Museveni’s address was not directed at Ugandans but donors who have withdrawn support largely because of rampant corruption and mismanagement of public funds. He was I think also addressing the United Nations on one Millennium Development Goal – Achieve universal primary education. He focused on the glass half full, leaving out the empty half.
He was telling donors that his administration met the requirements or conditionality of stabilization and structural adjustment program (SAP).
1. That is why he talked about growth of the economy or GNI and per capita income;
2. That is why he talked about inflation control to single digits;
3. That is why he talked about export growth and diversification;
4. That is why he talked about accumulating international reserves;
5. That is why he talked about his determination to stamp out rampant corruption as part of good governance practice.
These were the conditions together with market forces, austerity and trickle down that were imposed by donors including IMF and World Bank which Uganda adhered to rigidly with serious social and environmental costs that he left out in his address. In other words, Museveni was saying that he did religiously what the donors wanted him to do except stamping out corruption which he has begun addressing and calling on the resumption of aid and technical assistance.
Many are wondering why October 9 (2010), Uganda’s 48th independence anniversary came and went like any other day. It happened that way because there was virtually nothing to celebrate. Independence anniversaries are about celebrating achievements, not mourning failures. A number of factors explain this silence.
Until the abandonment of structural adjustment in 2009 as a failed strategy, NRM government boasted that it had created conditions for high economic growth (although the rate was lower than the real GDP growth rate of 7-8 per cent a year required as a minimum to achieve the MDGs especially halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015), low and stable inflation rate, export diversification, privatization of public enterprises, controlling and reversing HIV & AIDS, providing universal primary education and maintaining peace, security and stability. External sponsors of these programs praised Museveni and his NRM government for achieving stability. Thus, NRM government and its external supporters felt they had done their work – and done it very well. The rest would be performed by the private sector as the engine of growth under able guidance of the invisible hand of market forces and trickle down mechanism. Maintaining macroeconomic stability was left in the hands of the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank.
Uganda marked the 47th birthday as an independent nation under thick clouds of famine, riots in the nation’s capital, demonstrations in the United States during the president’s visit there and government’s formal admission that the development model implemented since 1987 had failed to produce the desired results – all happening in September, a few days before the anniversary on October 9, 2009.
Although the theme of the celebrations was unity, the president chose to address the nation on economic developments whose scope and format resembled a budget speech. The president talked about peace and political stability and prudent macroeconomic management. He omitted the term “security” because the country still suffers from food, employment, health, political, ecological and income distribution insecurity. Unity was mentioned as a condition in the protection of Uganda’s destiny and independence rather than in terms of what NRM government had accomplished in building, consolidating and sustaining unity. Notwithstanding heavy investment in international relations, the president mentioned it in one sentence in the last paragraph of his address.
The president’s address left out important information of vital interest to most Ugandans. We shall focus on major omissions.