UGANDA: DOES GENERAL MUSEVENI PLAN TO DISPOSSESS PEASANTS AND HAND OVER THEIR LAND TO INVESTORS?

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General Museveni: does he want to dispossess peasants of their land?

“The high number of people depending on agriculture is not only a sign of underdevelopment but also a sign that Ugandans are still backward”.

“Don’t fragment large family land but lease it out to an investor who can practice commercial farming and can utilize it optimally. You should be smart and form a company for the children in case head of the family is dead. You can then share the money earned through the lease; which should be paid direct to each shareholder’s accounts”

GULU-UGANDA:“The high number of people depending on agriculture is not only a sign of underdevelopment but also a sign that Ugandans are still backward”.

The quotation came from a renowned media house; the Uganda Radio Network (URN) on Friday, August 2, 2019. It was paraphrasing what Uganda’s Dictator of 33 years, General Yoweri Museveni is quoted as having told the media in Kasese in western Uganda a day before.

General Yoweri Museveni has been on a three month long country wide tour, popularizing his pet subject; teaching peasants how to create wealth at household level by utilizing the only small piece of land they own optimally. He was in Western Uganda for the last leg of his campaigns.

Uganda is a highly agricultural country and about 70 percent of the country’s population is employed in the agricultural sector. Although Finance minister Mr. Matia Kasaija says the economy has been growing at the rate of 6 percent per year in the last two years, four out of ten youths are still unemployed.

Before the advent of Dictator Museveni into power in January 1986, agricultural sector was vibrant, earning at least 55 percent of what Uganda earns in a year. Peasants were mobilized right from the grass root and were marketing their produce through cooperative societies and unions.

There was even farmers’ own bank; ‘the Cooperative Bank’ which was very instrumental in the production chain of Uganda’s produce right from provision of seedlings, planting, weeding, harvesting, processing and marketing. Societies and unions were everywhere to undertake this noble course.

You would not hear of unemployment before the advent of the first Dictator, Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada in 1971. Graduates would get employment before completing their studies at university. What they earned then was enough to take care of themselves and their families in urban centers where they work and leave some balance for investment in agricultural sector as it was most lucrative then.

Others like Rwot Ananiya Akera, who started commercial farming during the colonial time, says he discovered that through farming he would earn twice as much as he would earn through his teaching job in a year. At one time he became the best tobacco farmer in East and Southern Africa, north of Limpopo River. He could not have been recognized that way if he stuck to teaching.

All these good developments were destroyed under the nose of General Museveni where contributions of the agricultural sector to the national treasury dropped from 55 percent in 1986 to a paltry 22 percent in the 2018/19 financial year. The service sector now topped the list by earning the country 48.7 percent of the country’s income while industrial sector earned 21 percent during the same financial year.

During the press brief, Dictator Museveni compared Uganda with two first world countries, United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom (UK),where  only two percent of their population are involved in agriculture, yet they produce all the food neededto feed their nationals and still have excess to feed other countries facing famine.

During the tour, Mr. Museveni told families with under-utilized large chucks of landnot to fragment and partition it into several plots for the children of the deceased head of family. Instead of fragmenting it, they should form a business company with shareholders, get land title for the land and lease it out to an investor who can utilize it optimally.

“Don’t fragment large family land but lease it out to an investor who can practice commercial farming and can utilize it optimally. You should be smart and form a company for the children in case the head of the family is dead. You can then share the money earned through the lease; which should be paid direct to each shareholder’s accounts”, Mr. Museveni is reported to have said to his audience.

Because of the over two-decade old wars which engulfed northern Uganda, which resulted in massive displacement of the over two million people into concentration camps, the land in northern Uganda remained fallowing. Most Generals in the National Resistance Army (NRA), including General Museveni, traversed the land during their struggle to destroy the rebel forces during which they looked at it with a lot of appetite. They devised plans to acquire land in northern Uganda.

It was not surprising therefore, that after the guns fell silent; several pseudo commercial farmers rushed here and acquired land through proxies where they began to practice commercial farming just as it was during the first post-independent government. Some elite middle men forcefully grabbed what was formally communally hunting, grazing or even family lands and sold such land to  investors from elsewhere and started large scale farming using heavy equipment like combined harvesters.

Former land owners became casual laborers who began to earn peanut from the pieces of land which was formerly theirinheritance yet if they had cultivated the land themselves, the land would still be perpetually theirs. This is definitely a disaster in the making in the sense that if this trend continues then Uganda, especially northern Uganda where peasants are subjected to abject poverty, there will be no more peasant with lands to practice subsistence farming for food security as it was in the past.

The question which should be on everyone’s lip is; does Dictator Museveni want to mortgage fertile land to commercial farmers instead of developing peasant farmers so that they can utilize their inheritance themselves?With no clear path he is taking the country, coupled with low level of education and abject poverty, I am afraid Dictator Museveni has outlived his usefulness.

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