Ugandans with support of friends and well wishers should craft a strategy for defeating NRM that suits local conditions. We should not emulate Egyptians, Tunisians, Philippinos, Ethiopians and Iranians etc if circumstances in Uganda are different. However, we should draw lessons from their struggles. One lesson is very clear: they all overcame fear and sectarianism. Egyptian Muslims joined hands with Christians, for example. Similarly, Ugandans must overcome fear, selfishness and parochialism. We should be guided by modesty and truth, not lies and deception. We should put Uganda and the future of our children first so that they can live happier and fuller lives than we have because that is what development or modernization is supposed to be. We should use our comparative advantages because every Ugandan has something to offer in this post-2011 elections liberation struggle that has just begun. Furthermore, we should be pragmatic and not idealistic.
Patriotic Ugandans and friends have cause to worry about the future of Uganda which is being shaped by current developments. As we know the past impacts the present and the present influences the future. What makes a country grow and develop are its people underpinned by an enabling environment including education, health and nutrition care, infrastructure, institutions, good governance and the political will and commitment of leaders.
The first decade of Uganda’s independence witnessed commendable progress in these areas. In its 1993 report covering the 1963-70 period, the World Bank observed that “Uganda’s social indicators were comparable to, if not better than, most countries in Africa. The country’s health service had developed into one of Africa’s best. Uganda pioneered many low-cost health and nutrition programs. There was a highly organized network of vaccination centers and immunization program reached 70 percent of the population. Although school enrolment was still low, Uganda’s education system had developed a reputation for very high quality”. Uganda had also made substantial progress in infrastructure particularly road construction and institutions in research, extension services and cooperatives.
Let me begin with this statement to clear the air hopefully once and for all. The purpose of my many years of research and writing especially about Uganda is not to undermine NRM’s efforts – as some have suggested – but to draw lessons about what has gone right and wrong so that appropriate adjustments can be made. Before I started publishing I had communicated my concerns regularly since 1986 with senior government officials in the cabinet, public service and public sector. So they knew my thinking but chose to ignore it. I have focused on President Museveni – not as a person – but as a policy maker who has dominated and served as spokesperson on Uganda’s political economy affairs (I have also commented on statements by the First Lady – not as a person – but as a public official. Ugandans should understand that when you become a public servant, you should expect that what you say and write will be commented upon, hopefully constructively. So when you get comments that make you uncomfortable don’t complain or use surrogates to do it for you which they don’t even do well. When the heat becomes unbearable, the best thing to do is to step down).
Radio Munansi English program Sunday February 10, 2013
This is Eric Kashambuzi communicating from New York.
Greetings: fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well-wishers. Welcome to the program. We look forward to your active participation in this interactive conversation.
Since Amin time, population growth has been blamed for Uganda’s problems including environmental degradation in rural and urban areas. There is a rumor that NRM government is about to introduce to parliament a bill limiting family size to three children. This is a blatant violation of human right of couples to decide how many children they wish to have when to have them and how to space them. What the government can do is to facilitate and create conditions to enable Ugandans take informed decisions but not to force them especially by some leaders who have more than three children. It doesn’t make sense to force Ugandans to limit their family size when the government wants to eliminate Uganda borders so that other people from East Africa and beyond come is as they like. These are contradictions and one wonders what the overall goal is as far as Uganda population is concerned. Many countries are protecting their borders to eliminate or limit immigrants but in Uganda and Rwanda they want to abolish national borders. Uganda isn’t going to solve other people’s problems to its detriment. Uganda hasn’t benefited from the East African community in terms of trade, labor and population mobility as we discussed yesterday.
We should all congratulate the government for admitting, like the IMF and the World Bank before it, that mistakes had been made in Uganda’s development efforts. This is a wise move and there should be no regrets about it. When President Museveni addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009 and said in part “We have started doing what we had left undone for a long time…” I got a sense that the government had finally admitted the failure of its development model. This was confirmed a few days later when ministers and permanent secretaries acknowledged at a retreat that the development model pursued since 1987 had failed to produce the desired results.
When former President Pinochet whose government was the first to introduce structural adjustment in 1973 with ‘Chicago Boys’ (Chilean economists who had been trained at the University of Chicago in USA) and advice of the late Milton Friedman, father of monetarism, realized that the policy was not working he made a bold move. He dismissed the entire team of Chicago boys, appointed a new minister of finance and recast the development model by combining state and private sector in a new development agenda. The recessions ended and the economy has been doing very well since then. So what should Uganda stakeholders do?
