Telling the truth is costly – but necessary

I developed an inquisitive, listening and retention mind at an early age. People discussed all sorts of sensitive things in my presence thinking I was too young to understand. When I travelled by bus passengers talked freely and I obtained useful information. And I grew up in an atmosphere characterized by church gatherings that enabled me to hear incredible stories about human relations. My home village is strategically located and enabled me to gather information from Ankole, Rwanda, Burundi and Belgian Congo (now DRC). These stories mostly about brutal exploitation of the weak by the strong disturbed me – to say the least. As I grew up I witnessed some of these brutalities that continued under indirect colonial rule. Then I went to school and what we were taught (hunger, African laziness and too many children that cannot be fed properly) did not match most of what was happening on the ground at least in my home area. At times it was difficult for me to answer some questions or engage in discussions full of distortions. In some discussions I simply kept quiet or spoke in disagreement based on what I had heard. I decided early in my life that I would gather this information and share it at the right time. Thus, the information I am sharing with the public represents many years of accumulation from primary and secondary sources, checking and revising it as new information becomes available.

Comments on Uganda’s Jubilee Speech

On October 9, 2012, in a seven page speech delivered from Kololo airstrip, President Museveni who has been in power for more than half of fifty years of Uganda’s independence addressed the nation and the world. The first two pages of the speech were devoted to protocol requirements and listing invited dignitaries within and without Uganda. The third and part of the fourth pages were devoted to the list of ten strategic bottlenecks inherited at independence in 1962. Before making comments on the speech item by item, let me remark on three things.

First, because there was no agreement on the head of state at the time of independence, the Queen of the United Kingdom remained head of state represented in Uganda by the Governor-General. H. E. the late Mutes II became ceremonial president in 1963, not in 1962.

Second, since 1987 Uganda has been the darling of the west and has received generous donations in financial and technical assistance on a regular – not erratic – basis, at times receiving more assistance than the absorptive capacity. Development partners should therefore be congratulated for that generosity, although there isn’t much to show for it.

Ugandans have a habit of pleading ignorance when things go wrong

I have devoted some time to studying and writing books on Uganda’s political economy. One of the findings is that when things go wrong at the individual, community or national level, you hear those involved saying that if they had known, this or that would not have happened or would have been done differently. I have heard Ugandans regret that if they had known, they would not have dropped out of school or married early, or sold their land or abandoned their families or ignored their parents’ advice or voted for so and so to represent them at the district or national level or neglected environment issues in Uganda’s economic growth. Another common observation is that when events do not affect certain groups, Ugandans tend not to bother. For example, those who have comfortable jobs do not care about the unemployed. They even blame them for being lazy or drinking too much. It is only when they are directly (or family members or relatives) affected that they care and actually complain that the government is not doing enough to resolve unemployment.

What has Uganda family planning skipped?

Since Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) government came to power in 1986, Ugandans have developed a habit of dragging the country into fads without proper analysis of pros and cons or even when they know these fads won’t work. Because Museveni likes to be in the news or popular with the west he has plunged Uganda into experiments in economics, agriculture, health, etc that have overall produced adverse outcomes. Uganda adopted shock therapy version of structural adjustment in 1987 fully aware that it had been rejected in Ghana because of negative consequences. Uganda adopted abstinence in the fight against HIV knowing fairly well that it would not work. Uganda also developed a confrontational regional policy in an atmosphere of geopolitics that has created poor relations with neighbors witness the plunder of Congo resources, meddling in Kenya’s 2007 elections and the latest allegation that Uganda troops were involved in Hutu genocide in DRC. Also Uganda elite have become obsessed with making money or keeping their jobs that many will fully support donor-driven projects or government programs even when they know they will hurt their fellow citizens.

Democracy in a corrupt society is a liability

Under President Yoweri Museveni, the philosophy of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is that to rule you must impoverish, divide and corrupt the people. The NRM is implementing that philosophy through a combination of impoverishment, division and corrupt practices and tactics. The donor community has unintentionally – one would guess – assisted NRM in achieving its philosophy through structural adjustment, decentralization and massive donations. There are stories that the NRM is determined to rule Uganda uninterrupted by Museveni family for at least fifty years.

The NRM government adopted the adverse and extreme version of structural adjustment program – shock therapy – which has, inter alia, three major elements: retrenching public servants, reducing or eliminating subsidies and applying the full force of labor flexibility.

Retrenchment was applied selectively targeting non-NRM supporters and/or used to settle scores. Non-supporters of NRM were removed from public service en masse as the staff had to be reduced roughly in half and NRM made sure the retrenched servants did not get jobs anywhere else. For example, interest rates were set so high supposedly to control inflation that starting a small business was virtually impossible. Either you joined the NRM or you wallowed in poverty with your family and relatives that depend on you!