13 October 2017

Uganda: Mr President, You Need to First Clean Your House

opinion

Mr President, I read your recent rant about the uninformed and arrogant way in which MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine and his group behaved at the Mandela Memorial day at Makerere.

In the same missive, you bragged about the NRM's ability to demolish views of its opponents when written down, because of its solid force, as far as "ideology" and "action" are concerned.

Contrary to that, you went ahead to note: "even when we under-perform, it is not for lack of knowledge, but for lack of means, or lack of devotion by our cadres."

This left me confused. If one has the knowledge and ability to address everything, wouldn't they know how and where to find the resources they lack? And with the knowledge that some of your cadres are not devoted, wouldn't you find and employ others that are devoted?

Isn't it a weak prognosis of underperforming if you claim all knowledge and ability?

Mr President, by you stating, "only in the last 31 years, especially after 2007 when we finally defeated the ADF in the Semliki valley, that Uganda has had peace for the first time in the last 500 years", one would imagine, and maybe even expect, that relative peace, and security would translate into inclusive economic development, which is not the case for Uganda.

Uganda has had an average annual growth of 4.5 per cent between 2010 and 2016, compared to seven per cent in the 1990s and early 2000s, a time when Uganda still had some pockets of insurgencies as you clearly note.

It is also worth mentioning that calculations of GDP are based on monetary aspects. By leaving out the non- monetary aspects of development and well-being, we create an illusion of growth when actually the lives of the ordinary citizens are not enhanced.

Mr President, if you took time to study the demographics of our country, you would notice that many people today do not actually appreciate or comprehend your narrative on restoring peace. They are trying to navigate and thrive, but the social economic environment is not conducive.

They are experiencing a consistent growth in both petty and fatal crimes, with the number of robberies, kidnappings and murders rising every day, creating anxiety.

So, while you and your team responded to what you considered political and civil insecurity of your time, the current generation is suffocating in unsolved crimes. Security organs are unresponsive to the people's call for help but are swift to deal with social and political opposition and demonstrations.

Mr President, while you agree with the fact that there are high levels of unemployment, you seem to fall back on solutions that you came up with during your heydays, but failed to implement, and are adamant to restructure, given the dynamic nature of the current local and global ecosystems.

According to recent surveys, 64 per cent of the working population is engaged in some form of subsistence agriculture.

In commercializing agriculture, you seem to still be working within the IMF and World Bank's structural adjustment program framework that required you to dissolve all public institutions.

Although you know that these structural adjustments proved detrimental, your NRM government has not restructured to encourage cooperatives.

Mr President, when everyone is moving towards mechanization to improve productivity, your government policy was distribution of rudimentary tools (hoes) to the population. Where the world is investing in mechanized irrigation systems, you are promoting drip irrigation!

Mr President, your policy on industrialization has also let us down. While it's important to encourage foreign direct investment, you need to ensure that locals stand to benefit from this process.

However, when we look at our foreign direct investment policy in regard to linkages, technology transfer, profit remittances, and employment, locals have hardly benefited.

Many of these FDIs buy their supplies from their home countries, give very little training to the local labor force, repatriate most of the profits and bring labor (both technical and semi-skilled) from their home countries.

Mr President, you are quick to blame the opposition for spearheading/participating in opposing your efforts and work (new industries, and even the amendment of the land bill), but you forget that some of your so-called cadres are the prime reason why the public has such growing distrust in your government and its processes.

Names of your close cadres have been mentioned in official reports on land, and other project-related corruption scandals; but instead of reprimanding them, you have 'rewarded' them.

Mr President, times have changed. While pan-Africanism was viewed and comprehended as an integral ideology, in the context of your generation, it's socially and culturally viewed differently. The world today is virtually borderless.

Ideas, information, products, services and markets are getting more accessible irrespective of physical boarders. While the idea of creating trading blocs is good and commendable, it is not the basis for development. Please look at what's happening in the West.

Countries are primarily doing everything possible to attract capital, and capital is looking for countries with a conducive economic environment.

East Africa, for example, is attracting capital, but that capital is flowing towards Kenya and Rwanda, with little coming towards Uganda. Is this because Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame are more passionate about pan- Africanism?

Certainly not.

@YManafa

The author is a concerned Ugandan

Uganda

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