Sunday, April 15, 2012

To understand Museveni and Uganda’s decadence, read him dialectically

Written by Eric Kashambuzi, on 02-03-2012 Let me begin with this statement to clear the air. In analyzing Uganda I have decided to use Museveni because my research has led me to conclude that Museveni is the governing party, the cabinet, parliament and the appointing authority (some people are refusing to leave their jobs on account of incompetence or corruption unless the appointing authority says so). But I refer to Museveni in his public, not private capacity. President Museveni gave Ugandans hope during the bush war and a few years after he assumed power. He formed a government of national unity. He said all the right things. He announced that the people of Uganda were sovereign and government the servant of the people. The army would protect the territory and defend the people against external aggression. He wanted religion out of politics. He repeated that his administration would eradicate, not reduce, poverty. At one time he expressed genuine concern that economic growth was not trickling down to the masses. He launched barter trade to overcome classical international trade problems. He was firm about ending corruption, sectarianism and mismanagement. He criticized leaders who stayed in power too long and wasted public funds on imported furniture, hosting huge parties and travelling expensively while Ugandans had no shoes. He did not even want to wear western suits. He wanted to be one of the ordinary people who sheltered and fed him during the bush war. He said his administration would be a short one because he wanted to operate on the Pan-African stage. He told the nation that his training in political economy prepared him adequately to address Uganda challenges. He stressed that Uganda would be metamorphosed, become industrialized with a middle class society. Education, healthcare, nutrition, science and technology and infrastructure and environmental management would lead the way. He added that Ugandans would choose their leaders in periodic free and fair elections. He confirmed that his administration would be based on individual merit and the sky would be the limit. Perfect! Museveni who came to power with little domestic and external support began to attract attention. After adopting structural adjustment ideology in 1987, Uganda received massive external support in money and advisers and experts in key ministries particularly finance and central bank. External media and diplomacy covered him very well. He was christened the darling of the west, a star pupil, dean of the new breed of African leaders and stabilizer of the great lakes region. Sadly, after 26 years of Museveni’s leadership, Uganda has reaped misery, marginalization and despair. To confirm this unhappy outcome just talk to Ugandans even those in the cabinet and parliament on the NRM side, read newspapers and listen to the radio when people call in and increasingly to international observers. How do we explain this paradox of noble promises and poor end results? To find the answer you need to be dialectical: look at the incomplete actions disguised as achievements, not the speeches. Museveni came to power with a hidden agenda: to stay in power for life and create a dynasty and use it to create a Tutsi Empire in the Great Lakes Region via East African political federation hence his push to have it fast tracked. He knows that when people are educated, healthy and economically sound, they begin to understand and demand political and civil rights, including presidential term limits, independent electoral commission, separation of powers and the right to assemble, associate, march and express opinion and demonstrate etc. So how did Museveni implement his plan to keep Ugandans disempowered? He has done it within the framework of the 50 year (Bahororo who are Batutsi from Rwanda) Master Plan. First, he made sure experienced and well educated Ugandans were marginalized. Those in the diaspora were advised to stay there. Those at home were retrenched or marginalized. He brought in NRM cadres (some foreigners in high positions) most of them poorly educated or with little or no experience. Those with good education and some experience were incapacitated by being assigned to ministries where they became strangers. For example, imagine a medical doctor suddenly becoming a minister of finance, foreign affairs, agriculture (no disrespect). So his ministers could not challenge Museveni because they were placed in strange territories especially at that time when the challenges needed quick action, allowing no room to learn on the job. Then Museveni filled key ministries and departments as noted above with young foreign experts who came more to learn than to advise the government. Second, Museveni knows that providing public schools with poor teachers, no teaching materials, charging school fees and refusing provision of school lunch, kids will stay out of school or will attend but learn little that won’t get them a job to transform them into a middle class with a capacity to understand and demand their civil and political rights. Kids from rich families are taken care of in private schools that have all it takes to perform well. Third, Museveni knows that denying Ugandans food and nutrition security by encouraging farmers to produce for