Inside Museveni’s Mind – Elections Are a Matter of Life and Death

On July 8, 1996, President Museveni addressed legislators at the ceremonial opening of the sixth Parliament of Uganda.

In Part VII of these series, we bring you the first half of President Museveni’s lengthy speech, in which he talks about redressing historical disaantages, rapid industrialisation, modernising agriculture and modernisation through education: –

Mr Speaker

Madam Deputy Speaker

Honourable Members of Parliament

Ladies and Gentlemen

I congratulate all Members of Parliament on your success in election to this House. By and large, I think we all agree that the electoral exercises we have been through were free and fair. I have, however, heard about incidents of some people having more than one voter’s card, which must have been due to the laxity of some election officials.

In my view, this was caused partly by the exclusion of the patriotic political reformers from the electoral process. This was because of pressure from outsiders who seem to think that relying on organisations like CEJOCU (Civic Education and Joint Coordination Unit), and such other apolitical bodies, would be enough to mobilise the population to exercise their political rights.

This erroneous thinking led such groups to think that they could do better work than the patriots who had mobilised the people of Uganda, in the first place, to fight for their freedom. What I am talking about here is that our population is always mobilised by the reformers and patriots.

When Amin was oppressing us here, we did not bring CEJOCU to come and mobilise the people to fight him when we had the problem of AIDS, we had all the professionals around but they could not mobilise the people — we had to use political channels to inform people about the dangers of AIDS and that is why the rate of new infections is now beginning to fall.

Therefore, people who are committed to a cause are the ones who can mobilise the population — not people who are just looking for allowances and things like that. This is a point on which I do not want fresh misunderstandings with anybody.

For instance, this low turn-up during the elections — how could there have been a low turn-up if the RCs had been involved?

There would have been a huge turn-up of voters in some of the areas. But when you bring CEJOCU and I don’t know who else, you cannot be sure what will happen. I don’t mind the CEJOCUs being around and pleasing themselves but we, the political reformers, the patriots, the people who fought for freedom in the first place, must also be there to mobilise the people so that we can explain to them things they don’t understand.

In the coming electoral exercise, I shall not allow this confusion to continue. The tried and tested political activists, led by all of us, need to mobilise the people so that they can realise the importance of elections as a measure in stopping the resurgence of primitive fascists who, in the past, wreaked so much havoc upon this country.

The people must know the value of elections, but nobody tells them that. Instead, they are told that the whole thing is like football in which there must be winners and losers! Elections are not football – they are a matter of life and death for our people. That is why the voters ask for bribes saying to candidates: “If you want me to vote for you, you must first quench my thirst.” Why should I quench your thirst?

You should bribe me to stand in the elections instead of me bribing you to vote for me! Everything is turned completely upside down because of the involvement of people who have no interest in the future of our country. In the last two months, we have witnessed two landmark events in the history of our country. In May, there was the first direct election of a President by universal and secret ballot and in June we held the parliamentary elections.

This is the culmination of the long politico-military struggle that started in 1971 with the resistance against Milton Obote. The struggle had started earlier in 1966 when Obote abrogated the Constitution, but in 1971 it achieved a qualitative leap because we took up arms to defend the rights of our people. This struggle has ebbed and flowed but it has always moved inexorably closer and closer to final victory.

Today is the hour of that victory. The first directly elected President of Uganda is now opening the first freely elected Parliament since 1962. Therefore, you are pioneers and I congratulate you for that. My friends who were in NRC should not quarrel with me thinking that I have demeaned their role.

This is because the elections of 1989 were not by adult suffrage — they were by electoral college. The NRC did a lot of important work, but you cannot compare a cow with buffalo. They are both very useful animals but each in its different way. I salute all those who have taken part in this struggle for the empowerment of the people of Uganda.

Africa is still pre-industrial:

We have just elected a President and a Parliament – but what is our mission? What is the purpose of these political processes? We must define the purpose of our activities from the beginning. When I opened the expanded National Resistance Council on April 11th 1989, I pointed out the reality of the African socio-political and economic situation. This situation is that Africa is still pre-industrial — and it is that reality that defines our mission for us.

