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.
The NRM government has decided to launch a development plan in April 2010 which is a fundamental departure from the Washington Consensus or stabilization and structural adjustment program (SAP) that was launched in 1987 and has been praised by the government and donors – state and non-state actors alike – as a “success story” in macroeconomic stability, rapid economic growth, privatization of the economy, diversification of exports, streamlining public service and reducing poverty etc. Uganda became the darling of the west – which occasionally gave more money than the government had requested – and an example of economic development to be emulated by other developing countries wishing to transform their economies and societies.
Until now the government has been publishing statistics showing rosy achievements and projections that promised better days ahead with endorsement by some donors like the International Monetary Fund. The launching of the development plan – the use of the term “new plan” gives an impression that it is replacing an “old plan” which did not exist – at this critical juncture raises the following initial questions that need to be answered.
First, instead of a whole new development ideology embodied in the development plan, why did the government not make substantial changes and retain the current program?