Response to Mr. Museveni’s statement on the suspension of loans to Uganda by the world bank.
Gen Museveni, Your recent outburst about the World Bank withholding future assistance to Uganda is a clear indication of your ideological disorientation and policy nomadism that has characterised your four-decade rule.
You wasted twenty-seven pages trying to distort history and divert reality, that an average reader was left wondering who is (or has been) in charge of Uganda. As usual, you took no responsibility for anything that has gone wrong, but blamed everyone else, including imperialists, neo-colonial agents, saboteurs, bureaucrats, technocrats, Cabinet, corrupt politicians, the media, etc. Yet you were quick to claim individual credit for supposed successes.
A careful analysis of your long quarrel reveals the four shaky and misleading grounds for your argument, and the inevitably wrong conclusions you draw. Evidence shows that apart from those you are blaming for Uganda’s failed socio-economic transformation, you are in fact the chief neocolonialist.
Here are four areas that expose the emptiness of your argument:
1. DISTORTION OF HISTORY.
First, you repeatedly paint a false and incomplete picture of Uganda before 1986. According to your false narrative, Uganda was a failed state with every imaginable problem, and that 1986 was the year of redemption by the National Resistance Army. Today’s school-going children and the youthful public in general must know that despite the serious damage that the violence (in which you had a major role), meted out against the quality of life, the State of Uganda owned a string of functional parastatals.
It owned viable enterprises, and public infrastructure like district/regional referral hospitals, schools which were not only a source of national pride, but a launch pad for the kick-start that we so much needed. Your regime presided over the theft, and mismanagement of these assets in the name of privatisation.
To date, you cannot account for the demise of the country’s textile, public transport, food processing, leisure facilities, agricultural cooperatives, and manufacturing capacity that made places like Jinja, Bushenyi, Masaka and Mbale shining beacons of the potential that our young country possessed.
You have replaced Uganda’s public capital with miserable gimmicks like Operation Wealth Creation, replaced hitherto thriving agricultural cooperatives with non-starters called SACCOs. The NRA is not and was never the innocent, well-meaning, and foresighted actor that you portray it to be. It was and remains – as NRM – a corrupt, violent force that has played a major role in the delayed socioeconomic transformation of Uganda. Neo-colonialism is alive and well under you, Sir.
2. YOU’RE THE CHIEF SUPPORTER OF NEO–COLONIALISM.
Out of the nine men who have occupied the office of the President in the past 61 years since our supposed independence, you’re the undisputed champion of neo-colonial and neoliberal agendas. It is under your regime that the sale of public service infrastructure – under the guidance and encouragement of the same World Bank that you are blaming now – occurred.
You have presided over the reckless liberalisation, extreme de-regulation, and sacrifice of our public sector at the altar of foreign interests. We can see through your hypocrisy. Some of the sacrifices you have offered to the gods and goddesses of Bretton Woods include domestic investors like Sembule Electronics, the Dairy Corporation, and a promising number of locally owned banks.
You replaced them with dubious foreign investors like Velupillai Kananathan, Rosa Whittaker, Kristian von Hornsleth, and Enrica Pinetti! Instead of a local banking industry, we have a foreign-owned, extractive, and poorly regulated commercial banking sector that is designed to defeat local industry through unconscionable lending rates and anti-small and medium enterprise development…
It does not help matters that despite sound policy advice to the contrary, your government continues to borrow from commercial banks, which worsens the fate of the same private sector whose successes you continue to claim. Under your regime, on the foreign policy front, our country has successively voted in favour of imperialist positions on matters of the so called Global War on Terror, international trade rules, agricultural policy, and education policy at the United Nations General Assembly.
You have excelled at reducing our gallant men and women in uniform to a mercenary force available to the highest bidder. Ugandan troops are doing the bidding of Western interests in several African countries under the contradictory and self-defeating banner of Pan Africanism.