cash and not for the stomach, pregnant women will produce underweight children with permanent physical and mental disabilities and child brain development will be impaired. Museveni knows that protein is an essential element in diet. He encouraged export of protein-rich foodstuffs including fish, beans and beef, leaving Ugandans saddled with cassava and maize that contribute to severe under-nutrition and neurological impairment and insanity. Fourth, Museveni knows that constructing health clinics without qualified and experienced staff, medicines and supplies, mortality and morbidity will not be controlled, hence rising maternal mortality, doubling deaths from malaria, reemergence of diseases that had disappeared. Encouraging qualified Ugandans including the medical professionals to seek work outside is intended to weaken the government in delivering services to the people. These actions impact disadvantageously on Uganda population and weaken their resistance to Museveni rule. For rich families, there are expensive private clinics and hospitals or they get treatment abroad. Fifth, Museveni knows that keeping Ugandans unemployed and underemployed and desperate, he will bribe them during the campaign and they will vote for him and discard them until the next elections. So he has no desire to help create jobs through, inter alia, stimulus policies including public works programs as other governments do during economic hard times as Uganda is in today. Museveni has insisted the market will solve the current economic crisis. So, Ugandans need to be patient, stay calm, wait. Sixth, Museveni knows how to hide economic and social deficits by omitting them from his addresses to the nation. He is good at talking about constructing schools and clinics but omits to say that graduates haven’t found jobs and maternal mortality is rising. He is good at reporting economic growth and per capita income but omits to mention that income distribution is highly skewed in favor of those already rich. Museveni is good at reporting international conferences hosted by Uganda but he omits to mentions how much these conferences cost Uganda tax payers. He is good at boasting that Uganda has been elected to important organs in the United Nations such as the Security Council and African Union but omits to tell the nation how much it costs the tax payers to campaign for stiff elections. Museveni is good at elaborating future plans which are always the same: modernization of agriculture through NAADS, improving infrastructure, using modern technology and more recently East African economic integration and political federation. This kind of reporting confuses the distinction between processes such as constructing buildings and training nurses and end results of processes such as ending maternal mortality and eradicating poverty. The NRM performance report posted on Ugandans at heart forum on February 28, 2012 has a column of achievements but these are processes, not end results that improve the quality of life of all Ugandans including ending poverty. Seventh and finally, Museveni will not allow voluntarily restoration of presidential term limits, independent electoral commission, separation of powers and optimal functioning of multiparty politics because they will undermine his life presidency project. Thus, Ugandans and development partners who want a better future for Uganda and all her people will have to ease Museveni out of power. I am convinced almost beyond a shadow of doubt that Museveni will never be unseated through the power of the ballot box. The pen cannot challenge the gun. He has already begun campaigning for 2016 if you cared to understand part of his statement in Kisumu last month (February 2012). Those who are planning to defeat him in 2016 are just wasting time and resources. Next time it will be a huge landslide for Museveni and NRM because opposition parties will be there in name only unless they decide to fight under one umbrella with one presidential candidate! So those not prepared for a return to power of Museveni and NRM in 2016 should invest in other modalities. Civil resistance is a good modality in the first instance. It works when there is solidarity, determination and bold leadership. The first step in solving a problem is to understand its root cause. Uganda is in bad shape no matter how you choose to dress it not because of difficult external conditions but because Museveni wants to keep Ugandans disempowered to fulfill his personal goal of president for life. Under NRM regime Uganda has received over $31 billion in donations. Where did it go? Add on loans, tax and customs revenue, 30 percent service charge to change old to new currency and revenue from sale of public enterprises, remittances and debt relief and you realize that government revenue is not the problem for a country that does not import food or import expensive new products (Uganda is an importer of used items and saves foreign exchange that should go into development). Uganda has more than enough educated and experienced human power but it is underutilized or not utilized at all. For example where in the policy making bodies are experienced economists in Keynesian economics that has returned to the stage? Museveni knows some of them because he has seen their publications.

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