7 February 2013

Uganda: Behold - Political Cynics Don't Seem to Rest


When I read the tongue in cheek opinion "Museveni of the Kaunda Suit is the best President we will never have" by Daniel Kalinaki, the Daily Monitor columnist and Managing Editor on January 31, I looked for Lee Kuan Yew's voluminous autobiography (From Third World to First.

The Singapore Story 1965- 2000) in my bookshelf. Yew governed his country for over three decades and in spite of shrill and obstructionist voices from cynics and pessimists, he firmly stayed on to fulfill an important mission - to transform his country into a First World.

I also checked the Government of Uganda statistics, World Bank datasets, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World fact book and other diverse credible data sources and there, I uncovered hugely progressive trends in Uganda's drive to prosperity. Indeed available data undresses Kalinaki's lamentations and partisan insinuations. Under President Museveni, indicators of real social economic progress are clear.

For example, in 1986, infant mortality was 122 for every 1,000 children born alive. Presently, it is 54 per 1,000 born alive. In 1986, the average life expectancy was 43 years of age, now it is 50.4 years for both female and male. In 1986, Uganda's economy was $0.246b in size, now it is $20b.

The economy has expanded more than 14 times since 1986. In 1986, tax collection was a miserable sh5b; it is now over sh7,000b.

In 1986, Uganda was generating only 60MW and had a kWh per capita of 28, now Uganda has installed power capacity of 828MW. In 1986, roads were in a pathetic state, the NRM has since done a total of 1,355km of new tarmac roads and repaired 1,621km of old tarmac roads since. In 1986, Uganda was receiving 98,405 tourists; the number has since grown to 1,151,356 today. In 1986, 56% of the population was below the poverty line.

That figure has dropped to 24.5% and continues to slide down. Numbers don't lie; they are not partisan neither are they emotional. Numbers are numbers. Of course, it is unacceptable that even one mother should die while giving birth. Efforts should be doubled to permanently stop this situation. However, the situation is improving.

The other credible argument could be that the Government should act fast enough to harness our geometric economic growth to create rewarding jobs for the unemployed youth in Uganda's surging population.

Perhaps, the question for Kalinaki would, therefore be; do the foregoing progressive numbers tantamount to 'rehearsed and insipid, like left-over bits from a hearty dinner' like you write in your cynical column?

Are numbers the same as partisan arguments like you seem to mislead your unsuspecting readers? Do these numbers appear to you like diminishing marginal returns? Since when did progressive indicators translate into diminishing returns? What could be the motivation of false, impassioned, highly sentimental, emotional and partisan diatribes of Kalinaki and his adherents in the wider media and politics?

For example, without any measure of data, but perhaps through wishful imagination, Kalinaki asserts that 'President Museveni's presidency continues to shrink"! Shrink to what? Political data is all over the place: President Museveni won past elections nationally with an unchallenged 68%.

The Afro barometer opinion surveys verdict for 2010 and 2011 was that 78% of the respondents believed that Uganda's situation was getting better.

Why are Ugandan elites and media highlighting these facts of progress in Uganda? Much as talking about challenges, which are unfortunately usually presented as failures, is okay, I think Uganda's intellectual class is involved in grand cherry picking of so-called NRM failures; first to feed their own biases and secondly to mobilise a shrinking base of regime change advocates in Uganda.

These regime change advocates have wishful and common rehearsed attack lines that they recycle from time to time. In the US's Republican Party, political operative Karl Rove started this self defeating practice of rehearsed attack lines; called zingers. Roves antics largely explain plummeting support of the Republican Party in the United States.

As citizens we must continuously unzing Uganda's version of these non data driven attack lines against progress. So, the Museveni of Kaunda suit is the same today whose firm belief in an enduring social economic and political order through a popular and durable Constitution based on principles of unity, peace, equality, democracy, social justice and progress remains undiminished.

He has moved from a mere ideological leader at the beginning of 1986, to a more experienced and pragmatic leader of today.

The writer is a Researcher and Public Policy Analyst

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