Museveni lists free education, medicare as new term priorities

President Museveni at an earlier national address. PHOTO | FILE | PPU

What you need to know:

  • UPE PERFORMANCE. The National Planning Authority (NPA) in October 2019 castigated government for failing to fund the Universal Primary Education (UPE) to deliver quality education. In its report, NPA cited the need to increase government capitation grant of Shs14,000 per child to Shs59,503 annually for children in rural schools and Shs63,546 for urban pupils.

Hours after the Electoral Commission chairperson Simon Byabakama declared him winner of the January 14, 2021, presidential elections, President Museveni delivered a 91-minute speech from his country-home in Rwakitura. The speech, rather than being celebratory, was combative. Our reporter, Irene Abalo Otto, transcribed it. In this first of the two-part installment, the President declares war on poverty and vouches to ensure free education and medical care at all public health facilities.

“Remember the people who were saying that the elections would not be peaceful. We were sure that they would be peaceful because we had the capacity to maintain peace in Uganda. Anybody who deceives themselves that they can disturb the peace in Uganda is wasting [their] time. After those riots that happened on the 18th of the other month (November), I told you that those riots [would] not happen again. If they happen, they will be dealt with decisively, not like the other time when the police were caught by surprise and the response was slow. I, therefore, thank the people of Uganda and I congratulate you for turning up in big numbers and voting for the candidates and for the parties of your choice (on January 14, 2021). [Only 55 per cent of the registered 18.1 million voters voted - Editor].

I think this might turn out to be the most cheating-free election since [Uganda’s independence in] 1962. Since 1962, we have been having a problem of people who want to cheat in the elections. This has been the chronic problem of Uganda. Multiple voting, under-age voting [and] ballot-stuffing were the biggest problems. That is one of the things I have been fighting all these years. 

Pupils of Olwiyo Primary School in Nwoya District attend classes in May 2018. The President says he wants to focus on streamlining the free education programme in his new five-year term. PHOTO | FILE

Vote rigging

In 1962, I was a member of the Democratic Party (DP) and I know how much the history of Uganda was distorted by not having free elections that time. The people who distorted the election of 1962 were two: One was our people of Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) who believed in multiple voting and cheating and so on.

I remember my friend Eriya Kategaya who was slightly older than me, [but] was under-age because that time the voting age was 21 (years). He did not only vote, but he voted eight times! [Kategaya was an ideologue of the ruling National Resistance Movement and passed on in 2013]. Therefore, we are unable to corroborate this claim – Editor]. That was one of the distorting factors of that time.

[Secondly], you had the Kabaka Yekka (KY) party with their confused tribal ideology. They were engaged in intimidation; intimidating the DP supporters in Buganda, cutting your coffee if you did not agree with them so that people did not express their opinion. That was the beginning of the trouble actually.

Since that time, I have been struggling to make sure that a vote means a vote. (In the January 14 poll, Electoral Commission (EC) records show that votes cast for president at 1,257 polling stations across the country were not computed in the national presidential tally ostensibly because the electoral body had to announce the results within 48 hours from voting time – Editor).  When we say one person one vote, it should be one person one vote. And as I said the other time in my other speech on the eve of the election, I told you that if you interfere with the voting, then you interfere with accountability. Because if I can win, whether the people vote for me or not, that means ‘I do not have to go back and solve their problems’. Because even next time I will use the same method and win without people voting for me.

It is, therefore, treason to interfere with the principle of one person, one vote. After a long struggle, I think I am about to succeed in controlling that criminality. This one has been helped by the introduction of the thumb print read by the computer (biometric voter registration system) to know that this is no other person other than Museveni.

I am told some people were trying to avoid voting by the machines and I am told that some people were disabling the machine so that they allow the cheating. But I am told the machines were rectified and, in many cases, people voted by the machines. Now, voting by the machines made sure there is no cheating. We are going to audit because on account of the removal of (blockade on) the Internet, there was no immediate transmission of the voting patterns from each polling station. But we are going to audit and see how many people voted by finger-print and how many people voted by using the (National Voters’) Register.

