People close to Museveni will tell you (on condition you do not quote them) that he believes very strongly in dominating others. Deep in his heart he thinks God created him specifically for that role which he must bequeath to a member of his family. Some Ugandans who want Museveni to favor them call him God send to save Uganda! Museveni has a mission much larger than Uganda. On April 4, 1997 he disclosed that “My mission is to see that Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire [DRC] become federal states under one nation [and one leader]” (EIR Special Report 1997). He might add on Somalia at a later stage if his troops perform well there.
Earlier Museveni had revealed that as a pan-Africanist he had larger ambitions and would quit Uganda politics as soon as security had been restored. His dream of Tutsi Empire and political and military involvement in Burundi, Rwanda and DRC as part of that dream is well known. In fact Mugabe joined the DRC war in 1998/99 principally to stop Museveni from creating a Tutsi Empire in Middle Africa (Joseph N. Weatherby 2003).
To realize his ambition, he needed a solid base in Uganda. During the interim period of 1979/80, Museveni tested his popularity in his constituency and at national level and he found he was not popular. That is why he chose the guerrilla war path to power instead of waiting for the next elections. Since then he has chosen to rule Uganda by systematically squeezing opponents out of his path. And that is why he does not care much about the suffering of Ugandans because that is an inevitable outcome of his pursuit of power and domination. He has used a wide range of instruments: military, intelligence, collaboration with foreign powers, and structural adjustment program (SAP).
Before describing how he has used the SAP instrument, let us review briefly for easy reference the genesis and pillars of structural adjustment also known as economic recovery program or Washington Consensus.
From the end of WWII to around 1970, the global economy was dominated by the Keynesian model which had been developed during the economic depression of the 1930s. Keynes reasoned that during economic recessions, market forces and laissez faire capitalism fail to maintain full employment and economic growth. He recommended that the state must intervene and pump borrowed money into the economy to create demand for goods and services and create jobs while maintaining a tolerable level of inflation. The Keynesian model or revolution worked very well and the standard of living improved.
Then something went wrong during the 1970s and Keynesian model came under attack for causing stagflation (slow or stagnant economic growth, rising unemployment and rising inflation). Thinking that these hard times were temporary and the situation would return to post war golden era, governments around the world borrowed heavily from petrodollar funds at low but variable interest rates. Unfortunately the situation never returned to the golden days, instead it got worse. Critics of Keynes led by Hayek and Friedman argued that the Keynesian model had collapsed because of excessive state intervention (socialism) in the economy and too much money in circulation in pursuit of full employment. They advocated significant reduction of state intervention, control of money in circulation (monetarism) to lower inflation, promotion of private sector as the engine of economic growth and job creation under the full force of the invisible hand of market forces.
In 1979 and 1980 Thatcher and Reagan disciples of Hayek and Friedman were elected prime minister and president of United Kingdom and USA respectively. They adopted monetary policy which formed the basis of structural adjustment that was adopted in 1980 to address external debts, balance of payments difficulties and budget deficits etc.
Conservative governments in UK and USA together with IMF and the World Bank led by Thatcher called upon developing countries to “allow market forces to determine pattern of resource allocation; remove state intervention in both external and internal markets; provide incentives to foreign capital for investment and job creation; accept outward-oriented growth according to principles of comparative advantage as the basic engine of development; and rely heavily on foreign experts to guide development and ensure efficient project [program] selection” (John Brohman 1996). In short, SAP included stabilization, liberalization and privatization of national economies. Margaret Thatcher championed monetary policy (monetarism) an economic doctrine that emphasized the role of money in the nation’s economy.
Thatcher’s basic position was that government intervention in the economy should be limited to managing money supply (the rest to an invisible hand of market forces) which when too much causes inflation. To keep inflation low, interest rates have to be kept high (blocking investment and job creation opportunities). Consequently unemployment has become a major problem in countries undergoing economic reforms. Thatcher’s monetarism was emulated in many countries (including in Uganda through the central bank).
In 1986 Museveni inherited an economy in bad shape: an inflation rate in triple digits and external debt of over $1 billion; budget deficit and bloated public service sector. With an eye on dominating Ugandans by squeezing out opponents and boosting political, economic, education and health fortunes of Bahororo (Batutsi from Rwanda) and their Bahima and Batutsi cousins and in-laws, Museveni carefully studied structural adjustment model for a year and half to see how he could use it to achieve his larger goal.
He opted for the extreme ‘shock therapy’ version that implemented all elements of the model simultaneously and quickly so he could achieve his goal before opposition forces blocked his program. Without understanding his hidden sectarian agenda, Museveni received full backing of western powers, IMF, World Bank and development economists for the shock therapy version.
Museveni selectively retrenched staff he did not like and then privatized public enterprises giving some to his relatives and friends. Then he descended on the public service and removed many unwanted staff for tribal or political reasons. Many were retrenched to settle age old scores. He created space in privatized enterprises and civil service for his guerrilla fighters most of them his inexperienced (and possibly poorly educated) relatives, cousins and in-laws. Those who were retrenched were supposed to be absorbed by the private sector which was in shambles and was itself shedding staff due to outside competition and expensive intermediate imports.
Most of the retrenched staff ended up in the informal sector as under-employed or became unemployed altogether and took to drinking alcohol. Thus, a class of ‘new’ poor was created. People in this poverty trap situation who had been senior civil servants were more worried about where to get the next meal for their children than who was going to contest a parliamentary seat. Museveni took advantage and pushed his men and women into politics in all parts of the country and funded their campaigns. They got into parliament and rubber stamped his decisions including removing presidential term limits from the constitution so he becomes president for life!
