By Amon B Mbekiza
In a lengthy treatise in The East African Sept 12-18, Andrew Mwenda labours to explain the current crisis in Uganda as a result of Museveni’s success, thus the ‘gravedigger’ theorem dilemma. Citing what he calls social and transformative leadership, he likens M7’s situation to those of leaders in South Korea and Taiwan among others. Now, a cursory comparison of the economies of Uganda and Taiwan or Korea reveals the exact opposite of what Mwenda twists and calls Museveni’s success. Well, perhaps I have been on another planet for the last two decades, but the truth is that Museveni is paying the price for his failed political and economic leadership. The Asian cases Mwenda quotes are examples of a successful, developmental state, while Museveni’s Uganda is a classic predator state, rivalring Mobutu’s Zaire. The new ‘social classes’ Mwenda lists are a creation of what we term the ‘trentine factor’: three decades of a headless-chicken economy that Uganda has been under Museveni. It amazes that Mwenda refuses to acknowledge that what he calls the Twiterati and Facebookers in Uganda, are at the tail end of technology and innovation. ICT in particular, is an aid to development and can only have meaning in context. That’s why here we simply consume other people’s innovations and move around heads-high, chest-thumbing,claiming to belong to the ‘dot-com’ era.
To appreciate the real impact of Museveni’s ‘success’ on Uganda, Mwenda may want to visit an artist friend of mine, whose office is graced with a huge digitally-printed canvass banner, titled ‘ LEST WE FORGET’. Below, in a mosaic-type print, are the logos and slogans of the drivers of Uganda’s economy prior to the Museveni era: Uganda Development Bank, Ugadev Bank, Uganda Commercial Bank, The Cooperative Bank, Uganda Cooperative Insurance, Nyanza Textile Industries, Uganda Development Corporation, The Uganda Fish Marketing Corporation, Uganda Airlines, Uganda Motors, Uganda Garment Industries, Cranes Uganda, Uganda Railways Corporation, Uganda Transport Company, People’s Transport Company, East Mengo Cooperative Union, Wamala Cooperative Union, Lango Cooperative Union, Kigezi Cooperative Union, Masaka Cooperative Union, Banyankore Kweteerana Cooperative Union, Kilembe Mines, Uganda Meat Industries, Uganda Grain Milling Company, Uganda Electricity Board, National Housing and Construction Corporation, Lake Victoria Bottling Company, Iki-Iki Cooperative Union, Mulco Industries, The Uganda Metal Plating and Enameling Company, Bata Uganda,Uganda Petroleum Company, Uganda Tobacco Company Ltd, Ankole Transport Company Ltd, Lira Spinning Mills.
Intrigued by this, I sought to know what prompted this guy to resurrect the dead. ‘Institutional economic memory’, is what drives him. He was pushed to this after an insult he received from an ‘investor’ whose company logo he printed, but the ‘investor’ instead of paying him, insulted him, reminding him that Ugandans are good-for-nothing, who cant do anything for themselves and their country, and should instead be grateful to ‘investors’ who come to create jobs for them. Infuriated, my artist friend took to this huge task that at one point cost him dearly. Some technocrat wanted to know why he was looking for logos of companies long dead.
Unless Mr Mwenda is being dishonest with himself, he well knows that the major cause of the current unrest in Uganda is not a pre-industrial, tribal, clan, society that M7 diagnosed and went ahead to transform into a ‘liberalised, capitalist economy and society’. There is nothing wrong with our tribes and clans. Israel, a modern state and economy by any standards, has the clan and the tribe as her core bond. Japan, Thailand are still ruled by emperors. The small Scandinavian states, whose few million people support Ugandans and Africans through aid, are monarchies, with kings and queens. The tribe and clan in our case only gets invoked in situations of scarcity, where one throws the ‘fattest maggot’ to his own chicken! In the face of unemployment, occasioned by a liberalised, foreign-owned, consumer-importer, shopping mall economy, the few jobs available must be fought for, and in such a scenario, akin to a huge polygamous family that is perennially food insecure, one seeks his immediate ‘biological’ sibling. Thus the tribe and clan phenomenon of our politics and rent-seeking.
The army of unemployed graduates is a result of this liberalised economy, which cannot be a basis for a focused human development strategy that would otherwise produce productive graduates according to the targeted needs of a transforming economy. Just like imported balloons and toys, education in Uganda is another good on the market, packaged and offered according to the consumer’s capability, not a national obligation and well thought, integral component of socioeconomic transformation. This, spiced with external influence serving external interests, finds fertile ground in a generation deprived by its leadership, while witnessing pockets of opulence, who preach patriotism while abetting, nay actively participating, in the raping of the pearl. Mwenda can have access to data on the bitter truth about National Insurance Corporation ( NIC) and Uganda Electricity Board. They are potential microcosm cases for one seeking to research into Uganda’s privatisation experience as one manifestation of a predator state.
True, Museveni has had relative successes, aided by other Ugandans, but it would be intellectual dishonesty to attribute the current situation to successes rather than failures. The central cause of Uganda’s crisis today is a deliberately weakened state, whose institutions can no longer function to drive socioeconomic transformation, beyond the narrow interests of those who occasioned it in the first place. And in a bid to survive, the various interest groups in the country will seek alliances, local and foreign, that best serve their immediate physiological appetites, under the guise of national causes, just like those they claim to oppose. Thus the industrial actions, the MUASA phenomenon, KACITA, the artificial sugar scarcity, et cetera. As I write on the letters page of the same issue of The East African, UGANDA’S PROBLEM IS DISHONESTY WITH HERSELF and it gets more worrying when we read it in the young generation as evidenced by Mwenda’s treatise. Singapore, a typical success-benchmark for Uganda, owes her prosperity to two sentences running in her people’s blood:
-NO CRIME SHALL GO UNPUNISHED, REGARDLESS OF WHO COMMITS IT.
-NO EFFORT SHALL GO UNREWARDED, REGARDLESS OF WHO EXPENDS IT.
Our clans and tribes, which we are misusing, can be a basis for instilling such values in us, which we desperately need. Pro Deo et Patria!!!