As I told the NRC in 1989, again in my address to the Think Tank at the Sheraton Hotel in December 1994, it is not very clear why Africa lagged behind the other continents in economic and social transformation. However, the following factors have something to do with it. First, there is the amiable climate of tropical Africa, which is good both for man and his enemies, such as mosquitoes and tsetse flies.

These conditions ensured that there was no natural pressure on the human being to invent the techniques that would be necessary to ameliorate condition, as was the case in the colder climates of the northern hemisphere. Conditions which were favourable to man’s natural enemies also ensured that Africa’s population always remained small.

By 1960, Africa’s population was only 280 million people, while that of China was 657 million people. Even today, Africa’s population is only 719 million while the population of China, which is only 30 per cent of Africa’s land area, is 1.2 billion. This is in spite of the phenomenal growth of Africa’s population in the last 30 years. Owing to this small population, the competition between man and man over natural resources is not very acute. This lack of competition does not encourage an innovative spirit.

The second major problem was caused by the impenetrable forests, the impenetrable swamps and the huge deserts which impeded communication and, therefore, impeded the spread and exchange of ideas. The combination of these two preceding factors made it difficult for the evolution of big 31 states like the ones in India, China, Russia, Persia, Egypt, Ethiopia and in other parts of Europe.

These states emerged because they were looking for resources to cover large populations. This was not the case in Africa and it made easy the conquest of the continent by more organised states. I do not accept the argument that the conquest of Africa was made easy because of the gap in technology. China and Japan were also technologically backward but were organised on such a big scale that it was not easy to subdue them.

The Zulu empire in southern Africa was beginning to pose a serious threat to the Cape Colony had it not been for the internal upheavals which followed the death of Shaka in 1828.

When Africa was conquered, a third problem set in, and this was the problem of economic and social distortions. This largely manifested itself in the form of having lop-sided economies that only depended on agriculture, with an almost complete absence of industries on the one hand, and a complete absence of a middle class on the other. This is something I have told you many times and this was the nation that we inherited at independence in the whole of Africa.

Redressing historical disaantages:

In the case of Uganda, up until 1986, nothing serious had been done to contend with these very serious historical disaantages. Since 1986, however, we have vigorously addressed these issues. Broadly speaking, we have done the following in order to overcome these problems I have mentioned:

We have repaired elements of the infrastructure especially roads, power, telephones and schools. The physical infrastructure is vital in facilitating economic production while the social infrastructure, i.e. schools and hospitals, are crucial because they support man, who is the primary agent of production.

Secondly, we have achieved macro-economic stability, i.e. stabilisation of the inflation rate exchange rates and interest rates.

Thirdly, we have removed bottlenecks from the economy by liberalising marketing, liberalising the production process, ie by allowing private people to come in, instead of only using parastatals and by liberalising services such as telecommunications

Fourthly, we have encouraged regional integration in order to expand the market opportunities for our nascent industries

Fifthly, we have put in place different credit mechanisms to prop up the production processes of our people, such as loans in the Uganda Development Bank, the Uganda Commercial Bank and the Entandikwa credit scheme.

As a consequence of these measures, the following achievements have been attained:

The economy of Uganda has grown at an average rate of 6 per cent per annum since 1986. Last financial year alone achieved a growth rate of 8.2 per cent.

Inflation dropped from 240 per cent in 1986 to 5.4 per cent this year.

