When you examine closely what Museveni – and senior officials – says and does you find there are glaring contradictions most of the time. This is because Museveni is torn between two forces – the people of Uganda on the one hand and donors on the other whose interests are different. Museveni speaks a socialist language which is popular with Ugandans but acts in capitalist terms favored by donors and foreign business community that control Uganda mostly through British experts and the business community (most Asians are British citizens). In his speeches Museveni uses socialist/populist language based on the defunct ten-point program (which had been designed to end colonial economic structures of producing and exporting raw materials in exchange for manufactured products) which was replaced in 1987 by structural adjustment program based on capitalist principles borrowed largely from Thatcher’s ideology. At the rhetorical level Ugandans like what they hear only to be disappointed by what Museveni then implements that disproportionately benefits foreigners and Uganda surrogates mostly connected with the first family.
While the majority of Ugandans have long wanted Museveni to disappear from the political scene, they do not have the power and means to do so yet. On the other hand, foreigners that want Museveni to stay have done all they could to keep him in power. They turned a blind eye and deaf ear when the presidential term limits were being removed from the constitution, they have not condemned him for the atrocities his troops have caused in neighboring countries including allegations of genocide against Hutus in DRC, murdering of unarmed demonstrators in Kampala in September 2009 or refusal to appoint an independent electoral commission for 2011 elections, signaling that the elections will be rigged again as in the past. Some foreign commentators have condoned the use of disproportionate force and abuse of human rights by Museveni to keep the country stable for business. The implementation of harsh structural adjustment program had foreign endorsement. It has resulted in too much suffering for the majority of Ugandans witness the mushrooming diseases of poverty including bodies disfigured by jiggers and under-nutrition. The following are illustrations to show that what Museveni says is contradicted by what he does because Uganda lost its sovereignty with the signing of structural adjustment agreement with IMF in 1987.
1. While addressing the OAU Summit on July 9, 1990, Museveni correctly stated that Uganda’s (and Africa in general) principal problem is that it lacks an integrated and self-sustaining economy. Consequently, there are serious problems of debt, high (functionally) illiteracy rates, poor health, poor housing, dirty water and poor nutrition. Museveni has not made a dent in solving these problems because Uganda continues to export raw materials, according to the imposed classical comparative advantage, that do not earn enough foreign currency to pay off the debt, structural adjustment denied funds to social sectors especially of education, housing and healthcare. Export of food under non-traditional exports (NTEs) regime has resulted in Ugandans eating too little and of non-nutrient value. Consequently some 10 million Ugandans go to bed hungry every night and forty per cent of Uganda children under the age of five are under-nourished. And because women are under-nourished they are producing many babies that are underweight with permanent physical and mental abnormalities or die early. Brain develops during the first three years of human life from conception. This is the time nutrition should be perfect but in Uganda’s cased that is when feeding is at its worst. Poor housing has contributed significantly to the spread of jiggers that have killed Ugandans, disfigured their bodies and reduced their productivity.
2. During the 26th Assembly of Heads of State and Government on July 9, 1990, Museveni again correctly stated that deliberate government intervention in the economy is necessary to address imperfections of market forces (and laissez faire capitalism). Since Uganda adopted structural adjustment in 1987 based on the invisible hand of market forces, private sector as an engine of growth with a trickle down mechanism to distribute the benefits of economic growth, many things have gone wrong such as skewed income distribution in favor of the rich, unemployment which stands at over 80 percent among the youth and poverty which has increased for 20 percent of Ugandans. Yet Museveni and his government are unable to take corrective intervention for fear that they would be interpreted as introducing socialism through the back door.
3. On many occasions including in his OAU statement on July 9, 1990, Museveni has talked passionately about processing Uganda commodities to add value, eliminate losses and improve length of the product. Yet Uganda continues to export raw materials based on static comparative advantage that has been imposed on her by foreign powers. Besides, Uganda is de-industrializing because of cheap and subsidized or used imports. While addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 16, 2005, Museveni reported to his fellow Heads of State and Government that “Some external advisers have argued that Uganda is better off by allowing second hand clothes from outside to suffocate our resurgent textile industry! Incredible but true. Where aid is available, it should not be accompanied by excessive meddling by the aid providers”. Here Museveni was clear about who is determining what to import and produce in Uganda. With Uganda textiles unable to compete, jobs are lost and forward and backward linkages are cut off with adverse outcomes. In her article on privatization of Uganda’s public enterprises, Kesaasi demonstrated how Margaret Thatcher’s ideology was imposed on Uganda resulting in massive privatization of enterprises including those that needed improved management rather than outright privatization. In his statement of September 25, 1997, Kategaya reported to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City that Uganda was implementing far-reaching (externally imposed) policy of liberalization, privatization and investment promotion which had led to several challenges. “Now we are grappling with the dimension of ensuring that economic progress benefits the people, particularly the poorest”, Kategaya noted. Government has not been able to address this challenge because the operation of market forces and private sector as the engine of economic growth and distribution of benefits through trickledown mechanism still reign supreme. Consequently state intervention including in providing employment to the unemployed youth has been kept out of the economy by external capitalist forces.
4. During the 56th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Prime Minister Nsibambi spoke at a discussion panel on November 2, 2001. He observed that globalization has facilitated labor movements that have aggravated the problem of brain drain. Yet Uganda continues to encourage well qualified and experienced citizens that easily find jobs on the international labor market to leave and are replaced by very expensive and mostly junior foreign experts with no or little knowledge of Uganda’s history and cultural configuration. Studies conducted in the 1990s have shown that 70 percent of Sub-Saharan trained people emigrate abroad “and it often receives more bad advice per capita than any other continent in the world” (Development 1996:2). Clearly inexperienced NRM cadres together with junior foreign experts particularly in the powerful ministry of finance and central bank have done a lot of harm to the nation and people of Uganda. Kanyeihamba (2002) eloquently expressed the disadvantages of inexperience in trade negotiations. Yet there are Ugandans abroad and at home with experience but cannot be hired for various reasons including that they did not participate in the guerrilla war or are not close to the center of power.
5. Uganda officials have talked favorably about the benefits of school feeding programs that improve attendance and performance especially of girls and have been endorsed by NEPAD, calling on all African government to facilitate or provide school meals. While addressing a High-Level Plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Permanent Representative Butagira reported that Uganda supports school meals using home-grown foodstuffs. Yet implementation has remained a problem and the president has asked the World Bank (believed not to favor school lunch) to make a study with recommendations (this is just to remove pressure from Museveni during the campaign because opposition candidates favor school lunch programs). The study is unnecessary because the benefits of school meals in developed and developing countries are very well known.
Clearly Uganda under Museveni has lost independence to determine priorities and execute them in favor of Ugandans. Museveni who relies on foreign support to stay in power will protect foreign interests over those of Uganda citizens. To do otherwise would be risking being abandoned. And that Museveni can’t do! Consequently Ugandans have paid a heavy price so that Museveni stays in power.