NRM had the opportunity to emulate Singapore

In November 2010, I wrote an opinion in this paper in which I lamented how NRM had changed fundamentally instead of ushering in a “fundamental change” promised to Ugandans when Yoweri Museveni captured power on January 26, 1986. I said then that the NRM liberators could “hardly recognise themselves in their present re-incarnation”. The situation has definitely not improved. The idealists and revolutionaries who promised Ugandans a paradise have ended up ‘supplying air’. The Ten Point Programme was abandoned years ago and replaced with greed, nepotism, corruption and manipulation of the Constitution to serve interests of a few.
A good number of the founding fathers of NRM have over the years left and joined the Opposition, claiming they had been duped and that the current NRM is a ‘pale shadow’ of the one that fought for the liberation of Uganda from so-called past tyrannical regimes. Some who have stayed on in the Movement have evidently lost zeal and commitment, while others are there to protect their business interests. Those who believed they were in the queue to succeed President Museveni now realise they were following a mirage, as the “killer of the animal” is not going anywhere soon. There are, however, plenty of young Turks ready to partake of what remains on the table.
In the first 10 years of his rule (1986 – 96), President Museveni performed commendably both at home and abroad. He berated African leaders who overstayed in power, calling them Africa’s main problem. He enabled the creation of the Constituent Assembly that prepared the 1995 Constitution and promptly assented to it. There are many who believed that Museveni had done his bit by 1996 and should have stepped down, or at the very latest in 2006, after putting to test the two-term limit.
The two-term limit failed to pass the test as the NRM dominated Parliament in 2005 amended the Constitution and abolished term limits, thus enabling the person elected president to remain in office for as long as “the voters keep electing him” and has not attained the age of 75.
The NRM MPs, who had been bribed to lift the term limits, deliberately refused to see the logic behind the Constitution drafters’ inclusion of a limit to how long a single person should be allowed to run the country. Now there is a new bandwagon that has rolled into town bearing NRM MPs and other zealots preaching the gospel of removing the constitutional age limit of 75 for one to stand for president! It is just a question of when and not if, before the NRM MPs again conspire to amend the Constitution accordingly. Why all the pretence that Uganda has a Constitution when it can be changed at the whim of a few individuals? A Constitution is meant to be a sacrosanct document for posterity.
The NRM has been in power close to 30 years and this is a long time during which it could have transformed this country to a middle income status. It took the late Lee Kuan Yew 31 years to move Singapore from a very poor third-world country to a highly developed first-world country. Singapore had no natural resources but it has the most precious resource, namely its people and Lee Kuan Yew extracted the best out of them. He was no democrat but valued meritocracy, which was well rewarded and also abhorred corruption which was severely punished. Singapore’s success was a result of hard work by a leader who stuck to his vision and employed the right people to help him achieve it. Museveni had the opportunity and indeed the time to emulate Lee Kuan Yew if he had put bread and butter issues above political expediency.

Mr Naggaga is economist, administrator and retired ambassador

SOURCE: Daily Monitor