, resulting in a high fertility level. Early marriage also results in high infant, child and maternal mortality because teenage mothers are not biologically and economically capable.

The issues of ending hunger and malnutrition generally and providing school meals in particular are receiving increasing attention. There is agreement that everyone has an inalienable right to be free from hunger in order to develop and maintain physical and mental fitness.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) which is an organ of the African Union (AU) has adopted a resolution calling on all African governments and relevant development partners and financial institutions to support school lunch programs using as much as possible food produced in African countries that would put cash into the pockets of farmers. Due to financial constraints, few countries have implemented the program.

It has also been recognized that education for girls is one of the prerequisites for fighting poverty and empowering women in the long term. WFP has demonstrated that countries most committed to educating girls – and boys – are among the most successful in reducing poverty. Empowered women through remunerative jobs and good incomes lead more fulfilling lives and exercise their sexual and reproductive rights including in determining how many children to have, when and how to space them with assistance of accessible, affordable and safe contraception.

The funding constraint is being discussed at various national and international levels. One of the ways could be to allocate more Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds to primary and secondary education. The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have suggested at one of the meetings of the post-2015 development agenda that ODA funds should be allocated to priority areas and programs. Hopefully, African governments will comply if there is sufficient political will to educate African girls and empower African women.

Eric Kashambuzi is an international consultant in development issues. He resides in New York, USA.