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Where The Economist went wrong

By Keith Muhakanizi

The author of the article titled ‘A country adrift, a president amiss, the government fails yet again to defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army,’ in your issue of February 14 draws nefarious assertions on the state of Uganda and how President Museveni is ostensibly adrift, because of reneging on a ‘sea change’ of promises made when he and the National Resistance Movement/Army successfully overturned, in 1986, tumultuous years of grief and wanton mismanagement. The article further disparages the success of President Museveni’s leadership and the NRM Government with the postulation that it has been a failure based on the original promises of peace and security for all, democracy, prosperity and frugal governance. Sadly for your paper, the facts do not bear your story out.

The article’s author clearly fails to dispassionately observe facts, as a professional pre-requisite, even as a reputable publication, The Banker Magazine, awarded Uganda’s then Finance minister [Esra Suruma] the best 2008 Africa Minister of Finance of the Year, following Uganda’s stellar economic growth performance of 9.8% in 2008; or the 2008 investment grade B+ rating accorded to Uganda by Standard and Poor’s, hard on the heels of the 2006 B rating, accorded by Fitch.

To what would likely be the author’s rue and chagrin, Uganda has grown at an average of 7.4 percent over the last five years, and a remarkable 6.5 percent over the last twenty-three years, under the leadership of the NRM Government led by President Museveni; culminating into a seven-fold increase in the size of the Ugandan economy over the period. The economic growth rate for 2009 was at most projected to grow at 7.1 percent in 2009, never at the 9 percent you quote, well before the global financial crisis unfolded, which shows the sheer lack of journalistic objectivity that calls for establishing the facts rather than creating fiction. The International Monetary Fund has revised global growth rates thrice over the last six months, estimating it at only 1 percent, much lower than the 4 percent you have forecasted for the Uganda economy, which many far afield would be content to have. Consistent public policy and sound economic management has led to the socio-economic transformation that has 8 million of 8.5 million school-going age children in primary school; and another 1 million of 3 million secondary school-going children in secondary school. Poverty headcount levels have declined from 56 percent in the early 1990s to 31 percent in 2005 notwithstanding the doubling of Uganda’s population. Expenditures on health, education and infrastructure and agricultural development have constituted 71 percent of Uganda’s budget (excluding debt service), which itself has grown four-fold, over the last decade. Only the likes of the article’s author can easily discount this progress against the backdrop of years of terror and catastrophe that defined Uganda in the decades before 1986.

Even your touted ranting on democracy bears no credibility whatsoever. Over the last twenty-two years, Uganda has built formidable democratic institutions, enacting a constitution promulgated with the participation of all its citizenry, instituting democratic governance right up to the grassroots and allowing access to all in either competing for political office or exercising adult suffrage. Your derision of the removal of term limits also demonstrates the clear lack of understanding that Ugandan people have the power to elect whoever they wish, without your biased one-size-fits-all standard of term limits, compared to the need for virtuous governance. Never has competition for elective office been held in Uganda since the promulgation of the 1995 constitution, without contest by those who want to, even in the courts of law, which shows the maturity that eluded us in the past with pigeon-hole constitutions, military coups and elections stolen outright and with no-recourse for arbitration and redress. While you want to make-believe that a democracy has to be perfect, few elections even in the well-established democracies of our time, are devoid of challenge. The important fact is that after fair contest, there exist institutions for meaningful and objective redress by independent institutions, such as the judiciary. The building of institutions, like the judiciary in Uganda makes the nation’s future brighter than ever before, together with socio-economic development alluded to earlier; the emancipation of women, youth the disabled having all been brought within the fold of where the nation’s destiny is determined, which fact you cannot be excused for not knowing.

Your insensitivity to what Ugandans have gone through in establishing peace and security across the entire nation in a tumultuous region is easily discernible from your callous reference to the state of the people of Northern Uganda. Having witnessed the undemocratic rule, the dehumanizing of Uganda by Idi Amin and successive regimes over 25 years, independent Uganda has progressively moved on to become more peaceful and secure; the tail-end of state-inspired terrorism and violence meted out against its people embodied by the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony and his predecessors, notwithstanding. While you deride Uganda’s chosen leaders and its institutions such as its army and the police that have been crucial in re-establishing peace and security, Ugandans are well in the know about where they have come from and what the future holds for them, which you willfully ignore.

Deputy Secretary to the Treasury

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