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Uganda’s trending fashion


How popular sentiments have undermined our journalism and blinded our intellectuals from reality

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | It has become increasingly trendy and fashionable within certain sections of social media in Uganda to denounce President Yoweri Museveni. It does not matter what arguments one makes or evidence they adduce to back up their case or the values they stand for. It is just cool to accuse Museveni of looting and destroying Uganda.

Many Ugandan journalists, intellectuals and pundits seeking popular validation of their ideas, afraid to be “misunderstood”, desperate for approval, or plainly emotional and ignorant, pander to popular sentiments in complete disregard of the facts.

For instance, Godbar Tumushabe recently sent me a clip of my 2007 TED talk decrying the rising cost of Public Administration on the budget. He asked what had happened to me now that I no longer denounce Museveni’s excessive expenditure on political patronage.

I replied telling him that nothing had happened to me; something fundamental had happened to the budget (or Museveni): the cost of Public Administration on the budget had been shrinking in relative terms even though it had grown in absolute terms. I added that Godbar and me should share part of the praise for this change in our nation’s budget because we played a part.

On May 22, 2002, then Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, also Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Kasami, gave a profound talk at a public expenditure workshop in Kampala. He argued that there was need for “stronger control over the expenditures of Public Administration.”

Public administration at the time included State House, Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Public Service, Uganda Revenue Authority, Parliament, Electoral Commission, and the Ministry of Finance.

Kasami made two critical points: first that the budget for Public Administration had grown too rapidly. Second that the sector had consistently failed to fit within its budget, thereby claiming a large share of supplementary budget approvals, which negatively affected budget releases of other sectors. He said that Public Administration was “currently the second largest sector in the government budget, taking 20% of the total government spending.

He revealed that it had been growing at an annual average rate of 16%, claiming an increasing share of GDP i.e. rising from 2.9% of GDP in the 1997/98 budget to 3.6% of GDP in the 2001/02 budget.

Kasami argued that if the cost of public administration had grown in tandem with the growth in population, the country would have saved over Shs80 billion for other sectors that were critical. He argued that the reasons for the ballooning cost of Public Administration was the growth of semi autonomous government agencies, missions abroad and the cost of “the political system” i.e. patronage. Here he mentioned 62 ministers, 35 presidential advisors, 56 RDCs, 56 districts, 305 MPs and the growing size of the EC.

Godbar and I launched an advocacy program at ACODE where we campaigned against this development. We raised money from the Netherlands government and in 2006 and 2007 held a series of high profile seminars.

I presented papers on how, since 2002, things had gone from bad to worse. I demonstrated that there had been negligible investment in roads and electricity, sectors that are fundamental to future growth prospects. I even presented tables comparing Uganda’s spending on energy and transport infrastructure with other Sub Sahara African countries – and we were below average. Public officials; especially from the Ministry of Finance, and donors attended.


  1. Godbar is right. The patronage money is put under ministry defence budget (currently number 2 of the budget) and , that’s where all the classified expenditures happens. This where Museveni gets most of the money. You highlight borrowed money going into investments that benefits the future generations; let me ask, how are substandard roads which only last for a couple of years going to benefit the future generations? Are do ventures like Uganda airlines going to benefit the future generations, not add lots of burden to it? How about the ever increasing taxes whose income is spent on classified expenditure (including patronage) and public admission? Godber is a highly educated person and he cannot he easily deceived by merely changing a few things here and there.

    • ejakait engoraton

      “Need I say more? Now we know why the NRM regime unpatriotically and pretentiously insists on investing funds borrowed from the Bretton Woods Institutions and other ‘donor’ agencies or countries in physical infrastructure and energy, without realising economic transformation. Besides, they lack the will and wherewithal to negotiate deals that benefit the country and all its citizens. Sadly, while this is happening, our most precious natural resources are being looted by these ‘donor’ countries.

      The rulers too, are paid huge bribes to live the most expensive and comfortable lives at the expense of the poor ordinary citizens. Furthermore, close relations of the rulers, including their children, spouses, girlfriends and cronies are offered scholarships to study in some of the best universities in the world.
      They are given medical services in top-notch medical facilities in the world. No wonder, the regime spews out rosy economic growth figures that do not translate to material changes in the lives of the common citizens. Little wonder, the regime registers growth without development.”

      EXTRACT from an article by ROBERT MUGABE (not of ZIMBABWE) in the MONITOR of 23/06/2019

  2. ejakait engoraton

    FIRST of all, my condolences once again upon the death of your beloved mother. We hope that you managed to give her a deserved send off and all else went well including people travelling to and from the funeral. WE pray the Good Lord gives her eternal rest and that HE gives you the strength to carry on.

    IT is also touching that you have been able to write your usual column and we should appreciate the effort you must have put in to have the sense of bearing and duty.

  3. Rwasubutare is late to day.

  4. Muwanga the Ugandan

    If we agree that the Presidents of African nations are “Governors” for the West and now China, then those denouncing Museveni are wrong because he is not in charge. They should understand that he is merely carrying out the orders of his “Presidents” of the West and he is not responsible for what happens. If we agree that he is in charge, then we must reflect on the views posted by Alex and Ejakait(in the comments up there). Are we happy with the socio-economic transformation of our people?

