Militarization Of Uganda's Economy -- Dictator Museveni Copies Mugabe Blue Print

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The dictator thinks wearing military fatigues will intimidate Ugandans. He forgets that Idi Amin was always in uniform but that didn't help in the end. Photo: Facebook.

Desperate measures are usually signs that the last acts of a show are unfolding before the curtain drops. There are many lessons to be absorbed in Uganda by the recent eclipse of President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

In 2000 Zimbabwe's Mugabe abandoned the market led economy for a program of state-led economic transformation termed "the Third Chimurenga" that led to the seizure of White-controlled commercial farms most of which were given to the Liberation War veterans.

Mugabe went ahead to "Africanize" the economy by seconding both serving and retired security officers into managerial positions in state enterprises and parastatals. Security officers became managers, CEOs, shareholders and laborers in these state entities. Such secondment provided opportunities for top security officers to increase their personal wealth in return for loyalty.

At hand was the business arm of the army, the Zimbabwe Defense Industries (ZDI) that had been established in 1984 to produce clothing, small arms and ammunitions and mechanical workshops for military hardwares. Then came another business arm, OSLEG that had been established in 1998, and it entered into joint venture with Congolese companies for mineral exploitation in the Congo.

Another Defense company, SICEBO entered into joint venture with the Congolese government logging concessions in DRC's Katanga region. SINO Zimbabwe owned by top members of the military together with a Hong Kong business tycoon, San Pa, ventured into diamond mining, cotton, and property sectors. ZDI and Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation also entered into a joint venture and have since the early 2000s dominated mining of diamonds in Marangwe.

As the opposition MDC threatened to wrestle power from Mugabe's ZANU-PF by winning both the March 2008 Presidential and parliamentary elections, the army moved in quickly and ordered a delay in announcement of results.

The security apparatus doctored the results and denied MDC an outright win --47% against ZANU-PF's 43% was the manufactured margin-- in the presidential elections prompting a run off in June of that same year since the 50% was deprived by rigging.

Between March and June, the security forces embarked on a nationwide violence campaign aimed at destruction of MDC structures. Arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, maiming, and destruction of property characterized the violent campaign. The MDC pulled out of the race leaving Mugabe and his ZANU-PF to hold into power. Since then, the military had openly asserted its authority and assumed the role of managing the country. Obviously with no managerial skills, Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed.

Meanwhile, the top security officials had become some kind of secucrats by controlling and managing a large business empire thus increasing their leverage over various organs of the state, the economy and ZANU-PF structures as well as the legislature. It is against this background that last month these secucrats moved to reassert the status quo by pushing President Mugabe into "early retirement" when the power struggle between Grace Mugabe's faction and Emmerson Mnangagwa's threatened the balance. I noted this in a Nov. 22 commentary, "WHY ZANU-PF'S ARMED WING NEVER OVERTHREW MUGABE."

We are seeing a similar evolution of military dominance over the economy in Uganda. Military dictator, Gen. Yoweri Museveni has for decades been systematically drawing the military into the management of the economy.

First it was the establishment of the business arm of the army, National Enterprises Corporation (NEC). It ventured into military industries (NEC industries in Luwero), mining of lime in Dura (NECLIME), mixed farming ranches in Kisozi and crop husbandry in Kiryandongo, pharmaceutical production (NEC Pharmaceuticals), hospitality (NECTARINE) and others. The venture was rundown and swept clean whereby Gen. Museveni eloped with the Kisozi ranch. The NRM also attempted to manage DANZE but it was also run down.

In 2013 when Gen. David Ssejusa fled to exile and threatened to dislodge Museveni by military means the dictator moved very fast to mobilize former war veterans in the Luwero Triangle. He assigned his brother Gen. Salim Saleh to oversee the operation; he in turn demarcated the former Luwero Triangle into 43 Zones where he deployed retired army officers for Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) --even though poverty and unemployment has been the regime's hallmark.

Shortly after, Gen. Museveni took over the National Agriculture Advisory Service (NAADS) from the Ministry of Agriculture and placed it in the hands of his brother's OWC. He went ahead and seconded an initial batch of 300 active army officers to the OWC. After these officers had been taken through a two weeks agricultural seminar by Makerere University's Faculty of Agriculture they were deployed in 238 constituencies to manage agricultural extension services under OWC/NAADS. The scheme has been allocated more money and facilities than the Ministry of Agriculture.

As a result, there is a general outcry in the countryside over OWC's failure as evidenced by the recent widespread food scarcity in Uganda. For Museveni, the scheme is a "success story" in his mind as army officers whom he fears to retire --in idleness they could have more incentive to depose him while also not being subjected to military regulations and discipline-- are contained. At the same time the scheme opened the door for retiring of others since OWC now acts as the reception for former army officers.

Gen. Museveni is now planning to increase OWC's annual budget to hit over one trillion shillings, which is about $280 million. It is against this background that recently Gen. Charles Angina, the Deputy Chairman of OWC disclosed that Museveni is considering deploying the army to the mining sector.

He said: "OWC will not only end at Agriculture, we shall also engage in other activities in mineral exploitation to help kick out poverty from Uganda. We were entrusted to come from the military to create wealth and with all those unexploited minerals, we shall deliver as directed."

The dictator has been lying about creating wealth for nearly 32 years; he may have done so for himself, family and close circles but not the masses of Ugandans.

In Zimbabwe, the army failed the economy but kept Mugabe in power. In Uganda the army is systematically killing the economy but it is succeeding as the custodian of Museveni's life presidency scheme.

It is actively in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism and conservation, revenue collection, urban law enforcement, land grabbing, provision of health care, criminal investigations, adjudication of civilian non-military matters, markets, trade disputes resolution, public transport management construction, and capital investments.

It is the dominant power over Uganda's political, military and economic affairs.

(Information is Power and Defiance is the way to go).

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