All Ugandans will live happily ever after

The National Resistance Movement (NRM) engaged in a destructive guerrilla war (1981-85) with the overall objective of ending the long suffering of all Ugandans. This message runs through the articles compiled in “Mission to Freedom: Uganda Resistance News 1981 – 1985”. It is also the main theme in the ten-point program. Ending suffering by NRM would guarantee living happily ever after.

This goal was to be realized largely through forging national unity and good neighborly relations as well as ending corruption and sectarianism, promoting equitable and sustainable economic growth and social services using a mixed economy model.

The outcomes would have included stimulation of effective domestic demand for goods and services which in turn would have stimulated investment, employment and higher incomes and further stimulated effective demand (or raising individual purchasing power) so that everyone has the means to meet the basic needs and end the suffering that Ugandans have experienced for so long.

The goal and means of ending the long suffering of Ugandans contained in the ten point program was abandoned in 1987 and replaced with structural adjustment program (SAP) that focused on the invisible hand of the market forces, laissez faire capitalism and trickledown economics.

Shortcut actions and long term consequences

In my culture we have a proverb “bugubugu tehisa”, meaning that if you apply too much cooking fire for quick results you will serve a poor meal. Consequently, we were taught to apply gentle fire so that the food cooks slowly for good results. This principle apparently applies to other human activities with long term adverse outcomes.

One of the reasons put forward for political instability in Uganda is that independence was achieved too early before national consciousness had developed to remove or minimize ethnic, religious and economic divides. The British policy of ‘divide and rule’ in addition to ‘indirect rule system’ that favored Protestant chiefs and their families and relatives over others in education, employment and political capital created a wide divide. To this divide was added the economic inequalities between the south and the north. The south became the economic and social development center while the north became the labor reserve providing men and increasingly women in police, prisons and the army and labor for economic activities in the south.

Why has Museveni survived so long in spite of serious flaws?

A while back I talked with some people who are familiar with Uganda’s political economy situation. We touched, inter alia, on the dangerously deteriorating social and environmental conditions in urban and rural areas which under normal circumstances would have created serious problems for Museveni in cabinet, parliament and the general population. Yet Museveni keeps on getting nominated for re-election. In true democratic terms where the public freely and fairly chooses the party candidate, one participant observed, Museveni would possibly not be re-nominated, much less re-elected. He has managed to stay in power by purchasing loyalty of the Uganda elites in the military and administration, and by aligning himself with western interests in economic, political and security areas.