I embarked on research and writing with the sole purpose of correcting distortions in the Great Lakes political economy with a focus on Uganda. I was fully aware that my findings and solutions would raise much dust and controversy. Before I wrote my first book which came out in 1997 I said a prayer for God’s guidance and protection. I have written ten books since then. Here are some of the issues I have raised and become controversial.
Contraception and population decline
The conventional wisdom is that once women have access to contraception, population growth will decline drastically. I have countered that while contraception is necessary it is not sufficient. I have argued that a combination of contraception, anti-poverty programs, girls’ education and women empowerment is better than contraception alone. Is it the messenger or the message that has become controversial?
The paradox of hunger and abundance
I have criticized the NRM policy of food production for cash than for the stomach. The president has been the champion of this policy. Households have responded and are selling so much food to the extent that there isn’t enough for household consumption and for school lunch. Consequently regions that are food surplus are experiencing severe under-nutrition especially among children and women. I have suggested that for nutritional and moral imperatives, Uganda should only export surplus food over and above domestic requirements. Is it the messenger or the message that has become controversial?
Brain drain and skills deficit
I have argued that primary responsibility for Uganda development resides with the people of Uganda. Therefore NRM should have hired Ugandans first and fill gaps with foreign experts and advisers. But NRM has done the opposite: keeping qualified Ugandans in the diaspora and encouraging those at home to seek work abroad while hiring inexperienced NRM cadres and foreign advisers and experts in large numbers on the basis that Uganda has fallen short of trained and experienced human power. As reported by a senior government official the preparation and management of Uganda’s structural adjustment/economic recovery program was handed over to the IMF and World Bank because Uganda had capacity constraints. I have differed with that position. Is it the messenger or the message that has become controversial?
Land belongs to Ugandans
NRM government has been advocating that Uganda has plenty of unutilized arable land. It has also pursued a liberal immigration and refuge’s policy. Consequently many foreigners mostly from heavily populated neighbors have flocked into Uganda and are occupying Uganda land and replacing Ugandans in some cases. Recently the prime minister announced a decision to transfer land from peasants to rich large scale farmers on the false reasoning that large scale farmers – Ugandans and foreigners – are more productive and more efficient than small scale farmers. I have countered that land in Uganda belongs to Ugandans and Britain was right about that. Land ownership is not a negotiable matter and that small scale farmers when properly facilitated are more productive, more efficient and more environmentally and socially friendly than large-scale farmers. This has become controversial. Is the messenger or the message controversial?
East African economic integration and political federation
NRM government has made East African political federation a top priority ahead of economic integration. I have argued that while I support integration and federation in principle, Ugandans must ensure that we make net gains economically. So far Uganda has endemically experienced trade deficits while Kenya has been the main beneficiary. Regarding political federation, I have advised that it shouldn’t be used as a means to achieve Tutsi Empire which is Museveni’s main mission. I have also argued that some areas like land should not be part of the negotiations and that the federation shouldn’t result in abolishing Uganda borders and disappearance of Uganda as we have known it. These are and must remain inviolable. Is it the message or the messenger that has become controversial?
Civilian versus military leaders and government
I have argued with illustrations on economic and social performance in support of a civil government. The UPC civilian government in the 1960s apart from the 1966/67 political and constitutional crisis did very well in economic and social terms as recognized by the World Bank in its 1993 report. Notwithstanding IMF/World Bank stiff conditionality and political instability and guerrilla war, UPC civilian government attained a real GDP growth rate of 6 percent between 1981 and 1984.
On the other hand, the military regimes of Amin and Museveni did and have not reached the level of general standard of living attained by 1970 before Amin overthrew the UPC civilian government. Under NRM regime, Uganda is moving backward as evidenced by resurgence of diseases that had disappeared and that economic growth rate has plummeted from 10 percent in the mid-1990s to the current level of 3 percent against a population growth of 3.5 percent, meaning that per capita income is declining and poverty is spreading and deepening.
Military change of government and military rule in Uganda has been a failure. Uganda should not encourage another military change of government or elect another military leader as president of Uganda. The record is clear and indisputable. This shouldn’t be a controversial issue but it has become one. And the messenger is blamed for the controversy.