Finally, the deliberate relegation of the critical sector of education to the World Bank and under-regulated, profit-driven private players has ensured that millions of young Ugandans will never access the affordable, state-funded, quality education that you and many in your generation benefitted from — despite your humble background. Show me a better neo-colonialist!
3. MISREPRESENTATION OF UGANDA’S DEBT BURDEN.
You pretended to take exception to the large debt burden Uganda has incurred, conceding that the borrowing has been counterproductive. But that statement is incomplete if you do not acknowledge the drivers of our debt burden. Public sector inefficiency is a significant contributor.
How is anybody supposed to take such a claim seriously when you preside over an extensive, taxpayer-funded patronage network that features over seventy ministers, hundreds of Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), countless presidential advisors, ‘special’ assistants, and paramilitary outfits of every sort?And this is to say nothing about the mushrooming of electoral constituencies (or more accurately, gerrymandering) under your direction, which has ballooned the number of elective seats to the point that Parliament alone stands at more than 500 legislators from the initial 30.
On top of this, the Life Presidency you run is a colossal cost to taxpayers, not only because of the officially funded patronage network it enjoys, but also because of the fiscal indiscipline that fuels its regular supplementary (and classified) expenditure requests to Parliament. Budget cuts rarely affect the opulent lifestyle your clique lead, but they destroy critical sectors like public health and education.
Your prioritisation of regime survival has destroyed, among other things, the district, national referral hospital system, and public health infrastructure generally. As a result, the formerly reliable hospitals in Iganga, Itojo, Mbale, Soroti, and Lira are now moribund, understaffed and under-equipped death traps that you replaced with equally miserable health centres.
Your salvation lies in the fact that the United States Agency for International Development subsidises your failures by supporting critical public health needs, including catering for our military’s health and medical needs. So who is the neocolonialist here? The day you reduce on the size and cost of public administration, and use loans for productive purposes (not patronage) is the day your talk about public sector efficiency will be taken seriously by any right-thinking Ugandan.
4. FAILED LEADERSHIP AND LACK OF IDEOLOGICAL CONVICTION.
The totality of the above-mentioned three loopholes in your approach to public affairs management is that you have denounced the ideas you preached about in numerous speeches, and wrote about in two books, especially What Is Africa’s Problem? You have also betrayed ideals of Chairman Mao Zedong whom you have always claimed to take as a role model on socioeconomic transformation and national independence.
You accused others of intellectual shallowness and lack of ideology, yet you have been their chief agent in the Great Lakes region…
What does that say about your own ideological (dis)orientation? Moreover, you have erroneously conflated economic growth (which is about numbers) with economic development (which is about qualitative change and progress). This is akin to equating growth in terms of the number of years of a human being has, to maturity and responsible adulthood.
Economic growth is a function of figures, so it does not tell the full story of wealth distribution and tangible improvement in quality of life indicators. Successive reports issued by the Bureau of Statistics sharply contradict your claims, and affirm the argument and policy propositions we as the National Unity Platform (NUP) have consistently argued.
Accordingly, it is the height of fiction and deceit, for you to make the deliberately false prediction that “in a few years” Uganda’s economy will hit the half-a-trillion dollar mark. A cursory look at the revenue collection challenges the URA has experienced over the past several quarters, and the high mortality rates of SMEs tells you everything you need to dismiss this baseless projection.
The truth is usually brief, so I need not elaborate these self-evident points in the same way you wrote nearly thirty pages to explain your ‘successes’ after almost 40 years in power! That you even had to ‘highlight’ for the country your supposed successes should tell you everything you need to know. I will therefore conclude this way: based on the evidence I have adduced above, it is the height of irony and hypocrisy that you opened your statement with a Biblical reference from the Common Book of Prayer.
I wonder whether you did not feel any sense of shame or contradiction in using that statement. It is you, Sir, who has left undone what you ought to have done, and did that which you ought not have done.
There is no truth in you. Just take a long, hard look in the mirror.
Tokyaswaala, oswaaza buswaaza!