Sleepy and quarrelsome NRM can’t lead and develop Uganda

It is now crystal clear that Uganda has leaders suffering from a sleeping ailment. As if that was not debilitating enough, they have begun to quarrel among themselves. When the president addressed parliament last year on State of the Nation, his senior cabinet staff fell into deep sleep – people can doze off once in a while and that is excusable but when you sleep so deeply and repeatedly that is a different matter. One would have thought that the sleeping habit was due to age but young ones slept as well on both occasions. Therefore age has nothing to do with it. Last year’s sleeping incident was not taken seriously. We thought there must have been some specific and temporary reason why so many cabinet ministers could sleep so much. On June 7, 2012 it happened again this time with more ministers – again young and old – in deeper sleep than last year. Leaders who can sleep this deeply and for so long in the presence of their president, how much do they sleep when they are alone in their offices? A non-Ugandan friend of mine who had seen pictures of last year called me after he saw those of this year. He wanted to know whether Ugandans were suffering from a sleeping disease and, if so, what steps were being taken to cure it because no country can develop with that kind of leadership. I had no answer for him.

Things have gone particularly wrong since last year’s elections. If you have noticed, NRM is spending more time than never before in meetings at various levels including military councils and little development work is being done. That means there is a fundamental problem. In the old days the Commander-in- Chief simply gave orders – not anymore! This time the environment is different and the president ought to understand that and adjust. The prime minister is making statements on major policy issues which are contradicted by those of the president, witness diametrically opposing views on the land issue and subsistence farmers. The president convenes meetings and some colleagues refuse to attend. The president has quarreled with the speaker, the prime minister and the minister of commerce and industry, among others. The president’s choice for speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly was simply ignored. This is reminiscent of the situation before Louis XVI of France and Nicholas II of Russia were toppled from power.

When he addressed parliament on the State of the Nation this June, Museveni complained in writing that his advice was being rejected and there have been quarrels over allocation of resources. He even mentioned there were gaps in the defense forces. He didn’t elaborate. But what we know is that some senior police officers are resigning and others fired for refusing to use force against peaceful demonstrators who are calling on the government to create favorable conditions for them to make a living. The demonstrations represent a reaction to what has gone wrong in the country under NRM leadership. When people die of malnutrition in a country that exports food; when a government refuses to provide lunch to hungry primary school pupils, when people die of diseases that had disappeared a long time ago and re-emerged under NRM regime and when people drink to death or cause so many road accidents out of frustration, when the government spends a large share of government revenue on security with little or nothing for development if corruption is factored in, you expect public reaction: in fact it took a long time in coming. Instead of beating them up and spraying them with colored water which could contain dangerous substances, NRM should dialogue with demonstrators to find a mutually acceptable solution. Winner-take-all isn’t a viable arrangement. It pushes those excluded into a tight corner and they fight back because they have no other choice.

The economic performance in 2011/12 recorded the lowest growth rate in 26 years; just 3.2 percent against a population growth rate of 3.5, meaning that Ugandans are getting poorer. NRM should not blame population growth, it should blame itself. Even if population growth was reduced significantly, there is no guarantee that the economy would perform better with the same sleepy and quarrelsome leadership. NRM as a whole is in disarray, it is suffering from systemic decadence. Nuwagaba who is trying to form a breakaway government is very wrong when he states that NRM is performing poorly because the leadership is old. Let us remind Nuwagaba whom I respect as a person that Deng Xiaoping of China who revolutionized the economy and turned China into a prosperous and strong country became paramount leader at the age of 73. Narasimha Rao who revolutionized India’s economy as we know it today became prime minister at the age of 70. Nelson Mandela who negotiated a difficult settlement with the apartheid regime became president when he was 75 years old. We could go on. These are people with tremendous experience which Uganda has lacked since independence, explaining in part why Uganda is falling behind in virtually all areas of human endeavor. What experience does Nuwagaba and colleagues have? Because they are younger therefore they qualify to lead. NRM is not suffering from a generation gap, it is suffering from systemic decadence and that includes Nuwagaba and his colleagues. In short, NRM as a whole is the problem. Nuwagaba and colleagues should accept full collective responsibility. Uganda needs fresh leadership with impeccable record that goes beyond region, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, size.

In Uganda things have definitely gone wrong. To repeat, NRM as a whole should be held accountable – not the old generation alone. Those who are trying to form a new government should have resigned a long time ago to prove they were unhappy. They should have prepared and presented a new development program articulating their policies and action-oriented recommendations to bring about change. To come up now when NRM is on the verge of collapse and tell us they are forming a new NRM government by a younger generation is not only discrimination but also abuse of senior citizens. For this reason alone, they should be disqualified. People who discriminate against others are not fit to lead anywhere in the world.

Let me add one more thing of a general nature. Religious leaders are Ugandans endowed with rights and freedoms like other Ugandans and they are free to enjoy them. When some religious leaders supported NRM during the bush war and since nobody raised a figure. It is now a problem because they are asking NRM some questions. We hope and pray that religious leaders will do what is necessary to make Uganda a better place than it is today for everyone.

UDU which is all embracing at home and abroad has been challenging NRM for more than a year. We have prepared and presented an alternative development plan accessible at which contrasts with the failed policies of NRM. We have networks and a professional team. UDU’s mission is to make favorable conditions for all Ugandans to develop their potential to the full.

Finally, if you look at the situation before Louis XVI of France and Nicholas II of Russia fell from power, you can see similarities with what is going on in Uganda as partly outlined above. For example, in France the nobility and senior church leaders rejected Louis idea to carry out reforms. When he convened parliament the commoners refused to sit in a separate chamber and to vote as a group. He ordered his troops to deal with the mushrooming cloud and they refused. The women marched twelve miles from Paris to his residence in Versailles, killed some royal guards as they looked for the king’s wife. They dragged the royal family to Paris where it was held prisoner. When Nicholas called his generals to a meeting to discuss how to deal with rebellious people who had been joined by the police, the generals instead advised him to abdicate – and abdicate he did. Uganda has begun travelling along the same path.

In some meetings, the president is behaving like a bull in a China shop. If he is not careful the broken China pieces may break him into pieces. One MP gave a hint about what to expect when he stated “I didn’t agree with such language of a head of state on other elected members. I tried defending the Speaker and am sure we shall continue the show unless such name calling stops”. He could not have conveyed the message clearer. However, we should not wait for the country to get into a political crisis. Prevention is always better than cure.