Way back in May 2022, Andrew Mwenda, in The Independent; wrote an eye-catching article; ‘Uganda’s Pursuit of Modernity.’ These questions are, however, critical:
- Is it Uganda or President Yoweri Museveni pursuing modernity?
- What is in Modernity that is so valuable to President Museveni’s governance of Uganda in the 21st century?
Elsewhere, I wrote that under the long reign of President Museveni, Uganda has not only been grossly bantustanised into numerous, unviable entities called districts, some in conflict over shared resources. I added that the governance of the country has become ethicised and apartheid-like, and that its economy is increasingly illicit and dominated by refugees or people who were once refugees, or else by Indians and Chinese in a way suggesting that the independence and sovereignty of the country have been reversed in the name of modernization and/or modernity in the interest of foreigners.
Apparently, President Museveni’s government was the first in Africa to embrace globalization as way forward for development, and played a big role in convincing the African Union to do the same. However, where globalization operates, localization diminishes. Globalization is based on the dictum “Think Global Act Local”, but translating global thinking and action into local thinking and action can be as difficult as qualifying to go to heaven.
As part of the strategy of globalization and modernization, President Museveni’s government, like many other governments did with their countries, integrated Uganda in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal of WTO is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible. It also settles trade disputes between its members and it supports the needs of developing countries.
Unfortunately, integration of an African country in the WTO does not favour local industrialization but instead, as a tool of globalization and modernization, sustains the dependency syndrome on goods and services of foreign origin with strings attached.
I am not sure what the collective attitude of WTO is with regard to human and drug trafficking as well as the illegal trade in human organs and child labour. Indeed, WTO has been accused of trampling over labour and human rights. At least WTO has preferred a conspiracy of silence as Ugandan youth are subjected to modern local and foreign slave trade in their thousands in modern times. Thousands of Ugandans are being exploited and abused in factories owned by Indians and Chinese, and have no right to a minimum wage. The exploiters are encouraged by the President’s promise of cheap labour in Uganda. Besides thousands of potentially reproductive youths of Uganda are everyday ferried to the Middle East to provide cheap labour to Arabs while the Uganda government gains in remittances of the modern slaves and taxes.
Apartheid-style governance in Uganda is a consequence of the choice of modernization and modernity as governance tools in a political and economic sense. The NRM regime uses modernity and modernization not just as slogans but political tools of exclusion of the majority from the governance and leadership of the country, whereby economic schemes to popularize the money culture are politically proposed and applied selectively against the majority.
In pursuit of partisan interests, the economic schemes are, and have been, used to give money bonanzas to known members of the ruling party in the rural areas, ostensibly to spur development among communities in a trickle-down fashion.
Unfortunately, extremely few individuals are benefitting from the money bonanzas. The majority of those benefitting are bureaucrats and politicians in the patronage/money bonanza chain. Most of the public money released does not reach the identified beneficiaries on the ground. Besides, those who receive it end up misappropriating or misusing it and no meaningful development takes.
Therefore, the economic schemes are ending up segregating between people in the communities and pushing the majority into the abyss of poverty. The schemes include Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), Parish Development Model (PDM) and Myooga. Billions of shillings have been misappropriated, but the rulers still market them as the only alternative to fighting poverty in modern times. No meaningful and effective monitoring and evaluation of claimed projects on the ground takes place and the recovery of disbursed funds is extremely poor. Many ordinary people who receive the money interpret it as NRM’s or President Museveni’s appreciation of their role in the electoral processes that return the party and the President to power every five years since 1996.
What apartheid-style governance implies, and has implied, is that a small ethnic group dominates all spheres of the economy and life, and even trade with outside world, and receives all opportunities, at the expense of the natural ethnic and indigenous groups. Those who have keenly analysed the socioeconomics and politics of Uganda assert that the small group is composed of people who were once refugees from Rwanda and Mulenge in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and participated in the bush war in the Luwero Triangle for political and economic power, but also new refugees from places like Somalia and Ethiopia. These are being buttressed by economic refugees from India, China, South Africa and Tanzania, who frequently either engage in ventures with the former refugees or act as fronts for them. It is unlikely that these will have the public interest of indigenous Ugandans at heart.
