Why The West Imposed Gen. Museveni On Uganda And Will Sustain Him

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Gen. Museveni with then President Bush-- Writer says West imposed him on Uganda

As Uganda’s independence approached, British authorities were eager to suppress the leadership of Uganda National Congress (UNC) to allow emergence of a new leadership sympathetic to imperialism.

Where there was a chance to elect a hard-core UNC member as leader, efforts were made to stop that possibility.
Consequently, Yekosofati Engur, from Lango who was a threat and likely to be returned to the Legislative Council (LEGCO) in the 1958 elections was jailed to allow Apollo Milton Obote to stand in that constituency (see A. M. Kirunda-Kivejinja 1995).

By 1960 Obote had created Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and shortly thereafter forged an alliance with the Kabaka Yekka (YK) party loyal to Sir Edward Mutesa, king of Buganda, the kingdom within what was to become Uganda. That's how Obote was able to become the first prime minister of independent Uganda in 1962.

In the second half of the 1960s Obote adopted socialist and pro-Arab policies that were unacceptable to his backers (Vijay Gupta 1983). Therefore he had to go. The anti-Obote mood in Buganda created the context and Idi Amin the instrument to unseat Obote and UPC; that occurred in January 1971. 

The political chaos that followed the ouster of Amin in 1979 paved the way for the return of Obote to the presidency in the 1980 elections. The West did not trust him largely because of his socialist leanings (see Vijay Gupta 1983).

After Obote's election and return to power the West searched and found Yoweri K. Museveni as the right man to replace him (see Peter Phillips 2006).

With external financial and media support, Museveni launched in 1981 his destructive five-year guerrilla war against Obote's second government. Museveni recruited disgruntled Baganda, Catholics, poor people and refugees.

While publicly denouncing the Obote regime for being a darling of the West that had imposed the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) with severe social consequences (see Mission to Freedom1990), Museveni’s agents were actually negotiating with the World Bank and IMF, champions of SAP to abandon Obote and support Museveni (see G. W. Kanyeihamba 2002).

Therefore Museveni knew all along that his administration would not implement the people’s Ten Point Program (TPP) because it differed fundamentally from the SAP that he would implement with Western support. Specifically, TPP contained socialist elements that were unacceptable to the West.

Because of popular resistance in Uganda against SAP, Museveni dodged it during the first year of his administration. The West made it clear that he would not get technical and financial assistance until after he had agreed with the IMF and World Bank on the way forward (see New Africa Year Book 1987-88 and Phares Mutibwa 1992).

Structural adjustment required that the economy be based on the principles of market forces, laissez-faire policies, trickle-down mechanism, export orientation and comparative advantage as well as foreign expert management to ensure efficiency. The role of the state would be minimal (see John Brohman 1996). 

In addition Museveni was required to invite back the Asians that had been expelled by Amin in 1972 (see Phares Mutibwa 1992). 

Because the economy had to be managed by foreign experts, Museveni refused the return of qualified and experienced Ugandans and even retrenched some experienced civil servants (see The Courier September-October 1993).

Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM) government thus created a serious human capacity deficit in order to be able to invite foreign experts.

In 1987 the NRM government invited the World Bank and IMF to design and implement an economic recovery program to, among other things, undertake policy reforms to promote structural changes and mobilize external resources for their implementation (see P. Langseth et al., 1995). Further, a team of expatriates, mostly young, was hired to manage Uganda’s economy, assess progress and supervise senior Uganda officials.

In the late 1980s, a Ugandan senior official was advised by a World Bank official that he would be getting a foreign adviser to ensure World Bank policies were followed. When the Ugandan objected that he did not need to be supervised he was told he had no choice (see Sebastian Mallaby 2004). Uganda became a laboratory to test macroeconomic theory and techniques and the extent to which they were useful for policy analysis (see Ritva Reinikka & Paul Collier 2001).

In an interview with Augustine Oyowe, Museveni said he was happy as long as donors were satisfied with Uganda’s economic progress (see The Courier September-October 1993). Museveni therefore has served the interests of, and is accountable to, the donors, not the people of Uganda.

How did he do it?

Museveni refused the return of many qualified and experienced Ugandans in the Diaspora and hired expatriates many of them young and inexperienced (see Sebastian Mallaby 2004). He invited back the expelled Asians and gave them their properties probably including those that had already been compensated for. Museveni de-nationalized private enterprises and sold public-owned businesses without even assessing their worth.

Instructions were given that divestments begin immediately; problems were to be dealt with as they arose (see V.V. Ramanadham 1993).

Because Museveni accepted comparative advantage, a cornerstone of neo-liberalism, Uganda has continued to produce and export raw materials and foodstuffs with low and fluctuating unit value and to import manufactured products whose prices keep rising.

The exchange rate was adjusted to favor commodity exports but the imports became very expensive. Consequently, Museveni quietly shelved the idea of turning Uganda into an industrialized economy within 15 years of his administration.

Museveni also accepted labor flexibility that meant suppression of trade unions and collective bargaining to ensure decent wages and conditions of work. The free movement of foreign workers into Uganda has contributed to high youth unemployment.

Structural adjustment programs carry severe social costs that in many countries have led to strikes and demonstrations resulting in loss of lives and destruction of properties. In Uganda, a country that embarked on the most severe shock therapy adjustment program, massive strikes have not happened because Museveni has used brutal force to silence dissent. The Anti-Terrorism Act has a broad definition covering political, economic, religious, social and cultural activities that can be regarded as "unlawful." To make the law feared, it carries a mandatory death sentence (see Human Rights Watch 2003).

So what has Gen. Museveni received in return for these unpopular policies and strategies? Since many of them take a long time to produce concrete results, it became necessary to keep Museveni and NRM in power initially by delaying elections for 10 years and then denying multiparty elections for a long time.

On the other African leaders like Daniel Arap Moi of neighboring Kenya were forced to allow multiparty politics without delay or told they would be denied foreign aid (see Journal of Democracy April 1998).

Many donors have also turned a blind eye to endemic election-rigging since 1996. Since his services are still needed by the West, Gen. Museveni and NRM is expected to win the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. 

Gen. Museveni’s 30 years of dictatorship and still-counting have generated so much anger among Ugandans at home and abroad that has been bottled up by his brutal force against the people.

When the anger is finally released the explosion can destroy many lives and properties. Visionary and peace-loving Ugandans, including myself are calling for boycotting the elections.

Instead we must establish an inclusive transitional government to clean up the house and prepare for free and fair multiparty elections after three years.

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