Uganda: Gen. Museveni’s Operation Phantom Wealth Creation

Gen. Saleh
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Gen. Salim Saleh, younger brother to Uganda’s dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni. Delivering poverty while promising wealth.

Gen. Salim Saleh, younger brother of Uganda’s dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni and chief coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) has left the northern regional capital Gulu and shifted base to neighboring West Nile.

“His impact in the north has been remarkable to all our stakeholders because he has concluded several engagements with both state and non-state actors, and faith-based organizations who have all been rallied for wealth creation,” said Maj. Kiconco Tabaro, the OWC spokesperson. 

“At Purongo in Nwoya District, there was a Memorandum of Understanding with Uganda Breweries Ltd to begin buying sorghum directly from Acholi Sub-region,” he added, among other things. 

While we appreciate Gen. Saleh’s peregrinations around the country, putatively in pursuit of improved wealth for Ugandans, we must wonder whether he or his brother have an iota of understanding about what they are doing. 

OWC is delivering phantom wealth. OWC is really an attempt by the ruling regime to smooth over the inequities occasioned on Uganda’s small and medium-sized enterprises, which employ more than 2.5 million people.  To be sure, SMEs make up 90% of those employed in the private sector. Uganda Revenue Authority statistics state that SMEs contribute over 70% to total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Uganda.These SMES rely on internet use for their growth, but Gen. Museveni imposed a 12% tax on internet data, which people now refer to as a “sin tax.” Evidently, we sinned against the faultless junta by posting thoughts that came freely to our minds across the internet.  

Punitive tax in Uganda has become an “extractive” economic institution aimed at destroying incentives, discouraging innovation, and sapping the talent of Ugandans while robbing them of opportunities. This institution rigs economic power against SMEs, thereby breaking the backbone of the economy.  

We wonder why there is such assault on internet-driven business when, just last year, the World Bank approved $200 million financing to expand access to high-speed and affordable internet, improve efficiency of digitally enabled public service delivery, to strengthen digital inclusion in Uganda.

Gen. Museveni has been offering “Bonabaggawale”—“Prosperity for All”. He has been in power since 1986, but there is no prosperity for all, just for the elite. This is a monolithic-leaning approach, like any collectivist ideology, that relegates individual gains below the privileges of the collective. Gen. Museveni doesn’t care that SMEs encourage individual initiative through innovation and personal enterprise; or that they are the basis of economic growth the world over. 

According to an online review, “approximately 400 million SMEs are the backbone of economies around the world. They are the main source of job creation globally, accounting for over 95% of firms and 60%-70% of employment.” Gen. Museveni prefers a collectivized assault on poverty by while punishing individual initiative with taxes. 

This dichotomy, between Gen. Museveni and genuine progress, speaks to the 20th Century Oxford philosopher Isaiah Berlin’s 1953 essay titled, The Hedgehog and the Fox. It focused on the view of history that places people into two distinct categories. Hedgehogs view the world through a single central vision and foxes chase scattered ideas pursuing many ends. 

Essentially, hedgehogs are simplifiers and foxes are multipliers. Gen. Museveni and his band of apologists are hedgehogs who present a grandiose vision on how to correct Uganda. It is sweepingly naive: create wealth for all and everything shall be added unto you. Yet the wealth creation remains talking points that are never materialized.

The SMEs in Uganda are foxes. They look at the details with a view to gathering the pieces to solve a jigsaw puzzle. 

They are distrustful of grand visions for progress. After all, Gen. Museveni’s 1986 promises of “fundamental change” has resulted in hell. 

So they seek to place their stock in baby steps, not the junta’s goose steps.

The world will belong to the foxes.

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