What does Museveni want and can new tough laws deliver it?
Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE AND ISAAC KHISA | Regulate. Regulate. Regulate. Taxi ownership, regulate. Coffee and sugarcane growing regulate. Cesspool emptying, regulate. Belonging to political party, regulate. Quitting political party, regulate.
In the past few months, the government has come up with proposed law after proposed law aimed at regulating one facet or the other of social, economic, and political life. The question is why is government so bent on tight regulation now? Where has it been all this time? What is to be the likely outcome of this heightened regulation regime?
Some experts think that the government is doing the right thing.
Sabiti Makara, a lecturer at the department of political science at Makerere University told The Independent that the new regulation is good. He spoke specifically about the government move to regulate the taxi business.
“I once owned taxis,” he said, “It is a terrible business. You are at the mercy of a driver and the conductor, who on most cases do not pay.”
He says that with the new government proposed arrangement, transport sector investors would realise good returns on their investment. But he also has fears of government control and wants the business left strictly in the hands of the private sector even as taxis will be required by law to operate under Saving Cooperative and Credit Organisations (SACCOS), partnerships, or any other form of association.
Ezra Munyambonera, an economist at the Economic Policy Research Centre, Makerere University, also supported the proposed regulations on taxis.
“Currently, there is no order in the city and other towns. There is also robbery in those taxis,” he said.
Munyambonera dismisses fears that organising taxis in form of associations will eliminate individual tax owners in business.
“Individuals will simply buy their taxis and register them with an organisation, Sacco, company and so on of their choice,” he said.
He added that taxis in any form of association will strengthen their bargaining power with the government as well place them in a better position to seek for bank loans for investments.
But what about the recently tabled titbits of proposed electoral law reforms in Parliament; are they also good? No way says opposition politician Wilfred Niwagaba who is the MP for Ndorwa County (East).
Niwagaba, who is also the Attorney General in the opposition shadow cabinet, says the laws are aimed at helping President Yoweri Museveni to prolong his stay in power and adds that the situation can erupt any time like “we have seen this happening in Sudan, Tunisia etc”.
Talk of popular protest is a common line in opposition circles and it is always scoffed at by those in the ruling party.
One of the longest serving National Resistance Movement (NRM) leaders, Maj. Gen Matayo Kyaligonza, told The Independent in an interview, that all that the government is doing is to keep the peace and businesses running.
“You will never know all what the government is doing,” he said.
He said Museveni’s government remains strong and those saying the regime is collapsing are merely speculating to create fear and inconvenience those running the government.
“Let them talk,” Kyaligonza, who is currently the ambassador of Uganda to Burundi, said, “Having gone through wars, you cannot ask people to go to war again- they are fed up.”
Instead, he said, anyone defying the new regulations and inconveniencing people in business will be arrested and handled in accordance with the laws.
He added that the current regime remains strong in terms of security, the economy compared to past regimes of the 1960s and 1970s.
“Ugandans are intelligent enough to compare what happened in the 1960s and what is happening now,” he said.
Asked to comment specifically on whether Uganda could experience what is in Sudan and what happened in Libya, Tinusia, Kyaligonza said: “Those who are saying that are dreaming. I think in those countries citizens were fed up with the system.”
He added: “When we went to the bush we had an upper hand…people sympathized with us and supported us.”
Today, in Uganda, he said that the cost of living is normal and there are no signs that opposition forces can remove this regime.
“When we came here there was no soap…now you can see by yourself,” he said.
He, however, agreed with critics of the regime, that like any other country in the world, there are challenges related to corruption, unemployment, poverty in Uganda but the government is aware of them and is not sleeping.
He advised the opposition and critics of the regime to mobilise the masses to resist individuals involved in corruption and other unwanted acts instead of inciting them to go to war.