Therefore, on account of the thumb-print machines, this might turn out to be the most cheating-free election in the fifty-eight years of Uganda’s independence.

On this occasion, I will not address the political, economic and social factors that one could see in these elections. These elections are actually very good. I am very happy with them myself because they are taking us into the realm of real politics. Real politics of principles. We shall do our part in terms of using this [growing] population of Uganda which was only 14 million in 1986, it is now 46 million.  So, the issues [of population pressure and youth unemployment] are coming up and we are very happy and ready to engage in the debate of the political, economic and social factors that influence politics.

On this occasion, I will simply mention the two points that started with the NRM itself, our party. The NRM when we were in the bush had one line: the mass line. The line of the people where political actors act only in the interest of the people, not the interest of anything else. Not in the interest of the elite. Not in the interest of foreigners. Not in the interest of the elite, group but the interest of the ordinary people; the farmers, the factory workers - the people who live by their sweat. That is what we call the mass line. You can call it the line of the people’s interest.

When we were in the bush, the mass line was the only line. We only did what was important for the people and nothing else. When we came into government we had to work with other people, the people who had been elected. Now many of these people who were elected, although they were elected by the masses, many of them do not remain loyal to the mass line. They quickly bring in their elite interest. Therefore, it is important to know that within the NRM that there has been a struggle between the mass line and the elite line.

 Now what is the mass line? Number one, a disciplined army. The mass line means a disciplined army. When you see security personnel who are misbehaving, know that they have departed from the mass line. Then the second element of the mass line is the politics of patriotism. We believe in the politics of patriotism and pan-Africanism. And we are going to engage vigorously with the person who is pushing the line of sectarianism and parochialism. We shall prove in arguments and engagements that the line of patriotism and pan-Africanism is correct and the line of sectarianism and parochialism is wrong and reactionary and against the interest of the people of Africa. And it was responsible for the enslavement of the African people in the first place.

The other element of the mass line in our case here was free education. In 1997, we introduced free (primary) education. However, the elite have made this free education not fully operational because at the local level, they do not understand it. They do not understand that we are introducing free education to enable the children of the poor people to study. Just like my own children study because I have money to pay, we say let the children of the poor people study free. Why free? Because the people don’t have the money to buy education. I would, therefore, say stop treating education as a business, treat it as a service.

When you are driving from here (Rwakitura) to Kampala, that road is free, nobody is charged on the way. That is how education should be; it should be free. That is what we wanted to do, but because the elite are not convinced about our mass line when we say free education, they go down there and say ‘bring money’. Therefore, what was supposed to be free education ends up being subsidised education.

But when you subsidise, what happens when someone cannot top up? That is how the children leave school. And you can see this in the figures. There are 10.7 million children in the primary school and in the secondary and post-secondary (institutions), there are only three million children (studying). The question is: where did the seven million go? They were barred by the money. So, in this Kisanja (new term), it will have to be free education, completely free. That has been the struggle between the mass line of the bush people and the elite line of the people who we teamed up with even within the NRM, forget about the other political parties.

Mass immunisation

The other element of the mass line is universal immunisation of the people. That one actually has worked. And you remember when we started that immunisation in 1987? We were calling it UNEPI, [Uganda] National Expanded Programme [on] Immunisation. [This was] because immunisation was not universal before. It was partial to only some people who would go that would be immunised. Now that one [of universal education] has worked. That is how the population has jumped from 14 million to 46 million because it has worked and we knew it would work. The population has now expanded because our mass line of free immunisation, no money, has been implemented.

Free medicine in hospitals. That is our line. That medicine should be free. But you know some people are manoeuvring to charge money. This must stop. In this kisanja, we shall make sure there is free medical care in the public hospitals [and] public health centres..

The other mass line was the monetisation of the economy. This is a big problem and has been a big problem even before the end of colonialism. In 1969, the people (in Uganda) who were working for the stomach only were 96 per cent. I started campaigning [for] that programme [of commercial agriculture] here, in Rwakitura, in 1966. When I concluded my work in 1985, I informed the whole country [and] I said, ‘you people, it is possible to convince village people, people who are not educated to go from working for the stomach only [or] subsistence farming to commercial agriculture’.

