During the interim period between the fall of Amin in 1979 and the 1980 elections which he lost, Museveni realized that he was unpopular at the national level and in his home area. He concluded that his ambition of becoming president would be achieved through the barrel of the gun and close collaboration with and guidance by foreign powers especially Britain.
Museveni planned and executed the guerrilla war with British support. Much financing was provided by Tiny Rowland, chairman of Ronrho, publicity was directed by William Pike of BBC while political backing was led by Linda Chalker. One commentator observed that “Museveni is not acting on his own. His links to the British royal family run through two interlinked personages: Lady Lynda Chalker, Minister of Overseas Development and a favorite of Lady Margaret Thatcher, and Tiny Rowland, chairman of Lonrho, who reportedly introduced Chalker to the higher echelons of London society. The on-the-ground British case officer for Museveni is reportedly one William Pike (Mike) Pike, editor of New Vision, a daily financed by Rowland. Pike is believed to report directly to Chalker.
Chalker was the first foreigner to meet Museveni once he took power in Kampala. Museveni and Chalker have been ‘very luvvie-duvvie’, as one British source put it” (EIR November 1994).
During the first twelve months or so of NRM government, Museveni resisted structural adjustment ideology. It is reported he feared it would have been hypocritical if he accepted the ideology so soon after he had viciously attacked it under Obote II regime between 1981 and 1984. It was Lynda Chalker who forced Museveni to toe the line after donors denied him aid money and experts.
“Linda Chalker, Britain’s Minister for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, visited Uganda in December  and echoed the opinion of most major creditors that the solution to Uganda’s problems depended on reaching an agreement with IMF” (New African Year Book 1987-88). IMF represented western capitalist interests championed by Margaret Thatcher, a staunch supporter of structural adjustment. Accordingly, Museveni adopted – through IMF and Linda Chalker – Britain’s (Thatcher’s) version of structural adjustment.
Thatcher believed strongly that macroeconomic policy should focus on controlling inflation, leaving economic growth and employment matters to the private sector without government intervention. However, government should intervene in monetary policy through interest rates to lower inflation by reducing money supply in the economy. Apart from monetary policy, Thatcher believed that the rest of the economy should be directed by an invisible hand of market forces and laissez faire (leave alone) capitalism. Economic deregulation and privatization were stressed as the engine of growth and job creation. Finally, Thatcher believed that the share of public spending in GDP should be gradually reduced.
Margaret Thatcher’s macroeconomic ideology was echoed by Linda Chalker in her address to a conference on Africa. She spoke about “The Proper Role of Government”, noting that government should provide stable and predictable conditions in which the private sector can do business. She emphasized that governments must do less but efficiently, which would reduce public expenditure and money in circulation and ultimately bring down inflation. Rapid economic growth would generate revenue through taxation.
Regarding foreign assistance, Chalker observed that donors needed to refocus emphasis from projects to policy and institutional reforms. “Projects cannot be considered in isolation: they need to be part of a coherent, sustainable strategy for the sector as a whole” Chalker advised.
On private sector, Chalker acknowledged that its motive is profit which would ultimately stimulate economic growth and development in Africa – hence Africa should understand how best to enable the business sector to do its work.
Finally, Chalker stressed that political and economic reforms reinforce each other. She decried corruption and mismanagement. She underscored that liberal economic reforms are most likely to be sustained when there are parallel developments on the political front.
Those who have followed Uganda’s macroeconomic policy formulation and implementation will not fail to detect a resemblance to Thatcher’s economic ideology. Museveni and his government since 1987 have stressed inflation control to and stability at 5 percent per annum. Through a monetary policy, interest rates have been set so high to discourage borrowing and thus reduce money in circulation. Economic growth and job creation have been left to the private sector that would be guided by the invisible hand of market forces, hence Museveni’s refusal to provide public works to ease youth unemployment. Public enterprises were privatized en masse. British Asians and corporations were invited back and repossessed their properties, making Britain the number one investor in Uganda’s economy.
In line with Thatcher’s ideology to reduce public spending as a share of GDP, Uganda undertook a selective (some call it sectarian) but massive retrenchment exercise and introduced value added tax (VAT) to raise government revenue. The first economic recovery program adopted in 1987 reflected some ideas that Thatcher and Chalker emphasized. The recovery program emphasized export-oriented economic growth and liberalization of exchange rate; liberalized agriculture by abolishing price control and parastatal marketing monopolies; encouraged foreign investment and return of British Asians and their properties; and reform of budget procedures to increase revenue, improve expenditure control and reduce inflation by curbing monetary expansion in the economy. Those interested in learning more about a comparison between Britain’s and Uganda’s structural adjustment programs (SAPs) should read chapter three of my book titled “Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century” available at www.jonesharvest.com.
