As we assess Uganda’s progress over the last fifty years of independence, we need to draw a distinction between processes and real outcomes. Often governments have recorded processes as outcomes thereby giving themselves underserved credit. Let me clarify with a few illustrations beginning with gender which is a cross-cutting issue.
We all know that Uganda girls and women face serious challenges. In order to address them, NRM government set up a ministry of gender and has until the recent cabinet reshuffle appointed a woman as minister in charge of gender affairs. The creation of the ministry of gender should not be recorded as an outcome but as part of a process towards addressing gender challenges. In order to get to real outcomes we need to ask to what extent has the ministry helped to reduce maternal mortality and domestic violence; empower women through education and gainful employment to take independent decisions that affect the quality of their lives. That way you can measure real outcomes.
Museveni’s address was not directed at Ugandans but donors who have withdrawn support largely because of rampant corruption and mismanagement of public funds.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.
Uganda is virtually a militarized and tutsified nation and is likely to remain so for a long time unless we act quickly. Any Uganda patriot must be concerned about what is happening to the Pearl of Africa. Uganda was designed to be a country by, for and of Ugandans and participate in the development of the world. Because Ugandans are afraid of the military and of being branded genocidaire if they complain about what Tutsi are doing to our country, they are unable to express their discomfort and discuss a way out. But some voices of dissent are beginning to be heard and are getting louder for all to hear. If Museveni is trying to find a place for his people we also have a right to stop him from doing it at the expense of the people of Uganda. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it provided it is done peacefully and transparently.
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.