Ten issues Museveni faces in new term

Wednesday May 12 2021
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President Museveni (with a stick) welcomed by locals during the 195-kilometre trek in Luweero District in 2019. The walk was meant to honour National Resistance Army (NRA) fighters. PHOTO / ABUBAKER LUBOWA

By Arthur Arnold Wadero
By TABU BUTAGIRA

As the presidential flag bearer of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, Mr Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa themed his campaign on “securing the future” of Uganda, if re-elected.

He won the January 14 vote with 58 per cent, according to the Electoral Commission (EC), a victory that his closest challenger Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, of the National Unity Platform (NUP) contested.

The Supreme Court sealed the win when Bobi prematurely withdrew his election petition, paving the way for today’s inauguration at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds.

Whereas the swearing-in legitimates Mr Museveni’s victory, it also simultaneously opens the gate to a hard work that the incumbent has done for 35 years.

He starts the new tenure amid a politically fractured country in which for the first time he lost the central region to a challenger, Bobi, who was only a toddler when Mr Museveni seized state power in 1986.

Besides, the country is grappling with Covid-19 and its adverse ramifications which have illuminated existing fissures in health, economy and other sectors.
 To secure Uganda’s future as promised, the President has to fix these 10 big-ticket issues.

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1. Unemployment: This has been an elephant in the room for years, but magnified by the rapid increase in the population of Uganda, from 15 million in 1986 to an estimated 42 million today. The number of educated young people, mainly graduates, too has significantly grown and they are met by scant job opportunities. The World Bank, as of February, proposed that Uganda’s economy will require to create at least 700,000 jobs per year, as opposed to the current 75,000 jobs annually, to keep up with the labour force pressure.  

Official figures place unemployment among Ugandans aged 15-25 at 83 per cent, spotlighting the danger of jobless youth that experts warn could be recruited into crimes, violent demonstrations and cause instability.

In the ending term, Mr Museveni’s government focussed on accelerated industrialisation by attracting foreign investors, largely from China, to invest in Uganda.  Dozens of new factories have in the past few years been opened under the watch of Investment Minister Evelyn Anite and 27 industrial parks, with the largest being the 2,200-acre Kampala Industrial Park Namanve, being established or designated.

To bring down the cost of production, President Museveni last week proposed that his government will take electricity directly to the industrial parks and eliminate middlemen such as Umeme, which earns from power distribution.

2. Poverty eradication: When President Museveni snapped state power in 1986, nearly six out of every ten Ugandans lived below poverty line (then $1 per day threshold). Today, however, the figure is down to 19.7 per cent. But these statistics mask the reality. Although they suggest poverty is down by almost 30 percentage points, out computations show that about 8.3 million Ugandans are poor today, almost the same figure of poor people back in 1986. The widespread poverty subsists despite attempts through a plethora of initiatives such as Poverty Eradication Action Plan, Poverty Alleviation Plan, Entandikwa, Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture, National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads), Operation Wealth Creation and Special Interest funds as well as Emyooga, launched last year, with the latest being the Parish model. The President will in the new tenure have to decide whether intended to fight poverty are channelled and managed directly by government employees or allow individual beneficiaries to set their own priorities and handle funds disbursement.

3. Corruption: Uganda slid by 5 places in the 2020 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index from the previous year’s ranking, suggesting public sector corruption is on the rise despite President Museveni’s tough rhetoric to end the vice. The increase also contrasts with the glut of agencies in the country set purposely to fight graft, among them, the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, the Inspectorate of Government, Uganda Police Force, the Auditor General, and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA). There has also been established Office of the Auditor General at individual ministries to detect and fight corruption while the fate and function of another unit set up in the President’s Office to coordinate resident district commissioners (RDCs) in tackling the vice, remains unclear. This is one enemy, unlike a combatant that the army can shoot and kill, disguises in everyday life of Uganda sometimes in the orbit the President, which opens him as the head of government to scrutiny over his political will to fight corruption.

