Archive for category Governance

Museveni wins. Again.

This should come as no surprise. Yes, I am aware Yoweri Museveni has been in power in Uganda for 30 years. Now set to make 35 years at the completion of this term. This however does not pre-empt any discussion on the issue.

But Uganda’s opposition is still surprised. The leading pro-opposition media, The Daily Monitor, diligently conducts pre-election surveys for the past national elections including the current one, to find how opposition presidential candidates, chiefly, Besigye, would fare against the incumbent, Museveni. In the beginning, the media house would not publish undesirable findings that it had commissioned. But some internal critics insisted that conducting research and getting results you do not like should not prohibit you from disseminating them. It’s difficult, I suppose. With every new impending election, they have published poll predictions, none of which, have ever shown Besigye, the leading opposition candidate to be in the lead.

For this current election period, at least 3 pre-election surveys were conducted. A Daily Monitor commissioned poll gave 59.9 per cent of the vote to President Museveni if elections had been held between December 5 and December 8, 2015. The same poll gave Dr Besigye 21 per cent. Another survey, also funded by this newspaper, researched by internationally recognised pollsters Ipsos figured Museveni at 57% in the lead. Succeeding surveys closer to the election showed Museveni at 53% lead, and another at 51%. They were not way off the mark, he won at 60.75%.

However, following every election conclusion, the opposition passionately argues that Besigye ‘actually won’ because he is so popular. There is no hard evidence for this. Neither pre-poll scientific research (even that commissioned by opposition media) nor actual election results. They simply believe it to be so.  It is highly suggestive that Kiiza Besigye who received 28% votes in 2001, 37% in 2006, 26% in 2011, and 35.37% this 2016, really could not be any more popular than what the results suggest. [Again, from both objective predictions and actual results].

Also, interestingly, the opposition rejects those results where they do not win, but accept those results, for Parliamentary seats/polling stations/regions, etc, where they maintain support and win. It’s hypocritical. Either you reject all the results, including your wins resulting from a supposedly flawed process conducted by the Electoral Commission, accused of being fraudulent by the chief opposition party, or you accept all, wins and losses together.

This is not to say that the electoral process is not beset by irregularities. It is. But the overwhelming evidence regarding popular support for presidential candidates is consistent and objective.

Then again, there should be reasons for Museveni’s popularity judging by hard evidence and not pure belief. Over the past 25 years, Uganda has had the 11th fastest growing economy in the world, the fourth in Africa. Our country’s export earnings have increased 27 times with diversification of the economy. Coffee, one of our leading exports, initially accounted for 94% of our export earnings but has now gone down to 7.4%. Thus Uganda under Museveni has successfully diversified its exports and cushioned herself against risks of single commodity price volatility. The Uganda Demographic and Household Survey for 2012 shows that the number of people living in poverty has fallen from 56% in 1992 to 19% in 2010. And a lot more insightful assessments comparing Uganda’s excellent growth performance with similar African countries described in Andrew Mwenda’s article here.

 

 

 

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Money, Currency and Life

Yes, they’re different

Currency refers to a medium of exchange meant to ‘store value’ usually in the form of paper or coins. This legal tender represents or is backed by actual goods and services. Credit, on the other hand, refers to ‘virtual’ currency or ‘debt’ created by banking institutions, which is responsible for inflation and therefore unsustainable.

Money [as both currency and credit] has come to be valued as life itself and not just a means to [physically] sustain life. A quote by Mama from Lorraine Hansberry’s play, ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ further illustrates this;

”Oh—So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change . . .”

A brief chronology of money:

The monetary system was developed as way of placing a value on sought-after goods and services (human labour). Initially, a barter system existed between societies by trading or exchanging goods and services directly. However, some limitations were encountered with the direct exchange system such as; difficulty in storing wealth, no common measure of value, indivisibility of certain goods, etcetera, which led to the emergence of the current money economy.

While this financial system has been useful, it has become increasingly clear that there are several downsides to it. The system has enormously contributed to crime, corruption and poverty with a social stratification marked by economic disparity between individuals, various social groups and communities. This has resulted in individuals, corporations or countries who have higher purchasing power unduly influencing public policy and global governance to the detriment of more economically and socially marginalized people and communities.

Money is neutral and is not necessarily the evil here. The great evil being structures of social domination along various demographic lines such as race, gender, class, geographical location and so on. The inevitable interaction between the financial economic system and underlying structures of domination has led to the dysfunction and inequity being experienced under the socio-economic environment.

