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The beggar and Uganda’s independence balance sheet

By Fred Guweddeko

It is gloom for Uganda as the country marks its 47th Independence Anniversary. The ‘Independence Balance Sheet’, must show in the Assets Column value for the costs the people of Uganda have incurred since 1962. It must also show in the Liabilities Column, the real owners of the Assets the country has earned since1962.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Uganda ‘Independence Balance Sheet’ does not balance. Besides being very few, the social, economic and political gains (assets) are not balanced by the number of Ugandans who claim them. Although they are many, the costs and sufferings of Ugandans since 1962 are not balanced by the benefits.

The greatest success of Uganda since independence is the 1972-74 ‘Economic War’ that expropriated the economy from foreign control and transferred it to the indigenous people. However, most of this gain has since 1982 and mostly after 1986, been reversed by the Obote (II) and NRM/A leaders practicing neo-colonial servitude.

The second success has been the NRM/A revolution that ended the perilous concentration of Uganda military cum political power from the Northern Region, which the country suffered since independence. Unfortunately, this monopoly of military political power has been transferred to another, even smaller region and sub-ethnic group in Southern Uganda, thus nullifying the gain.

The third post independence achievement is the creation under President Museveni of a very large group of Diaspora-based Ugandan exiles working and sending more money into the economy than all the other exports. This gain is however by default and many of these Ugandans would rather be home than doing degrading and dangerous jobs in forced political, economic and social exile.

The fourth achievement has been the confirmation of commercially viable quantities of oil in western Uganda. This oil was known as early as August 1894 when Captain Gerald Portal visited an oil seep in the region but its commercial viability has been pronounced only after a regime that is a ‘sell-out’ to international capitalism is leading Uganda.

The creation of the defunct East African Community (EAC), which is now being revived, is another post independence achievement. History shows that two politicians, Obote and Museveni, who successfully launched their eventually successful bids to rule Uganda from Tanzania, destroyed this landmark.

The 1964 launched ‘Ranching Scheme’ that covered the cattle corridor areas across the whole of Uganda and laid ground for a great Diary and Beef industry is another success story. This scheme was disrupted by the Amin regime, partly revived under Obote (II), buried and converted it into a Balaalo crisis under Museveni.

The role of Uganda in freeing Southern Sudan from Khartoum and in changing the regime in Rwanda is a significant post independence achievement given the disturbing role of migrants from ethnic groups like the Acholi, Kakwa and Banyrwanda whose majority populations are in Southern Sudan and Rwanda. But Uganda is clearly unable to utilise this achievement as the instability these groups caused in Uganda has been transferred across and the defects are filtering back.

The suffering and losses the people of Uganda have borne and incurred without any recompense are backbreaking. The greatest losses are in the political wars that have not borne positive outcomes in spite of losses of life and economic value. In loss of economic value the 1978-9 Tanzania war is followed by the Acholi, Luwero, and Teso wars. In loss of life it’s Acholi, Luwero, Teso and Tanzania war. There is one leader who features in all these post independence war losses.

There are six outrageous post independence economic losses causing irreparable damage to the economy and suffering to Ugandans. These are; the post 1990 return of already compensated economic assets and properties, the 1997-99 ‘looting and carnage’ of Congo which has slapped a US$20 billion fine on Uganda, uncontrolled post-1987 external borrowing of over five billion US dollars, the post 1992 ‘Privatisation’ sale of public assets, the destruction of Cooperative Unions, the ‘Barter-Trade’ policy, the annual loss of over Shs5 billion to corruption under NRM and hosting the 2007 CHOGM.

In post independence politics, the greatest misfortune suffered by Uganda has been the emergence of three politico-military leaders who together have ruled the country for forty-five out of the forty-seven years of independence. These are Dr. Obote who was a politician but using the power of the army, Field Marshal Amin, who used the military to cross into politics, and third is President Museveni, a politician who crossed over into the military to capture and retain power.

The second post independence political crisis in Uganda has been the failure and abuse of electoral democracy through the staging of flawed and rigged elections in 1980, 1996, 2001 and 2006. The third political ignominy has been the 1966 Obote violent abolition of the age-old political culture of kingdoms in Uganda. This disgrace is crowned by the boomerang of the equally un-principled redress of this Obote blunder by President Museveni.

In the social sector, the post independence letdown is the NRM/A failure to domesticate the people of Karamoja leading to untold cattle rustling, disruption, destruction, anarchy, death, displacement, famine, gun and human trafficking in Karamoja, Teso, Acholi, Lango, Sebei and parts of Bugisu.

The other landmark post independence social sector failure is the destruction of Uganda’s education system by the ill-conceived displacing a perfect subsidised arrangement with a chaotic commercialised schools alongside a very defective free primary and secondary schooling. The third milestone social sector failure is the destruction of the hitherto illustrious Uganda health services by the abolition of a focused system of intensive care hospitals and replacing them with an extensive array of equipment, medicine and health units without staff.

The ‘Balance Sheet’ of Uganda’ independence is like the ‘Death Will’ of a beggar. It reflects no difference between the ‘Assets’ [gains] and ‘Liabilities’ [losses] as a beggar has neither. This is why Ugandans shunned the ‘momentous’ cerebrations where President Museveni was justifying the life of good beggar, which is what we are reaping from the 47 years of independence.

Author is a Researcher at Makerere University

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