Isn’t President Museveni’s vision already a fantasy?

Author: Alan Tacca. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • People ask: Who doesn’t know this? You found Nytil, Mulco and UGIL here. Your regime destroyed or failed them. Where is your Agoa?

Most human beings find it hard to accept failure, or to accept that their long-held beliefs may be mistaken. Similarly, people who have been living on a particular lie find it hard to abandon that lie.

A pastor who has always claimed to make blind people sighted and crippled people walk will repeat the same lie, even after acquiring several college certificates. Telling that lie has virtually become the foundation of his livelihood.

Perhaps because they deal in raw power, politicians find it doubly hard to accept failure, or to abandon their false beliefs, or to stop telling lies. They sometimes kill instead of yielding.

Unfortunately, President Museveni seems unable to transcend that weakness, even as the rapid economic, technical and socio-political development that he and his blurry-eyed admirers used to call his vision eludes him.

Grinding towards 40 years in power, Museveni is surrounded by carcasses of failed anti-poverty projects, crumbling infrastructure, a few good roads and huge debts, semi-dysfunctional State institutions, a contrast of corrupt billionaires and chronically underpaid workers sitting in government offices, plus slaves earning two or three dollars a day at Chinese and Indian-owned factories; miles behind the optimistic vision of years ago.

One joke in town is that the President may soon have a weekly TV/radio talk show where he pays for air time and also pays himself as his own propagandist.

Many people are puzzled why Mr Museveni nowadays so frequently addresses the nation. He says very little that is new. For the umpteenth time, he bores his listeners with those little stories from a distant Bush War that seems so close to him because it brought him into power.

Then he repeats the primary/secondary school lessons on value addition; like how advanced nations make hundreds of dollars from our peasant’s kilogramme of cotton.

People ask: Who doesn’t know this? You found Nytil, Mulco and UGIL here. Your regime destroyed or failed them. Where is your Agoa?

If you have held power for so long, and have squandered taxpayers’ money in enemy-generating politics, high-cost patronage, anti-Opposition machinations and militarised survival strategies, understandably, you did not have enough resources left to build that original visionary future.

But a ruler cannot erase what has happened. And, generally, he cannot change his character.

Many societies develop and use family and larger institutional structures to protect jjajjas (elderly people) from making mistakes that could bring them harm or damage their dignity.

Unfortunately, at precisely the time President Museveni needs institutions to do the day-to-day work and help him turn out coherent effective leadership, this is the time our institutions seem to be teeming with thieves and incompetent busybodies.

So, to limit the damage, President Museveni himself regularly comes out to stubbornly repeat the same mistakes about developing home-made electric cars (and now electric bikes), instead of talking more realistically about setting up assembly plants by foreign manufacturers, with Uganda gradually entering the complex supply chains by making things like tyres, tubes, window glass, seats, shock-absorbers, brake parts and so on.

The problem now is that the President talks – and talks – but leaves the impression that he has little grasp of the technologies and economies of scale in the industry he is talking about.

And if his Prime Minister and the chiefs in Parliament do not know even less, their institutions are too timid to investigate these protracted tax-guzzling stories about home-developed electric vehicles against a sprawling backdrop of vision ruins and serial tax wastage in which they may have been winking beneficiaries.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.