Since 1991, about 1,837 new enterprises have been licensed

The size of our Gross Domestic Product has doubled in ten years. In 1986, it was 1.5 billion US dollars and it is now 3 billion US dollars. Of course, this is still very, very small. When you near that Uganda has a GDP of $3 billion US, it is nothing short of scandalous. Belgium, which is one-tenth of the land area of Uganda, has a GDP of $200 billion and here we are celebrating moving from $1.5 billion to US$3 billion. This is not acceptable — we cannot go on like this and Africa must wake up. The Banyankore say that Orikuruga okuzimu tagaya mushana, meaning that if you are coming from underground, you cannot say that this sunshine is not enough. For somebody who is coming from total darkness, any sunshine, however small, is better than nothing.

lIn 1986, government collected revenue worth Shs 44 billion and this year we shall collect Shs 828 billion. We are now in a position to fund the whole of our national current budget from our own internal resources and we are also able to cover 30 per cent of our development budget.

Again the Munyankore says: Mporampora ekahitsya omunyongororwa ahaiziba, meaning that slowly and slowly, the earthworm was able to cover a long distance, go to the well, collect water and go back, in spite of its slow speed.

Foreign exchange inflows amounted to only $500m in 1986 but we now get an inflow of $1.4bn, including exports and private remittances. Therefore, this scenario I have just outlined shows that the problems of black Africa are not incurable or God-ordained — they are within the capacity of man to tackle and eventually eliminate.

In addition to what we have already done, this new administration will adopt the following measures to consolidate the road of tackling underdevelopment which we are already traversing.

Modernising agriculture:

First of all, we shall modernise agriculture. The clicheacute goes like this wherever one goes: “As you know, Uganda is largely an agricultural country.” But when you go into the rural areas, where is the agriculture? I don’t see it! You see some people who have disturbed the earth and they think they are engaged in agriculture.

Therefore, this administration will, in the coming five years, start the real battle in modernising agriculture. We shall have real agriculture, not just going somewhere, damaging the environment and then say you are also engaged in agriculture.

According to my tentative conclusion, the agricultural pattern of Uganda currently falls into three types:

The first one is the small-scale farmers who own 10 acres of land or below, although, in fact, many people have only three or four acres. This is the situation in Bugisu, Pallisa, Tororo, Iganga, Kabale, some parts of Mbarara and Bushenyi, in Kabarole and many parts of Buganda near the lake

The second type of agriculture is the medium and large- scale farmers who have 10 to 1,000 acres

And, thirdly, the large plantation farmers who have up to 20,000 acres, like the Madhvanis and Mehtas.

Of the three types of farmers, the most problematic is the first category. I do not yet have a census of the ten-and-below-acre families but it is apparent that they are the overwhelming majority of the population of Uganda. Regrettably, the tendency is for these ‘under-tens’ to increase in number because of continued land fragmentation.

Because of land fragmentation and archaic inheritance practices, more and more small-scale farmers are transforming their farm units into even smaller, sub-optimal units. It is my view that we should serve a dual strategy as far as agriculture is concerned.

We should ensure that the small-scale farmers should produce more food crops through improved yields so that they can feed themselves better, and also have more food on the market, thereby keeping food prices and inflation down. However, the money the small-scale farmers get is not enough to satisfy their homestead needs.

They, therefore, need high- value cash crops which, although grown on a small scale, can bring in reasonable incomes for the families. I tentatively think that it is erroneous to make a farmer with only three acres grow a low-value crop like cotton or maize and expect him to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.

When I went to one area in Uganda, the farmers told me that they must produce cotton for the factories. I asked them: “What is your assignment? Is it to produce cotton for the factories or to feed your families?”

They had no good answer but this is the colonial strategy of making our people produce cash crops, irrespective of the returns they get. Unfortunately, in many parts of Africa, we still have this colonial policy. This is tantamount to using slave labour in order to ensure that there are cheap raw materials for modern industries. The modern industries will prosper but the producers of the raw materials which feed them will continue to wallow in perpetual poverty.

The second type of agriculture does not present serious problems, as long as the medium-and large-scale farmers keep their land units fragmented, and provided they get good technical aice on farming practices. If those two things are done, they will be able to make profits either from low-value or high-value crops because they will be producing them on a large scale.

