Many Ugandans have been disappointed by Museveni’s government in large part because they do not understand why he came to power. Museveni, like Mobutu and Amin before him, came to power at the height of Cold War confrontations between capitalism and socialism. The return of Obote as president in 1980 represented a return of socialism to Uganda which had been defeated in 1971 using Amin. Western powers and corporate interests were alarmed by the return of socialism to Uganda through the return of Obote as president after 1980 elections. Obote was still considered a socialist. Museveni, like Amin, was used by western capitalist forces to remove socialism by ousting its agent – President Obote. Since these western interests were not going to send European troops to the jungles of Luwero, Museverni appealed to disgruntled Ugandans especially Baganda and Catholics to join him in ousting Obote who had ‘stolen’ the 1980 elections although certified by the Commonwealth observer team that has certified Museveni’s victories since the 1996 elections.
Because of their deep resentment of Obote, Baganda who lost their kingdom and a referendum on ‘lost counties’ allowed Museveni to use their territory in the Luwero Triangle to wage a destructive guerrilla war against Obote and the UPC’s government. Catholics who had lost the 1980 elections also joined Museveni’s guerrilla forces. Both Baganda and Catholics did not bother to look beyond the ouster of Obote. To them that was it! Consequently, Baganda and Catholics and later Protestants and Muslims who also joined, did not understand that the guerrilla war was funded and directed to fight socialism and restore capitalism. Ugandans’ interests, if at all, were accidental.
When Museveni and NRM captured power, he introduced the ten-point program for the transformation of Uganda’s economy and society. But this was written to attract supporters to the guerrilla cause, not to be implemented after the war was over. The document was even finalized in Austria! We do not know what conditions were attached to it. What we know is that the document contained a mixed economy strategy for the implementation of the program. A mixed economy by definition has state involvement in the economy and to capitalists state participation means socialism. Western powers would not tolerate that. They refused to give Museveni financial and technical assistance until he had prepared an acceptable alternative through the IMF that met the conditions of western donors. This message was conveyed to Museveni by Linda Chalker, then minister in Thatcher government. Margaret Thatcher was determined to end socialism, reintroduce capitalism through the invisible hand of market forces and laissez faire capitalism. This is the message that Linda Chalker delivered to Museveni and ensured it was implemented.
The ten-point program was replaced by structural adjustment program (SAP) after signing the agreement with the IMF in 1987. Western interests in (SAP) contrasted with those of Ugandans as contained in the ten-point program that was abandoned. Institutional and staff changes were also made to accommodate SAP. The socialist-oriented Minister of Finance and Governor of the Central Bank were replaced by surrogates of Western interests. A new and powerful Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development was created and empowered to run Uganda’s economy along capitalist lines. The Central Bank which was controlled by IMF was made independent of Uganda government. It focused on the IMF‘s preferred inflation control at the expense of full employment.
One of the conditions of structural adjustment is that countries receiving Western aid “rely heavily on foreign experts to guide development and ensure efficient project selection” (John Brohman 1996). Consequently, Uganda’s economy was handed over to donors especially IMF and World Bank that designed policies and projects that catered for Western interests at the expense of Ugandans’. The Asians were invited back and regained their properties including possibly those that had been compensated and European companies regained their enterprises. British presence became visible. Linda Chalker became a close adviser to the president, Paul Collier was heavily involved in designing Uganda’s macroeconomic policy and William Pike managed the New Vision newspaper with the largest circulation in the country. Young British economists occupied strategic positions in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and directed Uganda’s economy (Sebastian Mallaby 2004) without adequate knowledge of Uganda’s history and culture.
A capitalist structural adjustment policy was prepared. It privatized Uganda’s public assets, opened Uganda’s economy to the world and diversified exports that included traditionally produced foodstuffs for domestic consumption such as beans, maize/corn and fish. Trade Unions that protect workers’ interests were severely curtailed and employers were empowered under principles of labor flexibility to hire and fire at will and pay wages at or below subsistence level. Immigrant workers were allowed to enter and work in Uganda under a liberal immigration policy. The role of the state in economic activities was virtually eliminated. Market forces and laissez faire capitalism had full reign over Uganda’s economy hoping that through a trickle down mechanism, the benefits of economic growth would trickle to the rest of the economy and the population which sadly has not happened since 1987. Social sectors of education, healthcare and housing etc that were considered unproductive in the short run were starved of funds and that is why they are on the verge of total collapse.
