What we have learned since Uganda’s independence in 1962

The discussions within UDU and other forums about the future of Uganda have necessitated an assessment of Uganda’s experience since independence in 1962. This is still work in progress but here are some preliminary findings. Your constructive comments are welcome.

1. Winner-take-all or government of exclusion has created many problems. Future governments should be inclusive on a proportional representation basis. Uganda’s population and natural diversity should be seen and used as an asset;

2. Notwithstanding political deficits, the civilian government in the 1960s performed much better in economic and social sectors than the succeeding military regime of the 1970s and military-turned democratic regime since 1986. Leaders with military background do not appear to be suitable for civilian administration.

3. Learning the art of governing a country on-the-job has proven to be the wrong approach. All the three presidents (Obote, Amin and Museveni) did not have what it takes at the beginning to govern, forcing them to rely on loyalty than competence. Future leaders must show experience, confidence and success in managing a large organization preferably with diverse characteristics as in Uganda. This would avoid or minimize parochialism which has become an endemic problem. Leaders that jump out of a ‘corn field’ onto a presidential stage no matter how educated they are should prove their practical experience. The issues of experience and character should be emphasized. Good character here refers to those leaders that in their lives have demonstrated distaste for corruption and nepotism and are conscious of good public image. When you become a leader you cannot afford to behave recklessly in private or public arena;

Why are Ugandans fighting over Bachwezi and earth works in central Uganda?

Winds of trouble are gathering speed and are about to blow like a tornado across central Uganda over who Bachwezi are and who constructed the earthen works including those at Ntusi and Bigo in central Uganda. This quarrel would not have arisen if Europeans had not created the confusion. Through European race theories, blacks (Negroes) were described as people without civilizations. And as uncivilized, blacks had no history and darkness in which they lived was not a subject of history. So when Europeans visited what later became Uganda and found magnificent civilizations, they manufactured an explanation. They decided that these civilizations including earthen works in central Uganda must have been the work of Europeans. They looked at the physical features of Africans and found that Bahima had similar facial resemblance like them especially long and thin noses. They quickly concluded that Bahima were white people who created civilizations including earthen works. Europeans went further and explained that Bahima turned black because of strong tropical sum but were still lighter skinned than Negroes. From that time on Bahima and later their Batutsi cousins in Rwanda and Burundi and Batutsi/Bahororo in short lived Mpororo kingdom assumed that they were more intelligent and born leaders. Negroes were judged mentally inferior, physically unattractive and born to scratch the soil to earn a living and work for born leaders in return for protection. As uncivilized people blacks were reduced to crop cultivation. And Bahima were strictly cattle keepers, a symbol of civilization. Through indirect rule, colonialism enhanced the power of control of Bahima and Bahororo over Bantu people in southwest Uganda, a position they lost at the time of independence. They fought a guerrilla war to restore their dominance which has been extended to the entire country. Then came research findings that turned everything upside down or inside out whichever expression you prefer.

What causes population to increase or decrease?

Demographers – population specialists – have concluded that the total population of the whole world will reach 7 billion on October 30, 2011 and will continue to increase thereafter.

There has been confusion about why the global population is increasing. What is causing an increase is not a rise in fertility but a fall in mortality. In other words, mortality is falling faster than fertility.

There is worry that if the global population continues to grow sooner or later the demand for goods and services will exceed their supply, causing all sorts of problems including famines and war over scarce resources. The relatively easy solution is to stop or reduce drastically population increase. This can be achieved in two ways – increase mortality and/or reduce fertility. Since it is morally wrong to recommend mortality increase, the only alternative is fertility reduction to 2.1 children per couple.

At continental, regional or national levels population increase or decrease is due to the difference between fertility and mortality (natural increase or decrease) and the difference between in-migrants and out-migrants (positive or negative migration). For example, when fertility exceeds mortality and in-migrants exceed out-migrants the population will increase. On the other hand when fertility is lower than mortality and in-migrants are fewer than out-migrants the population will decrease.

The NRM government succeeded abroad, failed at home

When the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government came to power in 1986, it inherited an empty treasury and many problems that needed vast amount of foreign currency. The export sector and tax base had collapsed. The government tried to raise money through bilateral engagement with western governments to no avail. It was advised to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) first (New African 1987-88). The IMF and World Bank were looking for another African country to experiment stabilization and structural adjustment programs (SAPS) model which had failed in Ghana. Paul Nugent (2004) observed that “…Ghana quietly dropped off the World Bank/IMF list of high performers, to be replaced by other countries like Uganda”.

The signing of a structural adjustment agreement between the IMF and the government in 1987 was of mutual benefit to both parties. It gave the IMF and World Bank the opportunity to introduce a rapid and comprehensive (shock therapy) form of structural adjustment which included inflation control to single digits, balanced budget, economic liberalization and privatization of public enterprises, export diversification and labor flexibility. Donor funds would be released contingent on adherence to the terms of the agreement.

Is Uganda going to end up like Rome?

Prevention is better than cure because it is less costly in lives and property. A multi-sector approach is also better than a single-sector analysis because in human endeavors many factors interact directly or indirectly; visibly or invisibly. Many people believe the Roman Empire (the western part) fell because of Barbarian invasion alone but on closer scrutiny there were other factors involved. Similarly in Uganda, there are those who think that Lugard used Nubians alone to destroy Bunyoro kingdom; that Amin used Sudanese and Kakwa soldiers alone to end the first Republic; that Museveni used Uganda and Tutsi guerrillas alone to destroy the second Republic. In these cases, there were other actors.

Some people are complaining that the influx of migrants into Uganda (like the barbarian movements into Rome) may destroy the Republic. The July 2010 bombs that exploded in Kampala City and killed over 70 innocent people including foreigners and injured many more are being blamed on Somalis and have led to their harassment in Uganda. There were possibly other actors.

The intention of this article is to demonstrate that in today’s Uganda there are many factors contributing to deteriorating conditions similar to what happened before the Roman Empire collapsed. Summarized below are causes which led to the collapse of the Roman Empire.

The President’s address to the nation omitted vital information

President Museveni should be congratulated for observing Article 101 (1) of Uganda’s Constitution that requires the head of state to address Ugandans through Parliament on the state of the nation. I have had the opportunity to read the president’s annual addresses and other policy statements and have made critical comments on them.

To understand fully the state of the nation, one needs to read the president’s address very carefully to find out what was omitted. The president has mustered the art of summarizing selectively macroeconomic developments such as economic growth, per capita income and inflation control without saying much about their impact on the welfare of Ugandans.

On economic growth, the president has generally given figures higher than other reporters raising questions about his source of information. With an economy growing at the reported average of 8.4 per cent over the last five years, one would have expected the president to also report its positive impact on poverty level and jobs created. The diseases of poverty that cannot be hidden anymore have made it difficult to report on the level of poverty which is omitted. It must be stressed that economic growth is not an end in itself but a means to bring about qualitative improvements in the lives of Ugandans. Regarding mobile phones, questions have been raised about their contribution to investment, capital accumulation and improvement in the quality of life of the majority of users.