It is under these socio-political conditions that modernity is being pursued in favour of the status quo. Pursuing modernity means pursuing capitalism in the context of President Museveni’s philosophy of development that “Development (infrastructure) comes first followed by environment, nature and last people. People coming last are not by accident.
President Museveni has, since he abandoned barter trade 18 months after preferring it to capitalist economic relations with the wider world, put things ahead of people or their communities. In total turnaround, he prefers and puts infrastructure development over and above social development, However, his commitment to the small ethnic group that dislodged Apollo Milton Obote and Tito Okello from power in Kampala, has meant that promotes the interests of the small ethnic group with exogenous roots historically, culturally, ecologically and biologically, because it is the one, which secured and put him in power.
This choice of focus of time, energy and public money to satisfy the interests of a small ethnic group has violated the greater public interest of Ugandans and jeopardized the futures of millions and generations of Ugandans. The long-term consequences of apartheid-style governance in the country are thus dire in the context of perverted modernity and modernization. Humanity in modern times first recorded perverted modernity and modernization in the USA in the 19th Century and then South Africa in the 20th Century
. In USA and South Africa, perverted modernity and modernization was called Apartheid. It was pursued as ethnic, political, economic, social, ecological and environmental discrimination against the Black people. The Blacks were excluded politically, economically, socially, ecologically and environmentally from development, transformation and progress. They were no more than beasts of burden.
Uganda under Musevenism seems to be reinventing the abominable system of governance because politically, economically, socially, ecologically and environmentally. Increasingly the indigenous Ugandans are being pushed to the margins of nature to etch a living under deteriorating ecology and environment largely caused by the excesses of power and those connected to power.
A number of questions arise:
If apartheid governance did not last in the USA and South Africa, to what extent will apartheid-style governance last in Uganda?
Isn’t it wastage of time? Energy and money to pervert modernity into a political tool of discrimination of a people in modern times?
Isn’t reinventing orthodox capitalism by hyping a small ethnic group economically, socially, politically, ecologically, environmentally and culturally, simultaneously with sowing of the culture of money in a few ethnically related hands, a recipe for violence sooner than later?
We see people with exogenous roots penetrating the bio cultural landscapes of indigenous peoples through land grabbing, displacing traditional communities and forcing them to become landless and foreigners in their own country. We also see people of exogenous origins dominating administration and business. Both despondency and discontent are on the rise among the indigenous peoples. We do not know when the two coincide enough to cause socio-political chaos beyond the capacity of security organs to contain.
In 1972 President Charles de Gaulle of France, the Second World War hero, had a formidable Army and Police but failed to contain a combined uprising of university students and school children and the general populace. The widespread uprising resulted in his removal from power. The same was true of Omar al Bashir of Sudan who, despite having formidable security organs and militias he erected against each other so that he would emerge the island and only source of security, was removed from power. However, while de Gaulle’s and Bashir’s security organs were dominated entirely by nationals, in Uganda it may be difficult to change the guards because the security organs are mostly in the hands of people of exogenous origin who now cast themselves as citizens or dual citizens.
In his article “Uganda’s Pursuit of Modernity” of May 2022, Andrew Mwenda wrote:
“Whatever its critics say, capitalism remains the most consequential system (and ideology) of organising human affairs in history. Born in Western Europe, it has spread across the world, as Karl Marx predicted, through the continual process of destruction and replacement of precapitalist social structures. Except for North Korea that is holding out against its power and allure, the rest of the world is hooked onto capitalism – including Cuba that is now embracing it, albeit slowly. Of course, in many parts of the world, some traditional structures have proved obdurate”.
Mwenda’s article came a bit belatedly but was necessary since President Museveni had made modernization an electoral issue, although at one time he had admitted that modernization had failed in Uganda.
At budget reading in the Parliament of Uganda in 2019 the President preached the new religion of modernization. He appealed to leaders throughout the country to preach the gospel of modernised farming and skilling for the country to realise socio-economic transformation.
To President Museveni, there could be no development, transformation and progress in Uganda without commitment to modernization, especially in agriculture. He abhorred people sitting around trying to observe culture instead of working and urged the MPs to sensitise people about the fact that this is the modern world. He did not only despise culture, but in his mind there was nothing like “cultural approach to development, transformation and progress. It was only modernization that was the magic tool to development, transformation and progress of Uganda. His thinking about culture could have been influenced by the fact economists tend to narrowly define culture as “customary beliefs and values that ethnic, religious and social groups transmit fairly unchanged from generation to generation” (Guiso, Sapienza and Zingales, 2006).
