Kampala June 7, 2016.
The long awaited cabinet list is finally out. If Ugandans expected something different from business as usual they were badly disappointed. True to its dominant nature of putting partisan loyalty above the public spirit and competence, the cabinet is another dose of more of the same. Apart from the laudable gesture of retiring those who were long overdue for retirement like Henry Kajura, Tarsis Kabwegyere and Dr. Nyiira, the cabinet doesn’t represent any change in political path. The tendency to entrench family rule and hegemony in our polity is still visible no matter the efforts to disguise it.
To the politically gullible, the inclusion of some members of opposition parties in the cabinet may appear to represent a spirit of inclusion. However to the adept and keen observers, the inclusion of people like Betty Amongi (UPC), Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi (DP) and Beti Kamya (UFA) in the cabinet is nothing but despicable tokenism and falls far short of any expectation Ugandans may have had that following a disputed election marred with unprecedented rigging and post election brutality and continued repression, an inclusive government based on a consensus reached through a national dialogue process. In a dialogue process, the direction of the country would be negotiated. We reject tokenism because it simply means trading a few crumbs for a fair share of the loaf of political power. As the Igbo of Nigeria say “No one gets a mouthful of food by picking between another person’s teeth”.
Uganda is a country that is deeply divided and hurting. The nation is badly in need of healing. Museveni’s one man rule ensures that no alternative voice will be heard in cabinet, parliament, the judiciary or even the streets. In terms of democracy, Uganda in the next five years will be nothing more than a political graveyard.
We therefore denounce the new cabinet as yet another lever in Museveni’s power arsenal. Museveni and his cabal are presiding over a malevolent and capricious state capture which is clearly seen in the tyranny of the majority in parliament, the elevation of so called cadre judges in the judiciary and the suppression of civil dissent. This cabinet therefore doesn’t represent a new direction. You cannot make an omelette by shuffling around rotten eggs.
On the State of the Nation Address delivered on 31 May, 2016, we await the National Budget. That is when we will give a comprehensive response. But we have something to say in the meantime. As expected the address skirted around the issue of governance without acknowledging the political logjam we have in Uganda today with an illegitimate government in place led by a person whose victory will continue to be questioned for ages. With characteristic arrogance Mr. Museveni declared, “Having followed closely world and historical events over the last 50 years, I am not aware of any society anywhere in the world that is more democratic than Uganda as far as the forms and structures of democracy are concerned….Democracy is one area where we do not need aid”. We note that this is a qualified statement. It is an admission that Uganda Is democratic only in form. In essence and substance Uganda is a totalitarian state.
The heart of the address was the economy. Mr. Museveni assured Ugandans that by 2020, that is in four years time, Uganda will be a middle income country. This may be an impressive jargon but let’s unpack it. That term is based on the so called Atlas Method that the World Bank uses to rank the economy of countries. Low Income countries where Uganda falls have a Gross National Income per capita of US$1,045 or less. Middle income countries have a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of between US$1,045 and US$12,736. (Of course middle income countries are further subdivided into lower middle income and upper middle income countries. Lower middle income countries have a GNI per capita of between US$1,046 – US$4,125. Upper middle income countries have a GNI per capita of US$4,126 – 12,735). High income countries have a Gross National Income per capita above US$12,735.
Even without waiting for the National Budget we can say for certain that the absurd proclamation that Uganda will be a middle income country by 2020 is a political hoax smacking of deception and gimmickry. With a balance of trade of minus US$164.6 million, global business confidence of only 54 percent, military expenditure of US$340 million, inflation of over 6 percent and growth at only less than 4 percent, Uganda’s ambition of attaining middle income status under the current NRM economic framework is a pathetic pipe dream that no one can take seriously. This is coupled with an unsustainably high external debt of over 14 Trillion Uganda shillings which costs Uganda a lot of money to service. Then there is the lack of fiscal discipline, high military expenditure, unattractive wages that fuel brain drain, high unemployment of over 60 percent and the run away corruption. This is what constitutes the hemorrhage that Museveni dwelt on during his dull and unimaginative address to a demoralized nation. It is this hemorrhage that is responsible for the heavy tax burden under which Ugandans agonize. What the Uganda Revenue Authority is attempting to do is thus akin to a person collecting water using a basket. Unless the leakages are plugged the whole thing is an exercise in futility. The strategy of fighting corruption using the methods he used to fight indiscipline in the army will not work against corruption. It will be like treating a cancer using Vaseline. While indiscipline in the army is not profitable, corruption has grown into an institutionalized and highly profitable activity. Museveni will not win the war against corruption unless he becomes born again and offer leadership by example. You cannot exhort your flock to drink water while you gorge yourself on wine! Sooner or later the flock will follow your bad example. Therefore the fight against corruption requires a level of moral authority that Museveni lacks. He cannot point out the splinter in the eyes of his followers because he has a log in his eyes. As I have stated before, fish rots from the head. Today, I wish to advise Museveni that when you are sweeping a staircase you start from the top. Let him start from himself and those closest to him then move downwards. Fighting corruption is the one thing in which the bottom up approach cannot work because the bottlenecks in the war against corruption are in the top of the table.
Fortunately, for Ugandans there is a political party called the DP which shuns corruption, violence, dictatorship and militarism. We shall continue to illuminate our political space with viable alternative policies that shall be cogently presented in all platforms. Our impact shall not depend on our numbers but rather by the superior quality of our ideas and the firm foundation on which we stand.
We call upon Ugandans not to lose hope. We shall work hand in hand with other democracy seeking forces in our motherland to see that the NRM, like all totalitarian regimes that have persecuted and oppressed people throughout the ages, ends up in the dustbin of history. We will continue to speak out without fear or favor against all ills that afflict our country and continue to keep hope alive that we shall overcome. The darkest part of the night is just before dawn. Let that hope for a better future keep us focused on the tasks of the present.
Hon. Norbert Mao