Personally, I believe that I have presented a different scenario of challenges and issues for a new development agenda. Those who want to retain the status quo are accusing the messenger for being controversial rather than the issues he has raised. What NRM is doing that has failed and what I am proposing and likely to work represent totally different sets of issues. To implement the version I support which is incorporated into the National Recovery Plan, Uganda will need a new government.
Uganda patriotism or western parochialism
Contrary to accusations, I am truly a Uganda patriot and have paid attention to challenges in all the regions. Here is part of what I have done in each region.
1. In Buganda I have provided information on the demographic impact of migration, noting that at one time Buganda had more males than females and forty percent of the population was Banyarwanda.
2. In the Luwero Triangle, I have tried to disaggregate the forces that caused the destruction of human life and properties. Some people who have blamed Uganda army as the sole cause are uncomfortable that the new information may implicate them.
3. I have also suggested that to understand why Buganda hasn’t performed well under NRM governance, it may need to look at the domestic dynamics rather than solely blame Banyankole for its suffering.
These suggestions haven’t been received well in some quarters, resulting in taking some points out of context to make a point that I am arrogant and insensitive and not worthy of what I claim to be. I suggest that another look be taken at what I am saying with different lenses and you may realize that I mean well.
Northern and Eastern regions
I have consistently drawn the attention of Uganda and international community to the plight of northern and eastern regions. I have been a champion calling for treating Karamoja more humanely, dwelling in particular on human trafficking and the plight of Karamaja people on the streets of Kampala and loss of their land. Regarding food and nutrition security I made a strong appeal for easing the suffering of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in camps when I addressed the UNAA conference in New York, among other forums.
Western region parochialism
I have tried to prove contrary to popular but false belief that the population in western region has become richer than other regions under the NRM regime. I have demonstrated with reference to Rujumbura how Bairu that form the vast majority in former Ankole and Rukungiri districts have been impoverished, marginalized and rendered vulnerable, powerless and voiceless. Two subsequent reports have confirmed my story. There are few households in southwest Uganda that are rich largely through corruption. The rest are extremely poor. I have been on record for trying to prevent massive migration into Bunyoro and Toro and subsequent occupation and ownership of land at the expense of indigenous people.
Thus, those who accuse me of western Uganda parochialism haven’t done enough homework. Some have gone to extremes in their criticism and insults raising questions as to the motive; whether they are working on their own or in the service of someone who is scared and wants me out of the way. I leave final judgement in the hands of the people of Uganda.
Involvement in politics
I have stated and repeat that I entered Uganda politics not for personal gain but to access political instruments with which to implement the alternative ideas that we have presented in UDU’s National Recovery Plan. For a long time I have communicated my development ideas for incorporation into NRM program to no avail. I have even corresponded with the President, Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Secretary General of NRM, Minister of Finance and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Uganda Ambassadors to USA and United Nations in New York with very little response. In October 2011, we submitted UDU National Recovery Plan to the government for its consideration and incorporation into its development plan. We haven’t received a response.
It is for NRM’s lack of interest in our work that I entered Uganda politics to wrestle power from NRM and implement the good ideas that have been developed but are gathering dust while NRM continues to drag Uganda down the drain. Whether they like it or not, NRM government has reached a point of no return and is suffocating on corruption and sectarianism.
To conclude, let me stress once again that I mean well for all the people of Uganda. My writings and utterances may have become controversial but this is necessary for the truth to come out and pinpoint where the causes of the problems are. Some Ugandans don’t want to face the truth or to be told that they are responsible for a greater part of their suffering; all they want to do is blame someone else.
As we enter the next fifty years of independence we need to take another hard look at what has gone terribly wrong, who is responsible and how to overcome. Uganda has adequate human and natural resources for rapid economic growth and equitable development. What Uganda lacks is leadership. Military leaders have failed the test. Therefore, a new crop of civilian leaders has to emerge. It should be honest with the people about what it can do, tell the truth rather than promise what it can’t deliver, be pragmatic rather than ideological and create conditions through a proper governance system for Ugandans to be responsible for their destiny with outside support only upon request. Aspiring candidates should make their profiles available to the public so that informed choices are made. Ultimately the people are responsible for choosing their leaders. The choice they make will determine the economic and social outcome.