Since January 26, when NRM celebrated its 32nd anniversary of coming to power, there have been an outpouring of proclamations and praises on how the NRM government has transformed Uganda.
However, we need to distinguish what developments are directly attributed to NRM and what is a contribution of other development factors and actors.
According to Doug Reeler of the Centre for Development Practice in South Africa, in his book A Three Fold Theory of Social Change, states that there are three different types of change processes that contribute to development. In which of these does NRM fall?
The first is emergent change. This happens as people, even those living in caves, lead their daily lives. It's driven by human intuition, natural factors, exposure, problems, learning and adaptions to new ideas and ways of life. It happens both consciously and unconsciously. There is limited external control over this process.
This is like the current digital technology revolution which is changing the world. So, irrespective of which government is in power, smartphones would still reach Uganda. Even Joseph Kony, who leads a bush life, uses satellite technology.
The second type of change is transformative change. This happens when society is stuck in a stage of development or has reached a crisis. When ideas, classes, groups etc, clash. These contradictions may get resolved peacefully, forcefully or both ways. Thereafter, society gets freed from the contradictions that held back development and a new society is re-born. This process introduces changes in societal structure, ideas and relationships.
One such example is the NRM's armed struggle. The contradictions started when UPM lost an election in 1980 which it said was stolen. Its leader Yoweri Museveni, started a guerilla war under NRA/M.
After getting into power, the NRM's early government was widely broad-based, to accommodate the various interests. This process has also seen new parties, NRM and FDC overtake UPC and DP. The structure of the middle class, the distribution of wealth and the poverty atlas has also changed.
Another one is the liberalisation of the economy which the NRM states under its 3rd principle of socio-economic transformation as one of its achievements. However, the NRM came to power on the back of a Marxist-Leninist ideology of socialism.
This coincided with the collapse of the communist bloc. Then with structural adjustment conditions from the World Bank and IMF, since the government wanted financial support, it was compelled to introduce capitalist economic reforms, to be where we are today.
So, the above examples show how transformative change processes, driven by contradictions and multiple actors, resulted in the achievements of today. NRM was a player, among others, trading off its own positions to accommodate other opposing views.
The third type of change is projectable change. These are preferred futures that project possible visions or outcomes and then the key actors formulates conscious plans to bring about change towards this vision. It may be participatory but key players take the lead.
This is where NRM can be credited more, like in formulating; Vision 2040, PEAP, NDP, peace and stability, Universal Primary Education (UPE), decentralisation, restoring cultural institutions, National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads), Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) etc, despite the mix of successes and challenges. While donors, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector also contributed.
However, no particular type of change is exclusive. The three types of changes may occur at the same time with varying degrees of dominance by one or two, depending on the context.
As such, one can't take sole claim to deliver development because it is already happening in the day to day lives of people as a natural process. As Doug Reeler states, 'Change cannot be engineered but can only be cultivated'.
So, based on the above theory of social change, one can weigh where the NRM stands in its contribution to the development of Uganda.
Mr Kanyangareng is a development specialist and civil society activist.