Why is Museveni popular in Britain?

A former African head of state remarked that when an African leader is popular with and praised sky high by Europeans it means that by and large that leader is taking care of European interests more than those of his/her citizens.

Apart from areas of white settlement, Britain (unlike Portugal) chose to give independence to African countries without much struggle in order to keep them colonized and continue to serve British interests. It did so by influencing the choice of leaders or governing political parties. If a chosen leader digressed, he would be removed and replaced by a more compliant one.

In Uganda UPC/KY coalition and the rise to power of Obote were supported by Britain. When relations between Obote and Britain got strained Obote was removed and replaced by Amin, a gentle giant easy to do business with (Jon Abbink and Gerti Hesseling 2000 and New Africa February 2001).

As we have detailed elsewhere and posted on www.kashambuzi.com, Museveni was chosen by western powers including Britain in the early 1980s to topple Obote and UPC government (actually toppled by Okello in July 1985) because Obote was not trusted to do business with (Peter Phillips 2006 and Vijay Gupta 1983). Obote was chased out twice in 1971 and 1985 because by and large he put Uganda interests above Europeans! Amin was supported until Tanzania troops and Uganda exiles chased him out of the country in 1979.

Museveni got the message that in order to stay in power (he is a power hungry man) he had to promote and defend British interests over those of Ugandans to the extent that Uganda became re-colonized. In return, Museveni has received excellent grades for his collaboration with Britain in Uganda and abroad especially when Uganda was member of the UN Security Council (2009- 2010) as reported by a British Cabinet member in Gordon Brown’s government.

Britain’s colonial interests in Uganda were inter alia to get industrial raw materials and food and markets for its manufactured products. Administering the country and the economy would use British professional staff. Ugandans would be trained at primary level to provide low skilled personnel. Let us go step by step and see how Uganda has become a colony again under Museveni.

First, Museveni remembered or was reminded that one of Winston Churchill’s main interests was to secure Uganda as a center of tropical production of raw materials and food. In 1990, Museveni dropped the idea of ending colonial economic system, embraced and diversified classical comparative advantage that has condemned Uganda to the production and export of industrial raw materials and foodstuffs like beans, maize and fish traditionally for domestic consumption. Like in colonial days, local industries have been suffocated by cheap imports. Consequently, Uganda has de-industrialized as in colonial days.

Second, Uganda was reduced to peasant agriculture. Industrial and commercial activities were virtually monopolized by British citizens including Asians. Obote and Amin reversed these arrangements. The economy was nationalized and Asians expelled. When Museveni came to power he de-nationalized the economy and turned it over to British entrepreneurs. Asian and other British entrepreneurs returned and repossessed their businesses possibly including properties for which compensation had been given. Recently, a British minister boasted that Britain was the largest investor in Uganda and thanked Museveni for his collaboration including at the United Nations.

To minimize Ugandans in business, Museveni through the central bank has set interest rates so high that indigenous small and medium enterprises that create jobs have been locked out as it is too expensive to borrow resulting in low economic growth (below the 7 to 8 percent as minimum for meeting the MDGs by 2015) and high and rising unemployment.

During colonial days, professionals came from Britain. Museveni merged the two key development ministries of finance, planning and economic development into one which was empowered to plan, set policies and allocate resources for economic development. Museveni placed that ministry under the care of British economists (Sebastian Mallaby 2004) and DFID (Department for International Development has played an important role in Uganda’s economy {K. Brock et al 2004}) that have directed Uganda’s economy in conjunction with the World Bank and IMF.

To give room to British economists, Museveni has advised well educated and experienced Ugandans already abroad to stay there and those still at home to seek jobs on the international market resulting in heavy brain drain. The British economists have brainwashed those Ugandans under their control. Consequently, you have a key ministry that has focused on British interests over those of Ugandans. This is reflected in Uganda’s reports that focus on foreign direct investments and export-oriented economic growth. Rarely do you read about diseases of poverty, environmental degradation and the 20 percent of Uganda’s population in the lowest income bracket that has got poorer. Because of distorted reporting, Europeans continue to brand Museveni as an ‘intellectual’ who has kept Uganda macro-economically stable. Britain through politicians and experts has led this chorus.

Regarding education, Museveni came to power promising to transform Uganda’s education system and make it technically-oriented and sound to address challenges of a globalized economy and society. He subsequently changed his mind and decided to focus on primary level (mass education) where 80 percent of students drop out before grade seven and the 30 percent that complete do so badly that a much smaller number goes on to secondary school. Overall the quality of education at all levels has dropped so badly that most graduates are functionally illiterate and unemployable.

According to UNICEF (2010) secondary school net enrolment stands at 16 percent for males and 15 percent for females between 2003 and 2008. The low level of secondary education is reminiscent of what Uganda inherited at independence.

The overall appalling human condition today is comparable to what it was at independence in 1962. Kakonge then UPC secretary general described it as “… an impoverished suffering mass, predominantly dependent on traditional agriculture, very low living conditions, with less than 20% of their children going to school, with inadequate medical facilities, controlling only 5 percent of trade, commerce and industry of the country, with a very high mortality rate and a host of other social monsters of mankind” (A. M. Kirunda-Kivejinja 1995). No wonder many Ugandans consider Museveni an employee of Britain – a black governor posted to Uganda.

Because of the good work Museveni has done for Britain, the latter has provided the former political cover (Journal of Democracy April 1998) and tolerated rigging elections that have taken place three times already in 1996, 2001 and 2006 (John F. Clark 2002), corruption including Commonwealth funds, sectarianism and violation of rights and freedoms including closing radio stations and increasing torture as reported by human rights groups (Human Rights Watch Report 2003 and Uganda September 2007).

If ongoing election campaigns are disturbed by unleashing security forces on the opposition, voting and results announcement are rigged and Museveni is re-elected, Ugandans reserve the right to remove a ruthless dictator by other means necessary (Museveni is now internationally recognized as one of the worst dictators in the world implying that he needs to go. Thus no country will again impose him on the people of Uganda) like any other country would do when faced with an intolerable situation like in Uganda right now.

We are alerting the Peace and Security Council of African Union and the Security Council of the United Nations. The Commonwealth Observer and UN groups should avoid certifying elections as free and fair when intimidation, bribery and rigging were massive. Certifying rigged elections does not preserve peace, it endangers it. Apparently that is what gave Museveni and others a pretext to begin a destructive guerrilla war. We all (Ugandans and development partners) have to admit that so far Western democracy through elections has not worked in Uganda. It has legitimized an illegitimate regime that used foreign money, foreign media support and foreign guerrilla fighters to capture power in 1986. When a Muhima youth asked Museveni why there were strange commanders in their midst using strange language Museveni arrested and tortured him to send a message that that was sectarianism not to be raised again. When Museveni became president by default (it should have gone to the chairman of NRM who was not there following the death of Lule a year before Kampala was captured in 1986) he pushed through parliament a bill that forbids discussing or complaining about sectarianism in Uganda). Measurements used in economic and human progress have also been disappointing.

Economic growth rates and per capita incomes, number of mobile phones and vehicles, modern houses constructed in Kampala and international conferences held in Uganda have failed to translate into improved human condition and capital formation.

A Uganda people-oriented formula will have to be devised and that will begin with removing Museveni from the peoples’ (state) house. Museveni thinks he owns Uganda including land and oil whose official exploration was launched in early 1985 when he was buried in Luwero jungles conducting a guerrilla war that had little to do with 1980 election rigging.