Is Museveni’s agenda for new term achievable?

Monday January 18 2021

President Museveni addresses the nation last year. During Saturday’s address, Mr Museveni pledged to ensure access to free education, medical care, and work towards universal monetisation of the economy, among others.PHOTO/FILE.

By Nobert Atukunda

A few hours after President Museveni was declared winner of the 2021 presidential election, the 76-year-old outlined key issues that he intends to tackle in the next five years in office.
One of the issues that he vowed to pursue is what he called the “mass line” and fight against the “elite line”. 

The elite, he says, have been capturing benefits that should accrue to the masses. 

In his fight to achieve the above, Mr Museveni, who if he completes his sixth term in office will be among the longest serving presidents on the continent, says he will ensure access to free education, free medical care in public hospitals and work towards universal monetisation of the economy, among others.

“The National Resistance Movement (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 in the interest of anything else, not in the interest of the elite, not in the interest of foreigners,…but in the interest of the ordinary people, the farmers, factory workers, the people who live by their sweat, that is what we call the mass line,” he said on Saturday while addressing the nation.

Some of the pledges Mr Museveni made on Saturday evening have been on his list for the last 35 years since he captured power in 1986 through a guerrilla war which was staged in Luweero Triangle.

Ms Charity Ahimbisibwe, the executive director of Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), said the President’s agenda is achievable but will require young people who are joining Parliament to support the his programme without unnecessarily objecting.


Observers speak out
Ms Ahimbisibwe said some of the President’s plans such as land eviction and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) will require review in policies to ensure that the would-be beneficiaries feel the effect of their presence. 

“That one (land eviction) might need a review in policy. There might be a need for more tactics and flawlessness in handling. Land is a tense and  tactically difficult issue to handle; it is a sensitive issue in that it can break or make a nation,” Ms Ahimbisibwe said.

She added: “He might want to go back to a consultative journey and rethink what exactly needs to be done about the land question.” 

According to Mr Museveni, the current would-be free education has been hampered by a group of people he sectioned as the elite, who he said have constantly introduced a fee, “making it a subsidised education and not free per se,” which has been a barrier for children to keep in school.

“The other element of the mass line in our case here was free education. In 1997, we introduced free education, however, the elite have made this free education not operational because at the local level they do not understand it,” he said.

He added: “They do not understand that we are introducing free education to enable the children of the “Banaku”,  the poor people, to study just like my own children study because I have money to pay.” 
According to experts, while the President’s vision of free education is best for the country because it would enable disadvantaged children to access education, a number of requirements would have to be met for it to flourish. 

In an interview with this newspaper yesterday, Mr Martin Okiria Obore, thechairperson Association of Secondary School Head Teachers, said Mr Museveni must accept that before it is implemented, he must go an extra mile that he has never gone before to achieve this vision.
Mr Okiria said there is a need to provide different types of necessities ranging from teaching staff accommodation for both teaching and non-teaching staff, make sure all facilities and materials are provided.

He added that practically for now, the President will have to ensurea reorganisation on a number of issues for it to be achieved, need for a supplementary budget, change of attitude of all stakeholders to rally behind the vision.

“For us to have free education, the President must make sure the staff provided have where to sleep because in rural areas that don’t have centres to accommodate staff, they will move long distances, incur transport and accommodation…, provide accommodation within schools,” Mr Okiria said.

On free medicine, doctors said for this to work, there must be changes in some of the pillars of health, especially the increase in the health budget.
The President also said: “Medicine should be free but you know some people manoeuvring to charge money here and there; this must stop in this ‘kisanja’ we shall make sure there is free medical care in public hospitals.

The struggle between the two lines, the line of the masses and the line of the elite, the ones who want to get small money turn a disease into a business, a disease is not a business.”

Whereas it is the hope of most of the population to access free medicine in public health facilities, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) notes that for this to be possible there must be something new especially increased budget of National Medical Stores but also the increased health budget. He added that some leadership gaps must be focused on.
“It is free medicine without any free medication. The population out there expects free medicine in hospitals but the reality on the ground is that there are no drugs in hospitals. The issue is that we are not realistic to ourselves, an average Ugandan is supposed to have I think Shs57,000 to be treated the whole year but you and me know when you go to hospital the least you can spend is probably Shs100, 000,” Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the secretary of UMA, said yesterday. 

He added: ”As  long as we cannot have the capitation and the repair of equipment that we reuse for diagnosis, then it is almost impossible to get services in those hospitals , as long as we have something like 67 per cent employment gap then those issues of late coming, no doctor on call those issues will always continue .”