On the whole, money simply stands between what one needs and what one is able to get. Essentially, it is not so much money we need, as the access to resources that we require to live healthy, holistic and fulfilled lives as whole human beings.

What is a healthy and holistic life?

The World Health Organisation defines health as; a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’  And I would like to add spiritual well-being, for those human communities who believe we are also souls and not just physical bodies.

For everyone to experience an equitable state of well-being, be it physical, mental or social, an equal playing field needs to be set right from the start of one’s life. We need to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. This should result in equitable rights, representation and resource sharing that is fair for everyone. It is imperative that the representation and voice of developing nations in international decision-making is enhanced regarding economic and financial institutions for global equity across countries and regions.

What alternatives for an equitable society?

”We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
~ Albert Einstein

A number of researchers have outlined alternative interventions towards a more peaceful and sustainable global civilization. Jacque Fresco, the visionary for the Venus Project which advocates for a currency free, cooperative, socio-economic model states,

”…All nations and people, regardless of political philosophy, religious beliefs, or social customs, depend upon natural resources; we all need clean air and water, arable land for food, and the necessary technology and personnel to maintain a high standard of living.

….the Earth has abundant resources and our practice of rationing these resources through the use of money is an outdated method which causes much suffering. It is not money that we need but the intelligent management of the earth’s resources for the benefit of everyone. We could best work towards achieving this by using a resource based economy.”

The Transition

A good question that comes up is, ‘…but how are we going to get there?’. It is a great idea – the resource-based economy, but how to do it? In fact, as far back as 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes had envisaged an increase in productivity (by 2030) with the advancement of machines and technology freeing up human labour and correspondingly allowing for a shorter working day, as low as 3 hours a day. His views have been backed by a number of modern day thinkers who posit that a gradual reduction of the working day will help [a steady state or no growth] economy, protect the environment, and improve the well-being of the population, all with one single measure.

 

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Some public officials are more equal than others

The Daily Trust reported that the Federal Government of Nigeria spent close to one billion US dollars ($1 billion) in the year 2014 on medical care for public officials abroad.

Correspondingly, in 2012, the Daily Monitor, a Uganda newspaper concurred that the government spends at least $150 million (about UGX 377 billion) on treatment of mostly top government officials outside the country.

Some have offered defeatist arguments that this is inevitable in corrupt-ridden poor economies anyway. But these are public taxes we are talking about, and it is many of us in the formal sector who are paying for these exclusive entitlements be afforded some, and not even all public officials.

It is not fair. To the rest of us.

Decisions to pay these cash outs are mostly informal, as in not supported by any formal policies. I do not see official government policy being stamped for approval by all national stakeholders, using taxpayer funds, to benefit the few senior public officials and their families.

Let’s say African national governments decided to formally institute inequitable policies that treated public officials better, healthcare wise, than the general population; then only a smaller percentage of this could be spent on health insurance just for these public officials. Our countries would lose less, just to provide healthcare for these privileged few using insurance not cash payments for whenever someone falls ill.

Needless to say, these privileged few can actually afford private health insurance to receive care almost anywhere in the world from their own incomes, or funds already looted from the public coffers anyway.

The Daily Monitor further adds that treatment abroad costs nearly half of Uganda’s health sector budget.

These extra, unnecessary expenditures should simply go back into the already under-funded national health systems. Mind, these are recurrent costs, year in, year out. And likely increasing with succeeding years. Imagine how much of the recurrent health sector budget would benefit from these wasted expenditures in terms of human resources, much needed drugs, equipment and other medical supplies or even infrastructure.

Rwanda on the other hand will offer ordinary citizens, not just senior government officials, medical care outside the country if this is required. A medical board in the referring health facility makes the decision to recommend to government specialised care outside Rwanda if this cannot be provided nationally. Rwanda’s health system is paid for by state funds (both from national tax and external donor support) and by individuals’ contributions through health insurance and direct fees for services.

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The Cycle Begins

Photo: Getty/AFP (2008)

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in 2008. Photo: Getty/AFP

”Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah,…Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

So Samuel … said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. ……And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

And the Lord granted their wish (Samuel 1:8)

The News of Rwanda at the end of last month reported that, ‘while the US president Barack Obama thinks that no one should be in office for life, Rwandans have said that they still want President Paul Kagame; saying that no one should tell them what they want. Rwandans affirm, they have already made up their minds and their choice-falling on the current President Paul Kagame.’ And recently, the Rwandan Members of Parliament began consultations to lift presidential term limits, removing the last final barrier for a life-presidency.

