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THE LAST WORD: Why are Ugandans so angry?

THE LAST WORD: By Andrew M. Mwenda

How economic success has tended to create more political trouble for Museveni than comfort

Very many Ugandans are angry, very angry. They feel the country has lost direction. They argue that our politics is corrupted, our democracy in retreat, and elections are rigged. They say the economy is not growing, poverty is increasing, inequality is widening, and state capacity to deliver public goods and services has been grossly eroded. Yet the opposite is the case on almost all these issues. Uganda is more democratic today than ever before and elections are increasingly freer and fairer. The country is making massive and unprecedented investments in infrastructure that will give it future productivity gains. Yet when you cite evidence of all these, critics retort that the numbers are cooked.

It is not only people who in the opposition that are angry. Many people high in the government – ministers, ruling party MPs, top civil servants, leading business persons, prelates, intellectuals and even members of the First Family including President Yoweri Museveni and the First Lady, Janet Museveni, make these criticisms. For example, in her autobiography, `My Life’s Journey’, Mrs. Museveni, criticises rampant corruption, inefficiency, and incompetence in the government.

In meetings I have attended with the President and government officials, Museveni always expresses frustration with the public sector’s inability to perform its functions. Even in some of his public speeches he sounds more like an opposition politician than an incumbent president. Therefore, disillusionment with the status quo is a widely shared sentiment across Uganda’s political spectrum. Recently, a top public official told me that I have lost my journalistic quality of being critical and keeping government on its toes. He said that these days I sound like a government spokesperson.

Indeed, I have been involved in battles with many people in large part because I previously used to hold these doomsday feelings and articulate them myself. Over the years, I have increasingly moved away from relying largely on my feelings to comment on public affairs towards greater reliance on statistical data, empirical evidence, historical reflection and comparative studies to understand Uganda and explain it to my readers, viewers, and listeners. For that, many people accuse me of having been bribed by Museveni. I am still waiting for my cheque!

But let me digress a bit to some kind of mini autobiography. I am inherently suspicious of majoritarian views and, therefore, I am always inclined to be more skeptical about what is the most popular and widely accepted version of things. I have rarely found myself on the side of the majority on any issue – whether it is corruption being an impediment to growth or foreign direct investment being a solution to our development predicament or the greatness of Barack Obama or the need for foreign aid to cure poverty.

5 comments

  1. Mwenda wrote: ” For that, many people accuse me of having been bribed by Museveni. I am still waiting for my cheque!” This statement is too simplistic for Mwenda. Being compromised (rather than bribing) is a better rendering. And compromising does not need to be in terms of money. It can take, like in this case, availability of access.

  2. I am on this page to deal with those who insult Andrew they can attack him in other social medias but not here.

    Uganda has gone thru 3 pharses of change(i) Amin’s regime where people just prayed for soap,salt and Sugar(ii) Obote and Amin’s regime combined where Ugandans prayed for peaceful sleep then M7’s regime where we are spoilt for choice.So what makes M7’s regime complicated?its coz Ugandan have been exposed to good social,economical and political lifestyles that they cant afford.

    Its of course not normal for Ugandans to have forgotten where they came from.

    The elites pretend that they are suffering(They think that govt should sponsor their lavish lifestyle) most times, their anger is misguided actually they are just redundant.Recently Simon Kaheru wrote an article critcising Ugandans for letting Europeans name some of their streets after them aren’t streets like Princess Anne Drive,Luthuli venue in Bugolobi well organsied?even new Estates like Aright in Bwebajja have streets with foreign names How come streets named after Ugandans resemble them Interms of Disorganization?

    Recently i attended a burial in Wakiso (Buganda)(Which is relatively not so remote) what i witnessed was shocking i realised some Ugandans have a long way to go .when the truck carrying food arrived at the venue the villagers began qeuing for food without even giving respect to the Bishop with his holy robes. how come people from the North & Western ug dont fight for food(meat) is it coz they are used to cows.

  3. A lower Gini is associated with low economic growth and development. So having a low Gini as Malawi suggests that both countries Uganda and Malawi are poor economic performers.

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