Cheap imports including second hand clothes knocked many local industries out of business and forced others to perform below installed capacity and to lay off workers. High interest rates to reduce money in the economy and keep inflation low made it difficult for small and medium enterprises that create jobs to borrow and open up new businesses or expand existing ones. Balanced budget as a requirement under SAP resulted in massive retrenchment of public servants, creating the ‘new poor” in Uganda society. The export of food resulted in shortages in Uganda markets pushing up prices beyond the means of many households, creating unprecedented hunger, under-nutrition and nutrition related diseases including neurological abnormalities such as insanity made worse by stress. To increase export production, large swathes of land were cleared of vegetation leading to soil erosion, adverse hydrological and thermal changes as manifested by frequent droughts and floods and associated food shortages.
Meanwhile Museveni’s attention was directed to religious wars in Sudan between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, Anglo-Saxon and French wars in Rwanda and ultimately in Zaire/DRC that ousted Mobutu and caused Africa’s First World War. At the same time the war in the north and east of Uganda raged on. Human and financial resources were drained from Uganda’s economic and social development to war efforts. When the wars in the Great Lakes Region abated another one was opening up in Somalia. Again Museveni who was installed to safeguard European interests was called upon to send troops to Somalia only to have Uganda’s capital city of Kampala attacked by Somali terrorists with heavy casualties some of them fatal.
Thus, as long as Museveni continues to serve western interests satisfactorily he will be re-elected again and again. Make no mistake about that. Museveni will exit Uganda’s State House and handover the $80 million presidential jet only when western powers who installed him feel he has served his term and should go. But before we propose what should be done to pressure western powers to let Museveni go soonest and possibly in 2011, let us look briefly at how Museveni came to power and what has sustained him there for twenty five years.
For those Ugandans who still do not know who installed Museveni into power and why he has been engaged in regional wars that are of no interest to Uganda, read the following quotation very carefully. “War for the control of the Democratic Republic of Congo – what should be the richest country in the world – began in Uganda in the 1980s, when now Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni shot his way to power with the backing of Buckingham Palace, the White House and Tel Aviv behind him.
Paul Kagame now president of Rwanda served as Museveni’s Director of Military Intelligence. Kagame later trained at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas [USA], before the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) – backed by Roger Winter, the U.S. Committee on refugees, and the others above – invaded Rwanda. The RPF destabilized and then secured Rwanda. This coup d’etat is today misunderstood as the ‘Rwandan genocide’. What played out in Rwanda in 1994 is now playing out in Darfur, Sudan; regime change is the goal, ‘genocide’ is the tool of propaganda used to manipulate and disinform.
In 1996, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, with the Pentagon behind them, launched their covert war against Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko and his western backers. A decade later, there are 6 or 7 million dead, at the very least, and the war in Congo (Zaire) continues” (Peter Phillips 2006). Museveni has sent Uganda troops to Somalia to protect western interests. In return western interests have kept Museveni in power. That is the story.
Musevedni was installed by western powers that used Uganda guerrillas because they could not send European troops to Luwero jungles. Uganda guerrillas were thus used in a war that was not meant to serve their interests. No wonder there is bitterness. Although Museveni is very unpopular and western groups know it (and Museveni knows it too) he will stay in power as long as Europeans feel that domestic resistance is not strong enough to force their hand and let Museveni go.
Ugandans therefore need to do two things simultaneously: to form a solid coalition of opposition that will demonstrate determination to drive Museveni out of power with or without western help. Once western interests realize that Ugandans are very serious and mean what they are saying, they will let Museveni go to safeguard their interests in Uganda. So Ugandans help western powers to decide quickly by overcoming your differences and putting up a strong frontal attack against Museveni and warn western powers that if they do not act quickly chances are that their competitors such as the Chinese, the Indians and the Russians etc will be approached for help. Given Uganda’s strategic significance and abundant natural resources including oil, it will not be difficult to get non-western support.