“I will go back to war” – A Response

The Sunday Vision online dated August 7, 2010 published an article about remarks made by President Museveni at a rally in Kanungu district where there have been clashes within the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party along religious lines. Museveni is reported to have reminded the audience at the rally and all Ugandans and indeed the whole world through the media that sectarian tendencies (ethnic, tribal, religious) forced him to fight previous regimes. He added that he will go back to war to fight people sowing seeds of disunity. He then advised religious leaders “to preach to followers how to get to heaven and told politicians to educate people on how to fight poverty without necessarily involving religion”.

With due respect, I disagree with President Museveni on the need to go back to war and on the comparative advantage he spelt out between religious leaders and politicians.

When Museveni became president in 1986 after the bushwar he preached in broad daylight, loud and clear that he would end sectarianism in Uganda once and for all. Everybody – Ugandans and others – applauded because sectarianism had done great harm to Uganda since colonial days when chiefs were favored over commoners and Protestant followers over followers of other faiths. To overcome this problem, Museveni reasoned, and subsequently announced that merit would be the only criterion for nominations, appointments, assignments, promotions in public domain and awarding of scholarships. Who could disagree with this innovative and appropriate leadership approach?

Why has NRM rejected Keynesian economics when Uganda needs it badly?

What John Maynard Keynes wrote is that when a country is experiencing serious economic difficulties including unemployment the state should step in and increase spending to stimulate the economy, reduce unemployment which in turn create effective demand for goods and services and ultimately pull the economy out of the recession. Keynes advice was well received by politicians because it helped them deal with economic and social challenges that would have created political problems for them at the next elections. Governments have used Keynesian advice and it contributed significantly in tackling the economic depression of the 1930s and after WWII. Since the recession that began in 2007, governments around the world have intervened in national economies with stimulus packages.

In view of the deteriorating economic, social and ecological conditions in Uganda one would have expected the NRM government to fully embrace the Keynesian model and actively intervene in the economy especially as the country is preparing for multi-party elections early in 2011. As noted in a separate article the introduction of the five year development plan in April 2010 did not signal government determination to intervene in the economy. It appears this was a political game to hoodwink voters after which the plan will gather dust in the ministry of finance, planning and economic development.

The difficulty of applying Malthus essay to Uganda’s population

Uganda’s population challenges enter the development discourse when there are serious economic and social problems. Amin condemned population growth when the economy turned sour and ordered doctors to deal with it through contraception which he had banned a few years earlier. Currently (in 2010) Uganda’s population ‘explosion’ is again at the center of the development debate, invoking Malthus’ idea of population racing ahead of food production.

Malthus stated that population was growing geometrically (1,2,4,8,16 etc) while food production was growing arithmetically (1,2,3,4,5 etc), implying that all the food produced would be consumed in the same country. He concluded that if not checked, the least able to procure food would starve to death. Those able would survive – hence the survival of the fittest concept developed by Charles Darwin based on Malthus’ essay. The essay was written for Europe and North America. He used statistics compiled by Benjamin Franklin whose figures had included migration into America where it has had no application. During the 18th century agricultural productivity had doubled which Malthus ignored when he published his essay on population in 1798. One of the principle recommendations to check population growth was delayed marriage.

Not all Rujumbura people belong to Bahororo ethnic group

When I give lectures at universities and other places I gauge the extent of interest or understanding of the subject by the number of questions or requests for clarification from the audience. When the subject is complex or uninteresting, the audience’s response is very limited. But when the topic is exciting some members in the audience interrupt before the presentation is over. My articles on the history of Bahororo in Uganda have been so exciting that I have received more questions and requests for clarification than on any other topic I have posted on my blog. The dialogue will therefore continue.

For easy reference I will synthesize what I have written about Bahororo in Uganda, their origin, ancestry, geographical distribution and role in Uganda’s society. I will also touch briefly on other ethnic groups of Rujumbura to set the record straight because the 1993 Report of the Uganda Constitutional Commission: Analysis and Recommendation chaired by then Justice Benjamin J. Odoki recorded (page 72) Hororo (Bahororo) as the only ethnic group in Rujumbura county of Rukungiri District. But before doing that let us refresh our memories about the definition or understanding of ethnicity or ethnic groups. This is in addition to what I have already provided on my blog.

From Economic Reform “Success Story” to “Failure Story” in Argentina

The purpose of this story is to know from those familiar with Uganda’s economic policy whether there are parallels with the situation in Argentina between 1990 and 2003. Like Argentina, NRM government adopted and implemented religiously the Washington Consensus conditionality with strong IMF backing from 1987 to 2009 when the Consensus was abandoned. This would help to have an idea about Uganda government’s plans to deal with the IMF following the launching in September 2009 of a new development plan along Keynesian model of state active intervention in the economy.

Countries like Argentina, Ghana and Uganda that followed the Washington Consensus conditionality religiously with strong external backing performed remarkably well initially. They were graded as ‘star pupils’ or ‘success stories’ to be emulated by others and their leaders were garlanded for their boldness and consistency through thick and thin. In the end they failed. As Uganda and Ghana cases have been covered already in my book titled Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century (2008) this story will focus on Argentina beginning with the government of Carlos Menem who was elected president at the end of 1989 and ending with the government of Nestor Kirchener who was elected president in 2003 and his initial thoughts on Argentina’s economic policies and external support.