It is the rich farmers who have large pieces of land who should, be the ones to grow low-value crops like cotton. But to ask somebody who has got only one acre to spare for cash crops to grow cotton, which will only earn him 80,000 shillings a year, is nothing short of criminal.

Rapid industrialisation:

The second major task ahead of us is to ensure rapid industrialisation. One of the impediments to rapid industrialisation has been the scarcity of serviced land that the industries can use to build factories, office blocks, housing estates or hotels. My government will solve this, if necessary, by using its own lands for this purpose.

The other time I had a problem with some Constituent Assembly delegates when I talked about land for industries. Some of them went to alarm people that Museveni wanted to grab their land and give it to the Banyarwanda! This was the campaign in some of the areas where some of my colleagues are represented here.

When I went away and thought more about this matter, I said to myself: “Why should I quarrel with these people?”

Fortunately, according to the CA law, anybody who has got land is now a landlord in perpetuity, and since the government has got a lot of land, we do not have to quarrel with anybody over land. There is plenty of land at the following places:

Nakasongola in Luwero

Masindi under UDC

Aswa Ranch in Acholi

Maruzi Ranch in Apac

Kisozi Ranch in Gomba

Ruhengyere Ranch in Mbarara land Nshaara Ranch in Mbarara, to mention but a few places where land is available.

Therefore, if necessary, these huge government lands will be made available for building large industries. Then we shall be able to compare notes in future with the confusionists. We shall be able to carry out an audit to see who has brought out more development for Uganda — the ones who talk out Banyarwanda or the ones who encourage industrialisation.

These are the days of recording and writing whatever everybody says — it is not like in the past when you would just say words and they would be taken by the wind. So, the future generations will be able to audit what Museveni is saying and what Rwakibikindi is saying, (When a Munyankore does not want to mention a person by name he calls him Rwakibikindi “somebody who shall remain, nameless”.

The future generation will be able to award us marks because whatever we say is recorded. Some of this land is already serviced by electricity, although roads in some of these places are not yet very good. There are good roads in the areas of Ruhengyere, Nshaara, Masindi and Nakasongola. Additionally, the Uganda Investment Authority is doing everything possible to develop serviced land in the cities of Kampala and Jinja.

Harmonisation of East African tax rates:

The other major bottleneck has been lack of harmonisation of rates throughout the East African region. Discrepancies in rates create unfair competition. This, however, is not a matter that should worry our industrialists in the long run. There is no way that Uganda will continue to accept a situation where its industrial products will indefinitely remain at aantage just because of a failure to harmonise tax rates.

This matter will be discussed with our brothers in the region and I am sure it will be resolved harmoniously. We should have a discussion on tax rates in East Africa so that we put the smugglers out of business. My first priority on this issue will be to persuade the governments of Kenya and Tanzania to have uniform tax rates.

If this is not done, then the Uganda government will be free to adopt its own counter-measures to protect its industries. Therefore, our industrialists should be steadfast because there is always more than one solution to a problem. There is persistent talk that because Uganda is a land-locked country, its industries may not be as competitive as others in the region.

In my opinion, this is not the best way to look at this matter. Uganda is one of the richest countries in the world, in terms of the amount and diversity of its raw materials. Therefore, our industries should base themselves on our own raw materials and not on imported ones, which would be the ones to be at a disaantage because of high transport costs.

We have raw materials from agriculture, minerals, fresh water resources, forests and, last but not least, the tourist industry, These raw materials and resources can be exploited and finished goods produced for the market of continental Africa, that is: Uganda, western Kenya, north-western Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Zaire, southern Sudan, as well as southern Ethiopia. These regions have a population of nearly 200 million people.

Therefore, being far from the sea need not necessarily be a problem for Uganda’s industries. As I have told you many times before, the expansion of our industrial base will mean a bigger market for our labour force, and also a wider tax base.

In the second half of this speech, which will be published on June 23, President Museveni explains the role he expects MPs, RDCs and ministers to play in the post-1994 Constitution Uganda. He also speaks about education, roads, poverty reduction, and corruption.

Source : The Observer

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