JINJA – Way back in 2011, I wrote an article titled: “Uganda is greater than Museveni, Besigye.” It was published in The Daily Monitor and reviewed in The Independent. Back then, President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni and Dr Kizza-Besigye Kifefe were at the height of their political rivalry and manifested as if each of them was greater than Uganda.
The citizens were split between the two and thought increasingly less about Uganda. This was the case across all social strata. Even the intellectual spectrum was split and confused, and intellectual debates were weakened and almost ineffective.
Today I want to pen down how “Uganda is Greater than Museveni, National Resistance Movement – NRM” in relation to development.
Development in Uganda tends to begin with President Museveni and end with President Tibuhaburwa. Indeed, as I have stated severally before, everything in Uganda tends to begin with President Museveni and end with President Tibuhaburwa. Everything includes justice, criminalization and freedom of the criminals. It includes appointments to juicy jobs and priotization of and in the national budget. It definitely includes success and failure of development programmes and projects.
As the President has become everything, professional and technical people have become less productive, less effective and more consumptive, tending to concentrate on creating one leeway after another to make money at the expense of development, transformation and progress. This is one reason why corruption has proliferated alongside ethical and moral decay in the public service.
Of course, the other reason is that the President believes corruption is an economic tool in the development of a country. One time, when his Inspector General of Government – IGG, Beti Kamya, was convinced that the use of a method used successfully in Singapore to fight corruption – the Lifestyle Audit – would go a long way to deal the vice a decisive blow to the corrupt. However, the President discouraged her saying it would scare the corrupt away from the country to invest their loot in other countries. This excited the corrupt, most of whom are top-notch individuals in government and close to power or in power, thanks to ethnic, kinship and political-historical considerations.
The Lifestyle Audit would, no doubt, net many military personnel, police personnel, prisons personnel, Judges, Members of Parliament, public servants, and all categories of politicians and administrators at all levels of society since the majority cannot explain the sources of their wealth. For the majority of them their wealth stories are the same: from rugs to an astronomical surge in financial might and possessions of properties, including land (often grabbed or bought using ill-gotten money. Corruption has become a political weapon since there is growing evidence that many people are using it to acquire financial might for elective politics. The political motive has indeed complicated the fight against the corrupt who easily dismiss the IGG’s onslaught on them as witch hunt.
During the burial of philanthropist Paul Gwaira Wekiya on June 17, 2023 at Bugonza Nawaka, I privately asked IGG Kamya, who was the Chief mourner, why she had become lukewarm on fighting corruption using the tool of Lifestyle Audit. I wondered whether the President’s defence of the corrupt by suggesting that the lifestyle audit approach would scare those who had looted the country to invest elsewhere. Responding, the IGG told me that she was still committed to applying the approach in fighting corruption because there is no better way to fight the vice. She said it had succeeded in liberating the corrupt from the centrality of the vice in Singapore, and could do the same in Uganda. She explained that Lifestyle Audit is not based on witch-hunting the looters, but is an information-based tool that involves everyone everywhere to use information on the life-trajectories of those suspected of robbing the country to endow her with necessary data to track the wrongful pathways of public money. I was happy when the IGG publicly revealed to the mourners my private discussion with her on the scourge of corruption and the effectiveness of the Lifestyle Audit tool in fighting the scourge. I concluded that the IGG is serious about making the fight against corruption a people’s and community struggle. The Lifestyle Audit tool re-empowers the people and communities to track the stolen public funds. Yes, the people and communities of Ugandans can identify the corrupt within them, and the IGG can use the information they generate using the Lifestyle Audit tool. The country is waiting for President Museveni to get genuinely committed to eradicating corruption by disengaging from the corrupt and allowing the Lifestyle Audit tool to work. The Singapore example shows that it can work in favour of Uganda. The leadership must not fear the dire consequences of conquering corruption if it wants to demonstrate commitment to genuine development, transformation and progress of Uganda in the 21st century. Corruption is the single-most danger threatening to bring everything we have built in every sphere of life and endeavour sooner than later.