(Press team plays video in which Esther Magaga gives testimony of her transformation from a subsistence farmer to a successful commercial farmer)

That is one of the people I started with in 1966. This is what I keep telling you my countrymen. I am not in politics looking for anything for myself.  I do not need to be in government to have a good life because I have a good life already as a farmer. However, my going into leadership was to deal with the number of serious historical challenges, one of them is this one (commercial agriculture). That you have got a population living in poverty because they do not know what to do and yet they are living in a rich land which has got everything, but because there is nobody to show them the way, I regard it as a serious betrayal.

So that is why, 53 years ago, I engaged these peasants to show them the way because I had read through the books of the schools that people in Europe had gone through agrarian revolution. They had gone through industrial revolution and here we are with people who have no income at all yet they are living in (rich) land. So, after doing the experiment with these people here (in Rwakitura), that is why I am insisting on showing it to people [countrywide].  Politeness is no longer going to be tolerated. I am not going to be polite to people anymore. Because normally I show, hoping that people will pick up and amplify, but they do not.

You say you are a leader, but you do not deal with the social-economic issues of the people like this one. You saw how they were living in grass-thatched houses. No income. This lady (Magaga) now is selling 400 litres of milk a day and she is getting, I think, Shs115 million in a year. 

And you heard her saying that there is no more poverty in this area. So, I went around in 1995, I went around the whole country and I told everybody, please, help your people to get out of non-money economy. In economics, we call this non-monetary Gross Domestic Product (GDP); people who live without money. Help them to get out of the livelihood without money because it can be done. I have already experimented it in my area.

Politicians go and sit in the church as if [they] are priests, then go for burials [and] they call that politics. That is shallow politics. It will fail. It will collapse because sickness is a sickness. If it is malaria, you must get a malaria cure. This people are suffering from poverty by not engaging in income generating activities. The medicine is not if can go and sit in the church and pray the whole night, you can go to witch(doctor), but if you do not show them how to make money, poverty will not go away. I am happy some of the people have learnt and picked up.

(Press team plays video of successful farmer in Moyo, West Nile)

Wealth creation

That is a sample of people who have listened to our message. You heard that they are earning Shs48 million and they are employing already 48 people. So here, you have got two phenomena; wealth creation where people start getting money, but also job creation. If you do not produce, how will you get income? And how will you create jobs? Where will the jobs come from? That is why, therefore, from the beginning, our mass line was: let the people who are asleep, not producing anything, only producing for the stomach, go into producing also for the pocket.

Now, when you do that, you are solving the problem of poverty, but you also address the issue of jobs. But many people are not bothered with this. They say they are leaders of burials. Burials, attending ceremonies, going to church. Ok, going to church is not a bad thing, but it will not address the problem of poverty unless you go there to use the church to preach how to get rid of poverty. Many of these actors don’t bother to pick our line because they are too arrogant. They are full of themselves. Fortunately, wealth creation has helped. 

But I looked at the figures, about 900,000 people have received support from Operation Wealth Creation. This is not enough. You should have covered more people. Maybe five, six million people. And that is what is going to happen in this new term.

We are going to make sure that the people get involved in wealth creation. Here where I am, in Rwakitura, I started from in 1966, in some of the sub-counties [and] you no longer have a single home which is engaged in working for the stomach only. As the lady (Magaga) was saying, there is now no poverty here for all the families which have been here. Maybe the new ones who are coming. Those are the ones that may still be poor. But the original (residents), many of them have moved and they are producing for the stomach but also for the pocket.

Now, when I was in Kabale campaigning, I was told that in Rubanda (district), 90 per cent of the homes are still working for the stomach only. That is not correct. Then in Rukiga (district), the figures are 92 per cent of the homes are still working for the stomach only. This is not correct. And that was the same thing in other places; [such as] Mubende and others. Why haven’t people listened to the message which we have been giving from 1995?