This is an all too familiar cycle with African life presidents. Usually, this starts as a successful guerrilla war against a [very] repressive, a very brutal regime. The new guerrilla leader ushers in peace, security, and rising prosperity for the genuinely grateful citizenry. They love him. The adore him. The West loves him. He is performing socio-economic miracles that no one had even dreamed possible. It was the same with our Museveni, here in Uganda.

Make no mistake, thirty-five (35) years down the road, Rwandans will be castigating Kagame that it was ‘all his fault’. They will lead everyone to believe (themselves included) that Kagame machinated and tricked them into a life-presidency from the very beginning when they did not know it. It is a tired old rhyme, blaming a single individual, for fulfilling the giddy wishes of the national citizenry at the time.

The lifting of Uganda’s presidential term limits as reported (July, 2005); ”The Uganda Parliament on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly for lifting presidential term limits of the 1995 Constitution, paving the way for President Yoweri Museveni’s campaign to seek re-election in next year’s general elections. The parliament voted by a 220 to 53 margin with two abstentions to give final approval to a constitutional amendment scrapping the two-term limit for the country’s highest office, parliament spokesman Bernard Aceru told the press…”

Just like Rwanda now, we are culpable. We are all in on it. At least the Parliamentary representatives, 220 of them. There was no corresponding reportage of any Ugandan constituency recalling and castigating their elected representatives for having ushered in a life-presidency. We cannot say at this hour, ‘he tricked us into it.’ Museveni did not.

Both Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea and José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola have cleared 35 years; Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe (34 years), Paul Biya – Cameroon (32 years); Yoweri Museveni – Uganda (28 years); Omar al-Bashir – Sudan (25 years); Idriss Déby – Chad (23 years); Isaias Afwerki – Eritrea (23 years); Yahya Jammeh – The Gambia (20 years); Denis Sassou Nguesso – Republic of Congo (17 years).

It’s a pattern. We cannot say that these individuals have some sort of super-human powers that can keep millions of their national citizens at bay who genuinely want them out of power. They don’t, at least most of them don’t and so they stay. Yes, as individuals they are in on it, but then so are most citizens. We all know that a single human individual cannot hold reign over 35 million people who do not want him, against their will. This is not humanly possible. It simply easier to say it is ‘his fault’ Just to say this. It is not hard at all. In fact, it is much easier to say this than to think, ‘we created him, our life-long president. We told him so ourselves and he believed it.’ These heady inducements have a way of taking seed in a vulnerable human mind, that is seeking affirmation, seeking power. They will take root and a life of their own. Even when the farmers who planted the seed decide they no longer have use for the plant.

I honestly cannot imagine a more popular African leader than Museveni at the peak of his national and global acclaim during the 1990’s from the West to the East to the North to the South. (excepting Mandela that is) The West now only tolerates him as a ‘necessary’ leader for stability of regional geopolitics in the Great Lakes region. The main one being that Uganda is the major troop contributor to AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia holding Al-Shabaab at bay, Museveni supported the Rwandese Patriotic Front ending the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, he led the negotiations of the Arusha Agreement ending Burundi’s civil war then and also recently with opposition groups that sought to unseat Nkurunziza. And supported South Sudanese struggle for independence from the North. Nationally, yes, he is still quite popular despite the rising tide of dissent against him both from within Uganda and without.

When Africans decide they want their self-created dictator to go, even the most brutal and violent, they will go. Think Idi Amin (Uganda), think Charles Taylor (Liberia). Charles Taylor ruled for a measly 6 years. Idi Amin ruled for a paltry 8 years, (that’s almost equal to one Rwandan presidential term of 7 years). We couldn’t wait to get rid of him, we couldn’t use his army but our East African neighbour, Tanzania under Nyerere provided theirs and marched onto Kampala and overthrew him. Ugandans did not regard the Tanzanian army as invaders on sovereign territory. They were welcomed and celebrated. Where there is a will, there’s surely a way!!!

Personally, I think it was the ritualistic cannibalistic acts that tipped the balance for both Amin and Taylor. They were doing abnormal, dictatorly things like human rights abuses, ethnic persecution, political repression, corruption, the works. It was that one thing: cannibalism. And our bile rose, and we couldn’t take it anymore.

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