If Museveni is reelected Uganda’s future will get worse

Many Ugandans and some non-Ugandans especially from the great lakes region believe – rightly or wrongly – that Museveni will do everything to get reelected to avoid being dragged to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He will also ensure that he gets over two-thirds of NRM candidates elected so that Parliament rubber stamps his decisions. Then the following will likely occur as mentioned in conversations so far.

1. The defeated Ugandans will adopt a passive resistance strategy that will further cripple the economy that is already in bad shape with over 55 percent of Ugandans living below the poverty line.

2. Museveni will basically retain his present core cabinet of ‘yes men and women’ who will continue to tell him what he wants to hear. He will likely create a new ministry of petroleum or expand the current ministry of energy and appoint one of his closest relatives turning oil revenue from a savior to a curse for Ugandans.

3. The economy will continue to be foreign managed increasingly by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) along market forces and private sector doctrine, regardless of World Bank rhetoric about narrowing income gaps. Ugandans in the powerful ministry of finance and central bank that think like World Bank and IMF staff will be retained and line ministries will continue to be marginalized particularly agriculture, education and health that impact poor people’s lives directly. Peasants will continue to be pushed to grow for cash rather than the stomach leaving little for domestic consumption and none for school lunches that improve attendance and performance especially of girls as confirmed by NEPAD.

4. Uganda’s economy will continue to run on Washington Consensus principles of macroeconomic stability particularly low inflation and high interest rates to discourage borrowing thereby reducing money in circulation, balanced budgets and civil servant retrenchment, economic liberalization including free trade, VAT that disadvantages low income consumers, labor flexibility that keeps wages low and subjects workers to dismissal at will by employers, export-orientation along static comparative advantage lines based on raw materials and foodstuffs, foreign direct investment and private entrepreneurship.

5. The state will continue to take a back seat in economic matters along neo-liberal lines and stay away from essential stimulus arrangements that are necessary to address the acute unemployment problems especially of Uganda’s young men and women.

6. The five-year development plan will be forgotten (we have not heard about it since its launch in 2009), except that birth control or family planning will take center stage to curb poor people from producing too many mouths that will compete with the rich for scarce resources. Targeting a particular group could amount to genocide.

7. Museveni will continue to divide up Uganda into more tiny and economically unviable districts and municipalities that will not be able to bring services closer to the people as theoretically intended due to acute shortages of financial resources and trained human power.

8. To divert attention from mushrooming domestic problems, Museveni will focus on anti-terrorism activities and East African Community matters and political federation issues whose exact net positive benefits to Ugandans have yet to be spelt out. Getting an East African passport and moving freely in the region is not a sufficient condition for economic integration and political federation. East Africans with better skills and vocational training than Ugandans will benefit at Ugandans’ expense. Changes in land ownership may also severely disadvantage Ugandans whose neighbors suffer acute land shortage. Ugandans and indeed East Africans need to pause and draw lessons from regions such as NAFTA and EU that have been involved in economic and/or political integration processes for quite some time. The way the political federation has been approached on a fast track basis is like constructing a house beginning with a roof, then the walls and finally the foundation. Such a building is likely to crumble before it is completed or will do so shortly after. Patience is of the essence in this regard, witness the approach Southern African Development Community (SADC) has taken.

9. Museveni will also continue to preach about plans to land Ugandans on the moon. He always comes up with such ideas to show that Uganda is a great country under his leadership. In the past he has lectured about Uganda being a donor country providing financial assistance to developed nations!

10. Museveni is likely to come under tremendous pressure to sell large chunks of Uganda land to foreign states or companies to grow food to feed their own people. There are Ugandan and foreign advisers who believe – incorrectly – that the future of Uganda’s agriculture is in large-scale and mechanized farming. There is indisputable evidence that small holder farmers are productive, efficient and environmentally friendly and socially least destabilizing. That is why the G8 agreed to support small holder agriculture with an initial contribution of $20 billion. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and United Nations General Assembly have also endorsed support for small holder agriculture and related activities such as agro-processing. Land is an asset which cannot be sold to foreigners. Thus, all Ugandans should stand together and oppose the president. Under present circumstances, without land there is no Uganda and no Ugandans – pure and simple! The world witnessed the nasty political outcome when the government of Madagascar sold a large chunk of the country to South Korean company to grow food for Korean consumers. Ugandans should not lose sight of this lesson. Ugandans should prevent decisions of this kind from being taken.

To avoid all these troubles, some voices have raised the possibility of a coalition government of all stakeholders in Uganda. Coalitions are fraught with difficulties but there are moments as in the United Kingdom, Kenya and Zimbabwe right now when they are inescapable. Museveni should lead discussions along these lines with full support and participation of opposition leaders to achieve peace, tranquility and common prosperity for present and future generations. Development partners are welcome to extend a helping hand in this effort.

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