Some of the programmes or projects the President has initiated single-handedly include Bona Bagaggawale, Myooga, Operation Wealth Creation and Parish Development Model. These have become chimneys of fleecing the country of scarce money to benefit only a few people, often those closely related ethnically, kin-wise and politically. Virtually all the beneficiaries tend to be those who reigned mayhem in the Luwero Triangle or their relatives. We have not had our present crop of researchers at our universities formulating suitable topics to investigate the effectiveness of the programmes and projects, perhaps because the programmes and projects, however poorly designed, have been accompanied by threats from interest-based politicians. Future researchers will definitely confirm or reject linkage between the projects, programmes and corruption. It is a fertile ground for accumulation of essential information and knowledge for fighting corruption on a continuing basis. I can nevertheless state without hesitation that the pursuit of these programmes and/or projects is one reason why governmental performance and effectiveness in the development arena have meteorically declined.
The craze for dams for hydropower stations is primarily presidential and secondarily a practical concern of convinced professionals and technical people. It is destroying the Pearl of Africa environmentally and ecologically. Since electricity is mostly used for lighting, it would make a lot of sense if government ensured that every domicile had solar power -based lighting. One time I wrote on “The Perils of Presidentialism.” One peril, which is becoming harmful, is sowing seeds of environmental illiteracy and environmental decay and collapse through damming. It is a falsehood to maintain that dams are a tourist attraction. It is better to preserve our falls in perpetuity.
It is a truism today that it is no longer important for one to be professional and technical because being so is superseded by Presidential wisdom and choices in leadership, governance and development. The Presidential wisdom and choices are frequently reflected in the annual budgets of the country and the work of different public officials. For example, since the effective Minister of Finance of Uganda is the President himself, we have over the years seen the National Budget rise astronomically especially in the line budgets of the Ministry of Defence, State House, Office of the President and Classified Expenditure. Simultaneously administrative costs have shot up. This reflects presidential commitment to making politics the most lucrative employer in the country, and to bantustanization of Uganda into numerous districts, sub-counties, parishes and constituencies. All this is dedicated to enhancing the spread and influence of the President and his ruling party, and effectively excluding alternative political spread and influence from the population. It has spirally driven administrative and political costs to untold levels. Uganda is sinking under the burden of these costs, which are undermining development, transformation and progress. It makes the slogan of “Securing Your Future” misleading, simply serving to conceal past, current and future ineffectiveness of the regime in power and its government.
Meanwhile the line budgets of Agriculture, Education and Health have continually attracted diminishing budgetary allocations, in real terms, as if social development in Uganda no longer matters. This, however, reflects President Museveni’s choices and wisdom in development, guided by the exaggerated belief in infrastructure development and resources exploitation, with nature, environment, conservation and social development coming in only when it makes political sense to him to selectively mention them at opportune times.
To confirm this status quo, one needs to have a critical scrutiny of the National Budget 2023.2024. I will not bother myself with the elaborate statics in the budget; suffice to say that although the volume of money in the national budgets has been continually and astronomically shooting up until today. This year’s national budget is Ugx52trn. The budget, if critically analysed, reveals over commitment to militarism, politics, administration and consumption. This has been the case over the last three decades. Nature, environment and social development continue to receive de-emphasis in monetary terms. This explains why services to the diverse communities of Ugandans, especially at the bottom of society, have meteorically, continually and consistently declined in real terms because no effective development was being realized and consequently income poverty has proliferated. This means that the effectiveness and relevancy of government to the people of Uganda have also declined in real terms, as all political and governance effort is focused on power retention, conquest, control and domination of the indigenous communities of Uganda.
This is not surprising. Any kind of development at the bottom of society in Uganda is almost always and generally pegged to movement politics, and most particularly to President Museveni, who as I keep on emphasizing, has successfully made sure he is the beginning and end of everything in the country. How near a given community is to the ruling Party assures it of public services at the expense of those communities that do not embrace Movement politics. Such communities have become absolutely impoverished during 37 years of Movement rule in the true spirit that President Museveni used to repeatedly stress: Those who don’t vote or support us will have no share of the national cake”. Or else, individuals, ethnically related to those that dominate power in Kampala, have over the years, tended to penetrate the peripheral communities, assumed leadership positions, grabbed land and started businesses, including large-scale farming. In the true spirit of individualization of development, the programmes and projects initiated at the centre have persistently, consistently and selectively benefited such people. Meanwhile the indigenous communities have tended to become more and more marginalized as the new penetrants with ethnic interests become stinkingly greedy and wealthy. Apparently even refugees, who enjoy great affinity to the powers that be, are benefitting at the expense of the nationals. We should not postpone recording that so much corruption in Uganda reflects ethnic and refugee interests. This is an attractive area for researchers to delve into. It might turn out that these interests constitute a major reason why corruption is spiralling upwards. Indeed, on more than one occasion President Museveni has stated that what matters are ideology and interests, not identity. To a very big extent, therefore, this explains the nature, construction, injustices, oppression, leadership, governance and segregation in Uganda’s political spectrum today. It exposes the slogan “Securing Your Future” as diversionary.