Yet development, culture and development are connected and interrelated. Indeed, on 10th December the World Economic Forum (WEF) asserted that culture has a role to play in development. Earlier in 1997, UNESCO in its “World Decade for Cultural Development innovated what it called “A Cultural Approach to Development Planning Manual: Concepts and Tools”. One thing is true. Development, transformation cannot take place in a cultural void, and one cannot import the culture of another sociocultural in another ecological-environmental setting to effect development, transformation and progress. If that happening failure in development, transformation and progress will result.
Just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the President had made “Securing your Future” his electoral slogan for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of 2021 without change in attitude towards modernization, modernity and capitalism. Throughout his reign since 1986 when he captured the instruments of power through the barrel of the gun, he had persistently pronounced that he wanted to change Uganda from a peasantry and precapitalist society. His original commitment to barter trade for almost 18 months, reflecting his anti-capitalism stance, did not promise much in terms of changing Ugandan society from peasantry and precapitalist society to a modern society. Perhaps the change of attitude towards modernization and modernity would. Surprisingly as a former student at the University of Dar-es-Salaam he knew the failure of modernisation but still sold it to Ugandans.
Andrew Mwenda defines modernization simply as “the process of becoming “modern” and adds that “to be modern is to look like “the West” – a term that refers to Western Europe and her offshoots in North America and Oceania (Australia and New Zeeland).
I have already shown that President Museveni had already gone far to embrace globalization as the way forward to development, influenced the African Union to adopt globalization as the way forward for African development, and moved to integrate Uganda in the WTO. The two are capitalist ideas. In fact, at the beginning of the new millennium government functionaries, such as former Vice-President Dr Specioza Naigags Kazibwe, used to make a clarion call to the people of Uganda to embrace globalization, arguing that those who would not embrace the Western idea, must get ready to be left behind, or even to be phased out, although the absolute majority, including many leaders, never understood its essence.
Africa hoped to benefit from globalization by solving the perennial problems of food shortages and hunger by spurring agribusiness. Indeed, globalization has allowed agricultural production to grow much faster than in the past. However, globalisation has allowed the stealing of Africa’s seeds and their feering to gene banks abroad. Land grabbing by governments for corporate agribusiness farms has reduced the land available to locals to settle on and grow their indigenous food crops Besides, it has promoted flooding through large-scale agriculture and damming of large rivers, and ensured the proliferation of genetically modified organs (GMOs) and education and training for popularization of GMOs and foreign trees suitable in cold and hot deserts in the Northern and Southern hemispheres of the globe. Also, Globalisation, which is the closer integration of the world economy, has facilitated the spread of pathogens among countries through the growth of trade and travel. The recent Covid-19 pandemic, unknown in the world before, is a good example.
There is no doubt that the religion of globalization came after the religion of modernization. However, in pursuit of domination of Uganda for decades, President Museveni belatedly replaced the religion of globalization with the religion of modernisation within the context of global capitalism. However, by the time he did so capitalism was reaching the end of the road as a dominant ideology in international economic relations. The end of capitalism had begun decades before.
Writing in The Guardian of 17 July 2015, Paul Mason: “Without us noticing, we are entering the post capitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian”. He added, “As with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by post capitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being”.
Mason went on to write that “Post capitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years (up to 2015): First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wage. Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia -is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopaedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue”.
I am not sure if President Museveni was aware of what was happening to capitalism when he struck newfound love within and chose to reinvent it in Uganda. However, he almost simultaneously reignited modernization both as apolitical and economic tool. However, modernization was and continues to be just a theory being preached as a reality.
By the time I came across the theory of modernization during my undergraduate Development Studies at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in 1972, it had failed to metamorphose into a reality.in Africa and the rest of the underdeveloped world. The truth is that by the late 1960s opposition to modernization theory developed because the theory was too general and did not fit all societies in quite the same way. Yet, with the end of the Cold War between the East and West, a few attempts to revive modernization theory were carried out but failed miserably. By that time most of our current aging or aged rulers in Uganda were at the tail end of the teenage bracket. They did not know what was happening in the world, let alone to modernization. By 1960, I myself was in Primary Four and more preoccupied with day to day living at the very margins of nature.
