Museveni hits back in row with donors

Monday March 15 2010

President Museveni

KEEP IT: President Museveni says the country does not need donor aid pegged on governance issues. 

By Tabu Butagira & Martin Luther Oketch

Kampala

President Museveni has hit back in a continuing row with donors telling them not to ask questions about governance. The President’s comments on Friday came on the same day this newspaper revealed that three senior western diplomats had written to the Electoral Commission over the slow pace of reforms ahead of next year’s election.

Put aid elsewhere
Speaking during the launch of a book on economic reforms in Uganda, President Museveni said donors should not tie development assistance to demands for better governance and democracy. “Donor aid should come in areas where Uganda needs development not in governance,” Mr Museveni said. “I am already an expert in governance who can again lecture me about governance?”

While President Museveni has previously told off donors, his latest comments come amidst growing local and international pressure on his government to improve governance and protect civil liberties.

The United States government, which is a key ally, has made democracy and good governance top of its agenda in Uganda under the Obama administration and is closely monitoring the road to the election.

The US ambassador to Uganda, Mr Jerry Lanier and his counterparts Martin Shearman (UK) and Joroen Verhaul (Netherlands) on March 3 co-wrote to Badru Kiggundu, the Electoral Commission chairman, warning that a failure to carry out reforms could erode confidence in the EC and put the credibility of the 2011 election at risk.

The government has brought four Bills to Parliament in response to calls for electoral reform but donors, the opposition and independent viewers say these are inadequate.

President Museveni’s statement indicates the government’s unwillingness to respond to pressure to implement more radical reforms such as disbanding the Electoral Commission as called for by the opposition.

Donors still fund a third of the national budget but say governance failures are affecting development and national stability. The World Bank resident representative recently issued its strongest statement yet in a scathing criticism of the government’s failure to deal with corruption.

Opposition chips in
While the President wants to keep donors out of the domestic political sphere, the opposition wants more involvement by the international community.

Responding to the envoy’s letter to the Electoral Commission, the acting Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Christopher Kibanzanga (FDC; Busongora South), said: “The donors have the key; they pushed President Museveni to accept multi-partyism [in 2005] and when they called him over the Anti-homosexuality Bill, the President immediately changed his position.”

MP Kibanzanga added: “If the donors tell him to accept the electoral reforms we are pushing for as the opposition, there is no doubt Mr Museveni will accept them within days.”

Information minister Kabakumba Masiko, however, said it was irregular for diplomats to bypass the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and transact business directly with domestic institutions. “They should use the right channel and work with [government] to concretise democratic gains in the country and the achievements so far made by the EC,” she said.

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