Political reforms as urged by Chalker in her address at the conference on Africa resulted in Museveni’s reluctant opening up of political space and conducting regular presidential and parliamentary elections since 1996 which he has rigged ever since. Since NRM came to power Chalker has closely advised Museveni in the formulation of economic policies along Thatcher’s ideology much of which was continued under Tony Blair.
Thus, the formulation of economic policy and management of Uganda’s economy have been dominated by British money through private investment, aid and experts.
Under the terms of structural adjustment, it is required that developing countries undergoing structural adjustment “… rely heavily on foreign experts to guide development and ensure efficient project [program] selection” (John Brohman 1996). Uganda chose to hire British experts and advisers over others. Accordingly, Paul Collier, among other British experts, has played a crucial role in Uganda’s macroeconomic policy formulation. Like Chalker, Collier has continued to guide Uganda’s economy to this moment in 2010.
The ministry of finance, planning and economic development and central bank that have primary responsibility for macroeconomic policy formulation and resource allocation have been run by British experts. According to Sebastian Mallaby (2004), the ministry of finance is filled with a team of young British experts that run Uganda’s economy while Ugandans in the ministry have been sidelined and complained bitterly.
To make room for British experts, Museveni refused to invite back highly educated and experienced Ugandans in the diaspora. Instead he advised them to stay there, earn foreign currency and remit some of it to Uganda as their contribution to economic reconstruction and development. At the same time many experienced Ugandans that served under Obote were retrenched or marginalized leaving Uganda in the hands of inexperienced NRM cadres and young British economists. The difficulties of inexperience were ably described by Justice Kanyeihamba.
Thus, in exchange for keeping Museveni in power Britain has directed Uganda’s economy through policy formulation and private sector as the engine of growth. Journalists, economists and ministers mostly from Britain have described Museveni as indispensable for Uganda in part because he has maintained macroeconomic and political stability by trampling the rights of Ugandans. Tony Blair rewarded Museveni with hosting the Commonwealth Summit that has turned out a disaster for Britain and Uganda governments due to the embezzlement of funds.
British or foreign ownership of Uganda was captured in an article comparing Uganda and Tanzania. One commentator observed that “One (and informed) World Bank official has remarked to me privately that, despite all the favorable press on Uganda, Tanzania is actually about four years or more ahead of it [Uganda] in terms of truly nationally-owned (and thus sustainable) economic policy for overall development. Tanzania may seem to move more slowly he noted, and I agree, but it does so on a firmer and more stable base” (McDonald & Sahle 2002). This is a World Bank reporting!
Having given them almost all the service sectors and industries, Museveni has unilaterally begun to dish out land to foreigners while Ugandans and their so-called representatives in parliament just watch. Museveni mistakenly thinks that public land is his as president to dish out as he likes. Public land belongs to the people of Uganda! Museveni is giving land to foreigners not because he wants to develop Uganda but because he wants to secure foreign and in particular British protection and continued support as president. Ugandans are therefore paying a heavy price. Thus, those foreign powers that have kept Museveni in power have contributed to the suffering of Ugandans!
Museveni has been guided by foreigners especially Britain since the early 1980s. Paul Collier, William Pike and Linda Chalker in particular have been constant advisers. When you see Museveni and Chalker driving alone on Museveni ranches, this is not recreation. People have reasoned that during the ride Museveni receives instructions on how to run Uganda in the interest of Britain in return for his protection. Museveni then announces those instructions as his ideas which are then developed into policy by British economists in the ministry of finance and central bank and popularized by William Pike through the New Vision funded by Ronrho. Some commentators have – fairly or unfairly – described Museveni as an employee of Britain.
Let me end on a separate note. The purpose of articles I have been writing is to inform and begin a civil debate on how to turn Uganda around morally, economically, socially and ecologically. Britain and other foreigners operating in Uganda must realize that by keeping Museveni in power they are pushing Uganda towards a cliff – and we are almost there. The rising level of moral decay, human sacrifice, alcohol consumption, domestic violence, criminal activities in urban and rural areas, pornographic movies, bible prayer the whole night, ecological deterioration and diseases of poverty (jiggers, scabies and terrible body odor for lack of bathing soap) is an indisputable sign that Uganda is a failed state presided over by a dictator as recently described in a credible international magazine. Uganda needs a change of regime. Museveni has run his course. Museveni has not only become a liability to Uganda but to development partners especially to Britain that have sustained him in power. We must draw lessons from Ethiopia under Haile Selassie and Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko that when unjust status quo is maintained too long, the outcomes are devastating when the regime finally crumbles. Museveni regime will crumble for sure, what is needed is to do it sooner to minimize the damage.
Those who did not know that Museveni must go now you know and the choice is yours! Those who are benefiting from Museveni now must think about what will happen when the regime collapses – please think about that for the sake of your children.
UAH forumist working with UN in New York