Uganda: Museveni, Don't You See You Are Suffocating Us

In 2016, Mr. Museveni's government adopted what it called Economic and Commercial Diplomacy policy.

It aimed at using the now 36 Ugandan missions to promote Uganda as a good destination for vacation, investment and source of quality produce.

Being a poor with chronic financial stress, the policy was piloted at the beginning with about four embassies, including Berlin and Abu Dhabi. More than Shs 4 billion was sank in. This policy has become of age and is supposed to be rolled out at all the 36 missions next financial year that begins in July.

And ministry of Foreign Affairs has requisitioned for Shs 16 billion to finance it. Each embassy will spend at least Shs 355 million on commercial diplomacy. Embassies are required to participate in tourism expos organized in countries of their service and trade shows. It is one of the many initiatives by the regime to market Uganda.

There are other initiatives by for example export promotions board, tourism promotions board and I think Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Tourism is now Uganda's number one foreign exchange earner bringing in about $1.4 billion annually.

According to information contained in the National Budget Framework Paper 2019/20, the tourism sector, when everything including money paid directly to hotels is counted, generates about Shs 6.8 trillion annually. The sector also employs about 600,000 people.

Persuading a tourist to spend one additional night in Uganda according to World Bank, would add 7 per cent to our exports and 1 per cent to our GDP. Tourism contributed about 3% to the GDP in 2017. Government reports that tourism generated about 229,000 jobs directly in 2017.

I have singled out one sector to show you the cost of a bad leader to a country and its population. After spending billions to market Uganda, we are now at square one as they say. Images of the brutal arrest of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi have been splashed all over the world for everybody including the tourists we want to attract to see.

Images of Police brutalizing citizens supporting Kyagulanyi/Bobi Wine are stuck with us. What about Police and Special Forces Command (SFC) unleashing terror in Kasese just because Dr. Kizza Besigye is in town. You all probably have seen Residential District Commissioners equivalent of DCs under former President Milton Obote invading radio stations and switching off transmitters because of Besigye.

Opposition politicians cannot address public rallies; they can't sing in the case of Bobi Wine and can't speak to people even through the airwaves. The military stationed almost in every village in Kampala; and Wakiso can't allow us to breath. In truth, we are suffocating.

But as all these things are happening, the Electoral Commission has released what it calls a roadmap to 2021. Even Museveni's party released theirs.

Museveni has been meeting his agents who now have resolved that he will permanently rule Uganda. There are some naïve people who will ask: "Why don't you just defeat the man?" Defeating him, we have done, but the man captured all of us and wants to continue dominating us.

If you can't meet elected FDC leaders, can't meet or speak to potential supporters (public), what remains for you to do as a politician? That is the situation that we must fight before we even think of elections. Certainly, when these elections come, we will use them to continue mobilizing until these hurdles are overcome, using elections to dislodge the dictator is still a remote chance.

Unfortunately for Uganda, religious and traditional leaders have refused to play their part. I think they have decided to position themselves to benefit from squandered wealth before the dictator finally falls. Maybe they are praying! Therefore, looking at one violation is the simple way to deal with our situation.

At 74, I think Mr. Museveni has thrown away all the pretense. He won't allow any competition even for the sake of legitimacy. We were supposed to hold elections in about seven districts including Kassanda and Bugweri.

Those ones he stopped. We were supposed to have elections in hundreds of town councils and sub-counties, even those ones he stopped. The man is afraid of any political gathering. Instead of quarrelling over who should be the next joint opposition presidential candidate, I think, and I might be wrong, our focus should be on galvanizing the population to squeeze the man out of power.

I feel bad that people I thought were more subservient than us, such as Ethiopians and Sudanese, have been able to do it. I know the state structures there are different but the people have picked courage at the right time.

Of course here we are dealing with a tribal or clan militia, largely recruited and trained by the man. But we really must have a cut off.

The author is Kira Municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament.

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