    • Muwanga, must you rub salt in a wound? without intent to heal it but as a bearer of ill omen? If those leaders are local governors of emperors of abroad, then what is to become of the poor citizens of birth and descent?
      I am lost for words knowing that there is nothing I can say which will change anything in the status quo ante. May some good-intentioned educated person teach us how to go about it.


      @ MUWANGA, If Ugandans know that M7 represents the Western & Chinese interests and reward him other mandates on power, then it is not a problem of M7 rather; it’s a problem of the voters.

  5. 1.Alex; have you ever heard of the term wear and tear ?even roads and bridges in the first world nations have a lifespan.
    2. Call it political patronage but M7’s idea of giving youth loans to fund projects for artisans and other skills like home economics,fashion and beauty is great.
    3.The education system in Uganda is designed to train Ugandans for employment in the Public sector so when critics of M7 claim that there is wastage in the Public Administration aren’t they contradicting themselves?what will happen to those trained to serve in the Public sector like teachers,policemen,doctors wont there be massive unemployment if the size of Public sector is reduced ?
    Regarding the BOU saga these are some key issues to explore during the investigation:
    1.There is alot of laxity in BOU i mean how can you decentralize printing of cash basing on request of BOU regional branches?
    2. BOU should have had BY NOW a team of may be 5 honest people whose role should be to monitor the printing of cash but not delegating THE ROLE TO every Tom Dick and Harry.
    3.You mean our money is printed by different companies?This can easily cause sabotage.
    4. To clear any doubts;Govt should trace whether there was any communication between the company that printed money, Mandala and Mbiire.
    5.There is a difference between a cargo and passenger plane what was the cargo capacity of the plane that BOU chartered?If its established did BOU pay for all that space coz 350 billion can not occupy alot of space.i can carry 20 million in my hand bag how about a whole cargo plane?
    6.Who made a loss in this transaction?
    7.UN and Red cross have planes so the issue of saving should not arise.
    8.What were the terms BOU gave the courier company before we claim breach of contract.
    9. Entebbe Airport has many cameras cant a footage be retrieved?
    10.Who benefited by putting the extra cargo i thought it was the courier company.
    11.How did Mbire and Mandela know that there was a cargo plane destined for Uganda ?
    12. Few Ugandans can afford paying for their goods to be transported by air thats why there are few trucks on Entebbe Highway.
    13.I know that printing cash is classified information but has the company that printed money clarified that they printed cash worth x or y and would they even own up in case they printed the alleged extra 90 billion?

  6. 14.Nakalema’s squad should go slow in this investigation they we will pay heavy legal costs when we rush to arrest people. its not a matter of arresting people coz someone has to be arrested its as if Nakalema thinks that the BOU staff traveled with the money;A cargo plane is like a lorry it has limited space for its crew only.
    15.Even if the BOU staff inspected the plane and indeed ascertained that at the time of departure, the plane had only BOU cargo how were they supposed to have known whether the plane stopped to pick other cargo bearing in mind that it was a courier company transporting her luggage? Rajab will understand this better: its like you call a boda to pick your merchandise from the market then you promise to pay but along the way he picks a passenger and makes a quick buck.
    16.We need a Governor who walks with a spring in his steep;i know M7 is a gentleman and would not want to sound rude to Mutebille but in employment contracts there is provision for early retired or retirement in public interest M7 needs to evoke either of the 2 terms and let the good Governor rest.
    17.Uganda just needs to buy a cargo plane to transport her classified material otherwise you can not rule out such vices in the airline and courier business.
    18.Nakalema ‘s squad does not have the capacity to investigate foreign owned companies. The curx of the matter is with the money printing company and the cargo company.
    19.But Ugandans is 350 billion alot of money?its actually not.

    • Winnie, in your youth, folly is permissible but then, youth, no matter hpw much law they have read. even if it exceeds that of ancient pharisees, there are certain elderly quarters they are not allowed to venture into.
      The man you so much praise whether out of ignorance or mockery is now in the gun-sight of Jews. It is said Museveni’s gold refinery was used as a conduit of gold from Vanezuela. Now Venezuelan gold wouldn’t be a problem if its origin was not genocide. It is said, the NAZIS were stripping Jews of all the gold ornamental and dental before gassing them. When they were routed, they used it as ticket to safety and security. It was so much that it was near impossiible to dispose until recently, when Venezuala sanctions started biting, they ferried it to good old Ug for refining and reselling to Turkey. But Jews being Jews were following closely and now see what feathers it has ruffled.
      Winnie, you are a lawyer and you must have met “prosit tibi conscius es scelere cum” He who gains from accruals of a crime is equally guilty.
      That is how dangerous greed can be……eating inedibles equals ebola

  7. Winnie;that was a good insight into the Bou saga.

  8. We still hold the harbit of covering wounds with banana fibre spat on for getting the more we do cover the wound the more roty and smelly. It grows, informed judgement and conversationshe out of the benefit of education is important but let’s face up with the realities of life 1st as an African then second as a common uganda we all labour to see stand to a minimum standard of lifeatures. Alikaya

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