Museveni introduced school fees and closed many schools and downgraded others, reasoning that the capacity exceeded students. Teachers’ housing and other benefits were dropped and many left the teaching profession. They were replaced by licensed unqualified teachers. Many children from poor families dropped out and those who continued graduated without learning anything and became functionally illiterate and unemployable and easy to control.
To cater for interests of his people, Museveni promoted establishment of private schools with all instructional materials provided, modern buildings constructed, qualified teachers hired and paid decent salaries. A dual system of education was thus created in Uganda for the poor and the rich. UPE which has turned out to be a disaster is designed for children from poor families. It is the impoverished youth that are now campaigning for Museveni’s re-election after he gave each unemployed youth a yellow shirt. Now you can see why Museveni refused to help them find employment through public works.
As in education, user charges were introduced in health. Working conditions deteriorated and many health personnel quit their profession. Many patients stayed away from health facilities because the service was expensive, or staff was away moonlighting or medicines were not available. Sick people cannot work and therefore sink deeper into poverty and powerlessness. In areas where jiggers have become an epidemic, feet and hands have been attacked making the victim helpless – can neither walk nor hold a hand hoe to grow food.
Museveni promoted the establishment of private healthcare facilities for the rich mostly from his group. Or in case of complications, patients from wealthy families are flown abroad for treatment.
Major changes were introduced in agriculture where the bulk of Ugandans earn their livelihood. Museveni removed subsidies, eliminated cooperatives that provided indispensable services including in very remote areas. Agriculture and rural development budget was drastically reduced to around four percent per annum instead of ten percent as agreed by NEPAD. Agriculture and livestock inputs have become very expensive forcing many farmers to resort to subsistence agriculture. Food insecurity is on the rise and around ten million out of a total of 33 million go to bed hungry every night.
Museveni who wants to develop Uganda like the city state of Singapore has promoted the service industries sector with a concentration in and around the capital city of Kampala now contributing some 70 percent of Uganda’s GDP. Most of these are foreign-owned and are highly capital-intensive whereas Uganda is a labor surplus country.
Although Uganda’s economy has experienced a commendable average growth rate of 6 percent per annum, the benefits of growth have been highly skewed in favor of the rich most of them members of Museveni tribe and cousins and in-laws. Thus 20 percent in the top income bracket earn over 50 percent of national economy while 20 percent in the lowest income bracket have become poorer. Uganda has not yet reached the standard of living enjoyed in 1970. Obote’s record still stands.
According to Museveni, job creation is the responsibility of private sector. Yet private sector especially small and medium enterprises that create jobs are unable to borrow and start business or expand existing ones because of very high interest rates and expensive imported inputs due to currency devaluation. In Uganda there has been a triumph of low inflation over high unemployment. Recently Museveni thanked staff of the central bank for a job well including keeping interest rates very high to keep inflation low. The price: over 80 percent of Uganda youth from poor families are unemployed. Many of those who are employed earn subsistence or below subsistence level wages under labor flexibility principles that empower employers to hire and fire at will and fix wages with individual employees. Trade unions were weakened to the extent that they no longer engage in collective bargaining with employers.
With concurrence of donors Museveni has invested heavily in sophisticated intelligence networks, police and military forces and prisons to preempt dissent. Intimidation and abuse of human rights including torture are on the rise. In September 2009 there was a demonstration by unarmed people mostly unemployed youth. Museveni authorized disproportionate use of force that resulted in over 70 people dead and over 100 wounded. To the best of my knowledge, the international community including the Security Council did not protest but when a similar incident took place in Guinea, the world was in shock and the Security Council acted appropriately.
Museveni has been applauded by the donor community for macroeconomic stability, economic liberalization and privatization of Uganda’s economy now firmly in foreign hands working in partnership with Museveni Bahororo relatives and cousins and in-laws who are becoming filthy rich by the day. On the other hand, the majority of Ugandans are sinking deeper into poverty with over fifty percent absolutely poor. Museveni who has been described as a dictator governing Ugandans through the barrel of the gun continues to enjoy unprecedented donor support despite his blatant sectarianism, corruption and dictatorship. It is mind boggling why the entire international community continues to praise Museveni sky high as a regional leader and visionary even in the presence of spreading diseases of poverty and environmental decay. Sending Uganda troops to Somalia is not a sufficient condition to earn Museveni that much donor applause. May be there is something else Museveni is doing for the donor community that Ugandans do not know yet. If the rate of impoverishment and frustration continues, the unexpected might happen from anywhere. Let us see what happened in Ethiopia and Zaire.
In the early 1970s, we were told that Emperor Haile Selassie was in full control of his empire. When troops of young officers from remote barracks in southern region reached the outskirts of Addis Ababa in 1974 looking for the emperor, the donor community panicked turned against the emperor and accused him of an autocratic style that made him a flawed leader. He was whisked away from the palace in a beetle Volkswagen vehicle (Haile Selassie was used to riding in Rolls Royce) while the imperial guard and army generals watched!
Mobutu the darling of the west was almost killed by his trusted troops at Kinshasa airport and his reliable guards at Gbadolite airport as he flew out into exile in a cargo plane borrowed from UNITA. Mobute was used to flying in Concorde!
With cover from the international community Museveni has built an infrastructure of repression and autocratic rule that even those abroad are living in fear of getting harmed. Consequently, Museveni has total domination of Uganda (in the civil service, business sector and security forces). He has managed to do this using structural adjustment model, among others, to strangle his real or imaginary opponents. He is steadily extending his influence in eastern and central Africa where his mission is to create federal states under one nation and one ruler who is himself. In these circumstances, it is the view of many Ugandans that the donor community cannot escape blame for the suffering of the majority of Ugandans.