Thought and Ideas
Uganda’s independence dream was thwarted but it can be realised
Posted Sunday, October 13 2013 at 01:00
There was a lot of fanfare on Wednesday October 9 to mark Uganda’s 51 years of independence. A reflection on Uganda’s independence though, depicts a gloomy reality!
It Independence, Uganda was a strong agro-based economy. We exported cotton, coffee, Tea, Tobacco and as well as Copper. Uganda was faring better than today’s mighty tigers; Taiwan and Korea. The education system was highly regarded and accessible to all Ugandan children who had the ability to pass exams. Today’s senior and retiring civil servants can attest to the fact that while many of them came from very humble backgrounds, they managed to make it to the highest institution in the land; Makerere University College.
Trouble started when Idi Amin over threw the Obote government in a military coup in 1971 and as part of what he named the Africanisation of the economy, expelled Asians. This denied the country both the educational and business skills. Things got worse when even skilled Ugandans later fled the brutal regime.
Out of the first 27 years of independence, 15 of them (1971-1986) can be written off, having been characterised by declining levels of economic and social services as well as armed conflict in the early 1980s. It is for this reason that majority Ugandans sighed with relief when the National Resistance Movement took over power, despite the illegality with which it had done so. Many people thought with the elite leadership, there was going to be a difference. People expected economic growth, improvement of social services and above all observance of the rule of law.
But 27 solid years of uninterrupted purported ‘elite’ leadership is as embarrassing as it is frustrating! Like I stated in my State of the Nation Response; consistently, Uganda has witnessed poor service delivery, evidenced in critical sectors such as health, education and agriculture; high unemployment levels; increased corruption and accumulation of wealth by a few individuals at the expense of national building. There is unprecedented rise in wealth disparities, with benefits of economic growth going disproportionately to the wealthiest 20 per cent of the population; heightened levels of poverty and hunger; declining school standards and high school drop-out rate and poor agriculture sector which employs over 73 per cent of the population.
The last 51 years have shown a deficiency in democratic governance i.e. for all the nine Heads of State, none has ever handed over power peacefully. In the words of Dr Kiiza Besigye, “they have all been bombed out of power” and into exile.
For the last 27 years, Museveni has maintained a tight grip on power through a combination of factors. When he assumed office, all political party activities were banned. He allowed only one party, the NRM to operate under the guise of a no-party “movement system”. As it was confirmed later by a Constitutional Court ruling in 2004, the NRM was already a fully-fledged political party in charge of a single party state.
This is in addition to maintaining stronghold over the army; ensuring that the military interferes in the conduct of elections, and exploited people’s fear of the return of violence by presenting himself as the only one who can guarantee their security.
In 2005, the government pushed through a controversial constitutional amendment that lifted the presidential term limits; today the same government continues to erode people’s rights through enactment of laws like the Public Order Management Bill! President Musesveni and his henchmen/women are determined to see that they are also just ‘bombed out of power’!
Civil servants continue to grapple with low salaries, wages as well as non-payment of their salaries and pension.
In the FY 2012/2013, government agreed with teachers to the effect that teacher’s salaries would be increased by 15 per cent, 20 per cent and 15 per cent in FYs 2012/2013, 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 respectively. It is dishonesty and impunity when the same government backtracks on its commitment and mumbles to teachers and Ugandans about prioritising infrastructure.
All Ugandans would want to have cheap energy and good roads but there is need to have balanced growth. Human resource, just like energy and infrastructure is a crucial engine for development. Uganda will neither industrialise nor efficiently utilise technology when majority people are graduates of a half -baked education!
The way forward
We cannot continue to watch with our arms folded as Uganda slides into a failed state! We need to re-awaken the spirit which existed at independence by demanding and joining the struggle for self-determination and building a nation we want for our children.
The country once again needs selfless people, who can say no to corruption and waste; who are competent enough to follow things to the detail to ensure that institutions and persons in offices live to their expectation.
We don’t have to re-invent the wheel; brilliant ideas are already in place. A report by eminent persons on the post 2015 agenda emphasises inclusive growth and development as the guiding principle. We therefore only need to refocus our development strategies so that no man, woman, boy and girl is left behind.
Also needed is a redefinition of democracy; the narrow and abused definition of democracy as ‘mere elections’ which are never free and fair should not blind us that there is democracy in Uganda. We have to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights which have long been abused.
At the recent ‘Third Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture’, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said; “...no society can long remain prosperous without the rule of law and respect for human rights
Need I say more!
Mr Mafabi, (MP, Leader of Opposition in Parliament)