I have brought many delegations here (to Rwakitura to) show them what we had done and to ask them to go replicate it, but they do not take it up. Instead, they are busy with other things; travelling abroad [and] creating new administrative units. This is not acceptable. This is a departure from the mass line. The elites just become like parasites. You are getting salaries of the state, but you are doing nothing to transform the people..

The other area of the mass line is the industrialisation of the economy by attracting foreign investments. But by also promoting local investors. Let the people show the enterprises which have come from outside and some of which we have built up ourselves. The ones we have built up ourselves is like the factory of fruits in Soroti. So, you show us both the foreign and our own efforts. 

(Press team plays video of factories)

Factories and jobs

Now you have seen a sample of the two efforts. One sample is of the huge number of efforts brought here by foreigners because of our correct policy --- ensuring peace in the country, but also having investor-friendly policies.

When I started the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) with the late James Mulwana, we had 80 factories only. We are now talking of 5,000 factories, mainly (owned) by foreigners. But, also, we have built our own (factories) like the fruit factory in Yumbe or tea factories in Mabale and other places in Fort Portal. These are built also by Uganda Development Bank (UDB). But there are also some factories built by Ugandans. Because of that, we have been able to create jobs … Those are your children working in those factories [and] getting money. These factories have [also] helped us to solve the issue of shortages (of household essentials).

We used to have a problem in 1986 [when we captured state power]. We found [there was] no soap, no sugar. Everything was in shortage. Now the reverse is the situation. We have got plenty. Instead of shortage, we have got a lot of production. The problem is now marketing. These factories are paying taxes and it is the tax money we are using to build the roads, the schools, the health centres [and] to support the Emyooga programme. 

No evictions

Security of land tenure. When we were making the land law, we made it very tight that the bibanja owners (squatters) are not evicted from their land. That is the mass line. But the elite do not respect that. They do not respect the historic compromise which we put forward, which was; don’t abolish the ownership of the landlord unilaterally. Because those landlords also got that property because of the history of the country. And some of them even bought (the land).

The original allocatees were given free, they were part of the looters [together with] the British who came to loot our country. But others from 1928 started buying. We, therefore, did not think it was correct to simply disposes them. That is why we said, ‘okay, don’t evict this kibanja man, let him stay’. Let him pay nominal rent, not commercial rent. And when you have the money, we can then arrange that through the Land Fund.

Elites manipulate judiciary

This was a historic compromise done deliberately because we did not want to be unfair to the landlords or the Kibanja person. But these people, the elites, think they are very clever. They know how to manipulate the judiciary, how to do this, how to do [that]. They don’t care about our input. They don’t care about our position; defending the people who fought with us, the farmers. So that departure by the elite has been a mistake.

Tax waiver for petty traders

Then the other line, the mass line, is, and I have said repeatedly, I don’t want to hear people taxing muchomo (road-side roast meat) sellers. Maybe let them pay a licence once a year. Finished! But don’t tax muchomo day-to-day, month-to-month. Leave muchomo alone, the ones who roast meat on the road side. The ones who roast gonja (banana), the ones who sell kabalagala (pancakes), a cluster of bananas, leave those people. Don’t make them pay direct tax. This has been our line but the elite don’t care about it. They think what we are talking about is nonsense.

 Environmental degradation; now you saw the consequences. You saw the Nile Perch dying in the lake killed by degrading the environment. [This is a result of] people not listening.

Then the officials at the sub-counties not listening. Because every part of Uganda has got a (sub) county chief. I do not want to talk about the LC3s who are elected.

Every part of Uganda has got a Resident District Commissioner (RDC). How do people come to settle in the wetlands when you are there? Why do you allow them? Now the consequence, the run-off of water goes into the lake, takes their nutrients, you get vegetation floating in the lake which consumes the oxygen and the fish die. The administrators should never allow something like this to happen because every part of Uganda has got those managers. Internal Security Organisation (ISO), District Internal Security Officer (Diso) [and] what do all those do?”  

In the next instalment running tomorrow, President Museveni takes issue with tribalism and reads the riot act on multiple fronts.