4. Oil: While still in the ground, a lot of excitement swept through the country when Uganda and Tanzania on April 11 signed the tripartite oil pipeline agreements expected to unlock $15 billion investment in the country. It is jobs. It’s expected to be money in the pockets of contractors, suppliers and service providers and direct employees. But with soaring corruption, questions remain about the fidelity of public servants not to dip their hands in the cookie jar when oil windfall starts.

 5. Land question: Land remains a hot-button issue in the country, with the problem worsening due to rampant evictions by the moneyed and politically well-connected individuals. It is on this basis that President Museveni, while speaking in Kyankwanzi on April 15, asked the incoming legislators to work with, and help, him solve the land problem once and for all. Part of the government solutions are recommendations  by the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire-led Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters that, among others, proposed an end to mailo tenure. Mengo objects to the blueprint and offers a six-point solution, which the government is yet to consider, leaving the land question a politically explosive issue.

 6. Political question: President Museveni won the January 14 election with 58 per cent, much lower than the landslide victory in 1996. Worse, he lost Buganda, which hosts the commercial and political capital of Uganda, resurrecting debate in the country’s politics where leaders have struggled to keep power when at odds with the most populous society. One proposal broached by some Opposition leaders is a national dialogue and reconciliation to bridge the divide in the country and engender unity. Donors are keen to have capacity of political parties built and their resourcing improved to enable them develop systems that outlast individuals, can pipe out well-trained cadres and support democracy. And the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue, the legal forum for interface between rival parties, has work at hand to project interests of the country above that of individual parties.  

7.Service delivery: Government exists, among others, to protect the lives and property and promote the welfare of its citizens. The United Nations Development Programmes index for human development includes a measure of access to quality education, water, health services, physical security, democracy, freedom, and income. It is on these benchmarks, and promises NRM made in its 2021-26 manifesto, that Mr Museveni’s performance will be judged. In a 2016 Unicef report titled, sanitation analysis Uganda, three in every 10 Ugandan children have no access to clean water, predisposing them to water-born and water-related diseases. A similar number of Ugandan households also lack latrines. With local governments, which are frontline actors for service delivery almost out of cash, and worse with budget cuts over the pandemic crisis, President Museveni will have to reconfigure his priorities to guarantee service delivery and not alienate voters.

 8. Health security: Uganda, like other countries around the world, is battling Covid-19 that has so far killed 364 people out of 42,226 infected in the country. Whereas it has weathered the pandemic better than many, mainly through gag order and raw power display, questions remain about its preparedness for the next health crisis. There are prospects that Ugandan scientists could find treatment, or perhaps a vaccine, at home but the overheads will demand huge government investment. In addition, Uganda must build high-level security laboratory and undertake substantial investment in scientific research and development.

9. Infrastructure: This is President Museveni pet subject and under him, the kilometres of paved roads have increased from 1,000 in 1986 to about 5,500 today, connecting people to people and producers to markets. New hydro-dams have been built, increasing the country’s power generation from 150megawatts thirty-five years ago to the current 1,254megawatts. But connectivity remains a problem, mainly for poor households, while Arua elevated to a city last year, is not even connected to the national grip. Entebbe International Airport is under expansion and a new international airport in under construction in Kibaale, Hoima City. The cable-stayed bridge stands imposing on River Nile, but the planned construction of the standard gauge railway to cut import/export haulage cost, has remained a mirage. President Museveni will be obliged in the new term to pull all stops in finding money make the SGR dream a reality.

10. Bloated public administration: Uganda currently has 146 districts and cities, up from just 30 in 1986, burdened by a resource-haemorrhaging bureaucracy. There are more than 80 ministers while the number of members in the 11th Parliament is increasing to 529. Yet the country is burdened by public debt that towered to Shs65 trillion, as of December 2020, prompting the government to commit 36 per cent of the next budget away from service delivery to debt servicing. This makes the plan by the government to merge nearly 100 agencies and reverting others to their mother ministries more ration and urgent in Museveni’s new tenure. The President may have to forego political expediency and cut down the number of ministries and ministers in his next Cabinet.

Power Issue 
To bring down the cost of production, President Museveni last week proposed that his government will take electricity directly to the industrial parks and eliminate middlemen such as Umeme, which earns from power distribution.

editorial@ug.natiuonmedia.com 
 

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