It is important to emphasize that the whole is always greater than its parts, and even if we put all the parts together, we never get the whole because the whole is its own, with its own characteristics that cannot be replicated by any part or parts of it. However, the interconnections and interdependences of its parts are critical in contributing to the uniqueness of the whole. Uganda is one whole. It has its own ethnicities, clannism, indigenous groups, its clusters of refugees, leadership quality and governance styles, energy systems, ecologies and environments those of Kenya, Tanzania, for example. Definitely, Uganda’s development and the resources fuelling it are different.
Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the original members of the East African Community, may have agreed to renew the spirit of East African regionalism but are so unlike especially in the way they pursue development, prioritize in development and utilise their resources for development. For example, whereas a Uganda President manifests as a strongman who combines absolutism and authoritarianism in the development process, and can afford to say “Uganda has its own owner” and “My oil”, in true fashion of individualizing ownership of the development process, the Presidents of Kenya and Tanzania can only refer to each other’s country, resources and development process as “Our country, our resources, our development process”. In this case, the President of Uganda can use a national budget, or retune it, in the process of actualizing; it to serve his own interests and goals, but the President of Kenya or Tanzania cannot because their countries are still focused on democratizing themselves.
In terms of governance, the differences between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are multi-fold. In Uganda, the Constitution places all power and authority in the institution of President and places all the country’s sovereignty in the hands of the President, who cannot be tried in any court in the land so long as he is President. Besides, the political party, through which the President of Uganda derives his legitimacy to rule, manifests more or less as a personal possession, with the other party leaders serving to enhance and protect his power.
Also, by design, the President of Uganda is perennial, with elections, which can be manipulated to serve his political interests of sticking to power at all costs, serving to legitimize and cast his reign as a product of the popular vote. Indeed, each Presidential election since1996 has purposely cast President Museveni as the most popular politician in the country. This is likely to continue so long as his health allows him to continue seeking re-election. There are enough self-interested ad greedy elite, now stinkingly rich, ever-ready to ensure that the President is in power for life. They hardly think beyond the President.
What all this has meant is that for development to be seen to be taking place in Uganda, the President of Uganda, for that matter, President Museveni, must be central to it. Also, central to it must be the politics he prefers to obtain in the country, which is politics of exclusion, dispossession, depoliticization, dehumanization, denationalization, de-citizenization, de-intellectualization, deradicalization, disempowerment and impoverishment of the general populace while enriching a small group of ethnically-related individuals or families. The culture of money and the religion of poverty are central to this politics. Consequently, President Museveni has emerged, and is cast by his followers, as more or less a kind of god, greater than Uganda. Simultaneously, his political party, National Resistance Movement (registered with the Electoral Commission as National Resistance Movement Organization or NRM0) is also looming large in the fashion of a religion – Movement religion. Collaborative research, which should be underway at our numerous universities, would confirm or reject these assertions.
Therefore, in my view, Uganda is effectively being musevenized and NRM-nized as if the aim is to effectively occupy, weaken and exclude any possible alternative leadership, or else turn the country into a closed society where everything continuously begins with President Museveni, ends with President Museveni and is endorsed by the Movement to confer acceptability and legitimacy. This could explain the repeatedly recited song “NRM will rule for 100 years”; a modification of the late Minister Basoga-Nsadhu’s “NRM will rule for 1000 years”. While the song is sung, no thought is given to the existence of a divine, supreme Almighty God who has frequently intervened to frustrate the fortunes, preferences and predictions of men of power.
In the true spirit of President Museveni and NRM being greater than Uganda, the strategy now is to destroy or manipulate the fragile minds of Ugandans and tune them to hereditary and dynastical leadership whereby if a current ruler leaves, his son takes over.
