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.
Museveni and I have disagreed on many issues in Uganda’s political economy discourse. However, we agree fully that to solve a problem we must get to the root cause (Y. K. Museveni 1989). I also agree with the late Samson Kisekka that education and mass media play crucial roles in public debates to take informed decisions (Samson Kisekka undated).
To solve Great Lakes problems in which Uganda is located we must accept that inter-ethnic conflicts are still alive and well. We also have to recognize that Batutsi from time immemorial have conflicted with other groups in Eastern DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. However, addressing the problem is difficult because any mention of Batutsi wrongdoing leads to automatic accusations of inciting genocide against them by those who want the status quo that has favored them since 1994 be not disturbed.
Since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda Batutsi are seen as victims and others as genocidaires (genocidaire is a French word which means those who commit genocide). Genocide means committing any of the following actions with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:
1. Killing members of the group;
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.
On July 4, 2012, my articles on Ugandans at Heart Forum generated a vibrant, constructive and informative as well as – I must add thankfully – civil debate. Even those who were rough in the past were gentle this time. Those who tried to divert attention from the core message of my articles in the hope of discouraging further writing along similar lines ended up confirming what I have been saying all along; namely that NRM has destroyed Uganda – intentionally or otherwise – which is now a failed state under a military dictatorship (so that NRM stays in power an extra day because it has lost popular support) no matter what the defenders of NRM – in or out of government – may say. Others concurred that Uganda is indeed in deep trouble but complained that NRM has been disproportionately bashed. Overall, there is agreement that NRM has performed far below expectation and has therefore failed the test. We have discussed at length what has gone wrong and the factors involved since NRM came to power in 1986. The differences have narrowed considerably on the following factors behind NRM failed performance.
Readers must be wondering why I am writing prolifically about Uganda on a wide range of topics. There are three main reasons.
1. Uganda is at a crossroads and we must decide quickly which development path we need to take and the kind of leadership required. It is now recognized that the principal constraint in Uganda’s development is the background and quality of leadership. We need to examine economic and social performance under civilian and military leadership since independence in 1962 and draw conclusions.
2. I have been covering many topics in an inter-connected manner in economics, politics and regional/international relations because development is multi-dimensional. I have introduced a seminar on Radio Uganda Boston, USA on political economy to show how politics and economics affect each other and shouldn’t be treated as separate entities in policy formulation. The NRM government’s approach is virtually one dimensional. For example, in increasing crop production and livestock herding especially with introduction of commercial goats, the government has not taken environmental degradation seriously into account. Also, education has not been linked with employment opportunities to the extent that over 80 percent of Uganda youth are unemployed.
It is no longer a debatable issue even among once staunch supporters of NRM government at home and abroad. Uganda has become a divided, corrupt, sectarian and retrogressive state. It has remained absolutely poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, illiterate and degrading very fast environmentally and diplomatically.
Uganda image in the Great Lakes region, in Africa and in the rest of the world has been dramatically tarnished. Museveni is no longer regarded as the dean of the new breed of African leaders, peace maker, star performer and blue eyed boy of the west but as a dictator who has presided over a failed state now characterized by resurgence with vengeance of diseases that had disappeared including scabies and jiggers which are undeniably external manifestations of absolute poverty, notwithstanding economic growth, export diversification, privatization of public enterprises, downsizing public service and controlling inflation.
That Uganda is in trouble came out clearly during the Jubilee message on October 9, 2012 when the president could not record in any meaningful way what NRM has done to raise the overall standard of living in view of the fact that it has been in power for more than half of Uganda’s fifty years of independence.
On October 9, 2012, Uganda will observe 50 years of independence. The president is expected to report what has happened to Uganda and her citizens since October 9, 1962. To do that he needs to recap what independent Uganda inherited from British colonial administration. He should outline why Ugandans demanded independence and how it has been used to realize our dreams. In doing so, he is expected to look at the processes but most significantly at real outcomes in terms of quality of human life and status of our environment. In short, are we better off democratically, economically, socially and ecologically than we were fifty years ago?
On October 9, 1962, John Kakonge (RIP) then Secretary General of UPC that formed the first government issued a statement under the title “Uganda Regains Freedom”. He observed, inter alia, that Uganda inherited an impoverished nation, based on traditional agriculture and very low living conditions characterized by inadequate education and health care facilities, very high mortality rate, low school attendance and many other challenges. He left out the good things that the colonial administration did.
Further to my earlier preliminary remarks here are specific observations.
1. The long awaited cabinet reshuffle to put Uganda on the right development trajectory has not occurred. The appointing authority is either not fully aware of the daunting challenges around him or he didn’t have the courage to make revolutionary changes. We have not only ended up with the same faces, but more interestingly with ministers that had been dropped or suspended while investigations in alleged wrongdoing were underway and aren’t completed yet.
2. As noted earlier the vice president should have been given a full ministry to make him visibly active and make savings.
3. The ministry of East African affairs should have been combined with the ministry of foreign affairs and renamed ministry of foreign affairs and regional cooperation with two ministers of state one each for regional cooperation and East African affairs.
4. The post of third deputy prime minister and functions are redundant and should have been deleted.
5. The ministry of security should have been combined with the ministry of internal affairs and renamed ministry of internal affairs, security and immigration with two ministers of state.
Museveni’s life and energies at least since the early 1960s have been devoted to resurrecting Mpororo kingdom and expanding it into a Tutsi Empire initially in the Great Lakes region of Africa, explaining in large part why Ankole kingdom was not restored as it would interfere with Bahororo/Tutsi Empire project. Although they lost territory when Mpororo kingdom disintegrated around 1750, Bahororo (Batutsi people of Mpororo kingdom) wherever they went including back to Rwanda (it is believed Kagame like Museveni is a Muhororo subject to confirmation, perhaps explaining why Rwanda kingdom was not restored) tenaciously clung together (Karugire 1980) by resisting intermarriage with other ethnic groups hoping that someday their Mpororo kingdom would be resurrected.
In preparation for Uganda’s independence, Bahororo in Ankole demanded a separate district but Bahima rejected the idea. Museveni was old enough to witness the mistreatment of Bahororo by Bahima. At the same time Batutsi of Rwanda including Bahororo suffered a double defeat through the social revolution of 1959 and pre-independence elections leading to independence in 1962.
With a professional eye, it is difficult to see what NRM government has done right. However, it is very easy to see what it has done wrong. The costs have by far exceeded the benefits, raising serious questions about how long Ugandans should sustain NRM in power. So far, surrogates for the government have failed to convince the public. That they have failed comes through when asked to provide success stories. They don’t even know how to successfully attack their opponents, ending up embarrassing themselves when asked to substantiate their allegations. Let us illustrate what has gone wrong.