According to Mabonguje (2000), the modernisation theory was premised on flawed assumptions that were Eurocentric, Western, and which caused the post-colonial African leaders to neglect or even appropriate the bureaucracy in their countries, while not recognising its crucial role in growth and development in other parts of the world. Thomas Dun (2013) in his article; “The Failings of Liberal Modernization Theory”. Dependency, undemocratic practices, exclusion and socio-economic exploitation are some of the reasons why modernization fails or failed long ago.
In this particular article I have detailed the negative consequences of the pursuit of modernity and modernization in Uganda. We can actually characterize Uganda’s development, transformation and progress as ‘Development, transformation and progress by exclusion of the majority. This is what I have referred to as Apartheid style governance (of socio-economic development). We can as well refer to it as exclusionist socio-economic change. In this sense, social exclusion is “a state in which. Individuals are unable to participate fully in economic, social, political and. cultural life, as well as the process leading to and sustaining such a state”.
Socioeconomic exclusion has cultural, economic, political, ecological and environmental dimensions. When socioeconomic exclusion is pronounced, the majority are excluded from any positive change.
The term social exclusion was used for the first time by former French Secretary of State for Social Action, René Lenoir (1974), to refer to the situation of certain groups of people − “the mentally and the physically handicapped, suicidal people, aged invalids, abused children, drug addicts, delinquents, single parents, multi-problem households, marginal, asocial persons, and other ‘social misfits.
In the case of Uganda, however, we can include whole communities, whole ethnic groups and whole indigenous groups among the currently socially excluded. Indeed, the groups mentioned by Rene Lenoir are most evident and supersonically increasing among the socially excluded whole communities, whole ethnic groups and whole indigenous groups
Social exclusion will be seen in education, health, agriculture and even justice and human rights observance. The majority will be ignored and a few will have it all. The law will tend to apply to the excluded, not the included, as exemplified in the iron sheets scandal. Corruption is detectable social life, structure and function across all social strata in Uganda as government pursues modernization and modernity as political and economic tools. In this case, corruption will be pursued as normal for the small group accessing power, opportunities and resources at the exclusion of others.
The President of Uganda was once quoted in the media saying, Corruption builds the economy”. And very recently when the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Beti Kamya, unveiled the Life Style Audit as the tool she was going to use to combat corruption in government, the President cautioned her that if she did the thieves would take their loot out of the country and invest it elsewhere. This way the President failed both the United Nations Anti-Corruption Programme and the IGGs effort to combat corruption effectively.
The Life Style Audit approach had successfully enabled the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong to combat corruption in his country effectively. He did not spare both big and small thieves of public funds. His statement; “Anyone who breaks the rules will be caught and punished. No cover-up will be allowed, no matter how senior the officer or how embarrassing it may be” guided his onslaught against corruption. Billions of dollars that used to be stolen by individuals for their and their families gain were now available for the development, transformation and progress of Singapore. Singapore is now in the First World as the Uganda Governments just talks about joining the group of Middle-Income countries. However, so long as corruption remains unconquered, this will remain but wishful thinking.
Meaningful development, transformation and progress must maximize social inclusion, economic inclusion, cultural inclusion, ecological inclusion, environmental inclusion, political inclusion and democratic inclusion. Currently, as indicated elsewhere in this article, this is not the case under Uganda’s modernization or modernity pursuit. Modernization and modernity are being perfected as tools of exclusion and domination instead.
It is absolutely important that as we head towards the end of third decade of the new millennium politics is made to focus on inclusion, away from exclusion. This implies rethinking practice of politics and policies in every sector of the economy and sphere of life. In campaigns in electoral politics the relevant questions should be:
How are we going to maximize social inclusion?
How are we going to maximize economic inclusion?
How are we going to maximize political inclusion?
How are we going to maximize cultural inclusion?
How are we going to maximize ecological inclusion?
How are we going to maximize environmental inclusion?
How are we going to ensure all citizen of Uganda organize themselves meaningfully and effectively for development, transformation and progress in their localities?
How are we going to enhance local belonging and local democracy?
How are we going to ensure that our governors and leaders have their cultural, social, biological, ecological and environmental roots in our different traditional ethnic and indigenous groups?
How do we liberate and empower our people to be able to take full charge of their destiny in an increasingly globalized world?
For God and My Country