We have for long now heard of the concept “Alternative Generator” within the NRM. This simply means that if the President leaves, his son, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, take over. Almost strategically, NRM has been split up into two major factions: Tibuhaburwa Museveni -TM Faction and Muhoozi Kainerugaba (MK) faction. There is another shadowy faction, the Odrek Rwabogo – OR faction. President Museveni explained the cleavage by blaming it on NRM-party internal weaknesses, forgetting that behind every problem is the problem of leadership. The President is the sole perennial, unchallenged sole top leader of the party. The products of the cleavage (Museveni, Muhoozi Kainerugaba and Odrek Rwabogo) are, however, not at all antagonistic. They all aim to ensure that power does not get out of the palace. The expected role of the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Nobert Mao, is to effect the necessary constitutional changes to ensure, as he has frequently told Ugandans, a smooth transfer of power from President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, most likely to his son, not through universal suffrage, but approval by the excessively NRM-dominated Parliament. It is unlikely such a strategy would favour the OR faction, although by getting approval by Parliament in the 2023/24 national budget for 37 billion shillings to promote business, Odrek Rwabogo has the money to enhance his visibility in the country. What however, this entire means is that electoral politics by universal suffrage is being squeezed out of the political spectrum of Uganda. It also means political pluralism will be a thing of the past. Already the three individuals are traversing the country (President Museveni was temporarily interrupted by Covid 19, according to his public pronouncement) with different reasons why they should appeal to Ugandans. The security organs that often swing in action to debilitate Opposition Parties when they try to access the population are providing the three “contesting individuals” all the security they need, of course at public cost. Curiously, Napoleon Bona Parte of France used the Parliament to get everything he wanted for himself and the country. It seems President Museveni wants dynastical rule, which Napoleon sought to achieve by parliamentary means, and is sure to get it through Parliament.
In effect Uganda is being taken back to the days of the NRM-designed one Party State when to survive politically one had to identify himself or herself with the ruling Party or with President Museveni even if one professed Uganda People’s Congress – UPC, Democratic Party-DP, Conservative Party -CP or Uganda Patriotic Movement -UPM. This is the last stroke on the existence of a plural polity. Already whole parties (UPC, DP and other small parties) are now more or less enjoying affinity to the NRM and do not challenge the ruling party anymore). Uganda is emerging and is maturing as a glorified politico military and military-political State. Other schools of thought assert the country under Movement rule is a Deep State in which unelected people have more power and influence than the elected officials. This is one reason why democratization in Uganda has become a nightmare. There can be no democratization where a Deep State reigns.
Despite all this manipulation of the politics, governance of Uganda, amidst so much political illiteracy tending to give the impression that President Tibuhaburwa and NRM own Uganda, I must re-emphasize that Uganda is greater than the President and NRM. By extension it is greater than Muhoozi Kainerugaba and Odrek Rwabogo or, for that matter, the ruling family of President Museveni.
Uganda will definitely outlast all of them and ultimately liberate itself from political domination by an unfairly moneyed and militarized group of power-hungry people. Besides, Uganda will only develop when everyone has a fair opportunity to participate in its development, leadership and governance. A situation whereby lords and slaves relate to each other leaves development to the lords only and impoverishment to the slaves. The lords will own everything and take even the little the slaves have. Disadvantage of the majority will be institutionalized and advantage will accrue to a minority perennially. The State will have no value to the majority and will continually grow at the expense of the oppressed. I have already written about Apartheid-like governance in Uganda in another article. This is what is unfolding and it is unfortunate for Africa in general and Uganda in particular.
If Uganda was liberated, it needs liberation, not necessarily by gun-power. Mind liberation must be the way forward first sooner than later. Many Public intellectuals must liberate themselves and be active again to liberate and connect minds in the struggle against Apartheid-like governance. Later will be too late. Vulnerable Ugandans have been conditioned to think and believe Uganda cannot tick unless President Museveni is at the helm of power. However, President Museveni is not immortal and has lived for a longer period than he will ever live. A mind liberation by public intellectuals scattered across the social strata of the country will prepare the population for the reality of a Uganda without the President, and help ward off a catastrophe.
For God and My Country.