President Museveni on Tuesday unveiled a new 10-point programme to turn Uganda into a “first-world” country within the next 50 years, singling out expected oil revenues as the primary fuel to drive the transformation.
Mr Museveni led his then rebel National Resistance Army (NRA) guerrilla force to victory in 1986 on the back of a 10-point programme. It outlined the key things the new government planned to do to breathe new life into a country ravaged by decades of misrule, armed insurrection and civil strife.
Yesterday, in a nationally-televised golden jubilee celebrations speech at Kololo Independence Grounds, the President said overcoming what he called 10 key “bottlenecks” (see list) would make Uganda leap into the middle-income category within a “few years”, and march towards a first-world status within five decades.
Mr Museveni has ruled Uganda for more than half of its 50 years of independence, more than the combined period served by his eight predecessors. He argues that he spent much time fighting intermittent rebel groups, recovering the economy and restoring the fundamentals of statehood such as building the army, reviving the economy and reinstating human security.
Deepening democratic governance and eliminating sectarianism, two key items in the original 10-point programme that the President did not refer to in yesterday’s address; feature afresh in the repackaged plan.
“We have identified these bottlenecks and started working on them,” Mr Museveni said in a speech he rushed as the heavens threatened to open up. “Uganda without doubt will become a medium-income country in the next few years and certainly a first (world) class in 50 years.”
Not yet there
There is a general agreement among Ugandans that the 50 years of independence have not put the country where it should be, with leaders in different political parties offering varying accounts to explain how progress was hamstrung.
The often acrimonious disagreement among the political elite was manifest yesterday: Opposition leaders boycotted the national fete, claiming there was nothing to celebrate because Mr Museveni, in power since 1986, has run down the country and stifled legitimate political dissent and fundamental human rights and freedoms, requiring yet another liberation.
A history of military coups, economic and political mismanagement as well as corruption come top among the drawbacks of a country that relies almost 30 per cent on foreign donors to fund its Shs11 trillion budget, 50 years after the British colonialists left.
Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who in 1962 handed over the instruments of independence to Uganda’s first Executive Prime Minister, Dr Apollo Milton Obote, at the same Kololo grounds, attended yesterday’s colourful anniversary.
More than a dozen African presidents and heads of state, among them Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki and Benin’s Thomas Yayi Boni (reigning African Union chairman), graced the occasion. And so did His Highness the Aga Khan, who together with President Museveni, had on Monday, launched the 250-megawatt Bujagali hydro-power dam.
Dark clouds gathered over Kololo as Mr Museveni ascended the improvised dais on the back of a military truck to address the nation, forcing him to deliver his message in only 26 minutes, the shortest of his speeches in years.
Elsewhere, reports of the arrests of government’s opponents, and confinement of some in their homes under the colonial-era “preventive arrest” law evoked painful memories of imperial highhandedness to slightly dampen an otherwise exciting observance of this independence milestone.
The government suspended any golden jubilee events upcountry so Ugandans could gather at Kololo. It worked. The crowd was huge, filling up the 5,250-seater brand new pavilion with scores more crowding into large tents and open-air sitting spaces. There was an unending push-and-shove contest between security personnel and the surging crowds.
“I came to attend this golden jubilee event because I was not there when Uganda got independence,” said 29-year-old Jimmy Ogwang-Otim, a teacher. “We are grateful to Milton Obote for working hard with others to ensure Uganda got independence and I am pleased with Museveni because Kololo looks so nice and beautiful.” Moments earlier, Mr Ogwang-Otim leaped over other guests in the front row to snatch two sodas from disorderly service providers, declaring: “I came here to celebrate.”
The President arrived in an open-roof S500 Mercedes Benz limousine with wife Janet by his side, and the couple responded to a cheering crowd by punching the warm air with the thumbs-up symbol of the ruling party.
There were 32 vehicles in the presidential convoy, including two luxury Toyota Land Cruisers that Mr Museveni alternately uses. He said his government’s focus now is on modernising the infrastructure and fixing the energy deficit to attract investors to create jobs, provide services and earn foreign exchange.
Mr Museveni said: “The sovereign players in modern times are two: the investor and the consumer. The political elite and administrators should facilitate them.” An elaborate parade by army, police and prisons officers kept the crowd animated, but the excitement went a notch higher when fighter jets roared overhead.
To Mr Robert Asiimwe, 22, an electrical engineering student at Kyambogo University, this was the day to redeem the country. “I think the President captured the major issues in his speech, as a country we have achieved a lot, but there are still challenges of many qualified people unable to get jobs; roads not being in good condition and sub-standard hospitals,” he said.
Old 10-point plan
• Consolidation of National security and elimination of all forms of sectarianism
• Defending and consolidating National Independence
• Building an independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy
• Restoration and improvement of Social services and the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged areas
• Elimination of corruption and misuse of power
• Redressing errors that have resulted in the dislocation of sections of the popu lation and improvement of others
• Co-operation with other African countries in defending human and democratic rights of our brothers in other parts of Africa
• Following an economic strategy of mixed economy,
New 10-point plan
• Fighting ideological dis-orientation
• Eliminating sectarianism
• Improving education to refine human resource
• Facilitating private sector-led economic growth
• Developing road, rail and electricity infrastructure
• Market expansion through regional integration
• Pursue industrialisation for exports’ value addition
• Develop the service sector to create jobs
• Modernise agriculture to increase household incomes
• Deepen democratic governance