Since I joined Uganda political debates, I have been concerned about the degree of sub-nationalism, albeit subsiding. I had hoped that the suffering we have experienced as a nation, not as individual regions or families, would bring us closer together to forge a common front, liberate ourselves and lay a strong foundation for sustainable peace, stability, security, prosperity, equity and happiness for all Ugandans. I was invited to co-host an English program on Radio Munansi. As the debates proceeded we began to lose focus on the country as a whole and drifted into sub-nationalism accusing one region for all the troubles in Uganda and vowing not to allow another national leader from there. Thankfully, others stepped in and we resumed the national debate. Based on the information we gathered among Ugandans at home and abroad and friends and well wishers, a consensus emerged that opposition groups needed to come together under one umbrella and speak with one voice for efficiency and effectiveness. Another consensus emerged that we should use our respective talents, expertise and experiences in a mutually reinforcing manner, regardless of region, religion, ethnicity, gender, age and size, etc.
Ugandans are wondering whether Museveni is governing or campaigning. He was inaugurated at a scantly attended ceremony (Ugandans chose to meet Besigye at the Entebbe airport from Nairobi where he had gone for treatment after he was attacked by security forces) in May 2011 for another five-year term after fraudulent elections which lacked a level playing field as confirmed by the respected Commonwealth Observer Team.
Museveni’s new mandate came at a particularly difficult time of economic recession characterized by high prices particularly of fuel and food, high and rising unemployment of young men and women many of them university graduates. As confirmed by the former minister of finance, NRM had emptied the treasury to fund its campaigns at presidential, parliamentary and local levels. It also came at a time when Museveni’s role in the Great Lakes region was beginning to be recast by some of his sponsors in view of the continuing wars with genocide-like outcomes and the possibility he may have had a hand in them.
Radio Munansi English program February 17, 2013
This is Eric Kashambuzi communicating from New York.
Greetings fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well wishers and welcome to the program. We look forward to your active participation in this interactive session.
We have been requested to spend some time discussing Uganda’s political challenges since independence. There is hunger for knowledge as Ugandans get more engaged than ever before in affairs affecting their lives.
We study history to understand what happened in the past and what lessons we have learned and how we have applied them to make life better by discarding bad practices and building on good ones. There are those who think we should move on and not look backward because we may discover things that should not be disclosed to the public. However, many Ugandans are demanding to know the history of their country as far back as possible. For this program we shall examine the circumstances surrounding the birth of Uganda as an independent state and how those circumstances have shaped the last 50 years of independent Uganda.
Uganda’s birth as an independent nation took place in a very difficult environment and many important issues were rushed through or delayed as negotiators had to meet a deadline of October 9, 1962. In this session we shall consider the period immediately before independence and up to 1970. In the next session we shall discuss political developments from 1971 to the present.
Uganda is hungry for regime change even by progressive and well placed members in the NRM government and security forces. Some senior police officers have resigned, others fired for refusing to apply disproportionate force against peaceful demonstrators presenting to the government reasonable demands like ending corruption, sectarianism and cronyism so that national benefits are distributed equitably. Some army officers are complaining openly about injustices in the military. Some religious leaders are opposing the government in broad daylight.
Thankfully, the donor community is beginning to hear the voices of dissent and to act appropriately by issuing statements from their capitals or missions in Uganda, calling on the government to respond to the needs of the people. That some donors are demanding return of their stolen (donor) money is a sign that there is a wind of change in the donor community. It is estimated that over $30 billion has been donated (free money not loans to be repaid) to NRM government but there is virtually nothing to show for it. Add on $1 billion annually sent home by Ugandans in the diaspora, the revenue from exports, taxes and now oil and you have an idea of the magnitude of money that has been stolen by Museveni and his collaborators.
M7 should admit that his development policies haven’t worked in order to be able to make adjustments. But by refusing to admit he is continuing to make errors. He has now begun to come up with statistics about Gross National Income (GNI) and per capita income and increase in the manufacturing sector and energy production.
At the beginning of his presidency he came up with a comprehensive ten-point program whose end result was to end the suffering of the people of Uganda. He stressed ending, not reducing, poverty in Uganda. He stressed making schools work and produce quality and skilled workers. He would feed all Ugandans adequately. Diseases would be conquered and he would re-grow hair on balding Uganda hills. These were laudable goals.
But Museveni lost the way by embracing inappropriate neo-liberal policies of invisible hand of market forces, laissez faire policies, labor flexibility, austerity program and trickle down mechanism. He knew these policies had not worked in Chile and Ghana and he knew Tanzania was resisting them.