Kampala. President Museveni’s decision to co-opt soldiers into the takeover and monitoring of the National Agricultural Aisory Services (Naads) programme resulted from a plan mooted by Gen Salim Saleh, close sources have said.
In a concept paper for the project, a copy of which Sunday Monitor has seen, titled “Operation Wealth Creation: Conceptualisation of the Mission and Task Analysis,” Gen Saleh spells out the plan and how it will be implemented.
Aimed at “banishing” subsistence farming and poverty from Uganda, the programme was meant to start in “the zones which supported the political liberation struggle beginning with war veterans.”
Forty three operational zones in which the 1981-86 bush war that brought Mr Museveni to power was waged, were identified and military coordinators posted there “to oversee the task of liberating people from the poverty that has dogged the country despite various interventions by NRM”.
The approach, Gen Saleh’s paper said, will be “wholesome and multi-sectoral,” covering the economy, health, education, infrastructure, investment, industrialisation, export, environmental preservation, rural electrification, research and mobilisation, among others”.
The commanders, according to the paper, will do supervision, coordination, planning, implementation, provide support efforts, social work and community participation, mostly geared at ensuring food security and wealth creation.
Gen Saleh’s concept paper says the 43 zones were identified only for piloting the programme, with the ultimate objective of rolling it out to the entire country. This is what the President has said will happen in the next financial year.
In the absence of agricultural production figures for the said zones, it is difficult to verify the President’s claim. But he said at the budget reading on Thursday that production had “shot up” in the areas where the programme had been piloted since late last year. Mr Museveni has often expressed unwavering trust in the army to “fix” whatever civil sector he believes to be problematic.
Up to 2001, Mr Museveni had often castigated the police for incompetence and continually accused the Force of not supporting him politically. He deployed Gen Katumba Wamala to take over the police. Katumba was later succeeded by another military man, Gen Kale Kayihura who remains at the helm of the police.
When the ongoing National ID project ran into problems with billions of shillings being spent for a handful of ID cards, Mr Museveni deployed a soldier, Gen Aronda Nyakairima to “sort it out.” He has vowed to deploy soldiers in many other fields where he thinks things are not going well.
In the past when teachers and medical workers went on strike or threatened to strike, the President promised to assign the army to take over their roles. The decision to draft soldiers into monitoring of government programmes, especially agriculture, has been greeted with mixed reactions since the President announced it.
FDC President Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu said Mr Museveni’s decision is “ill-thought out”. “It is a tacit admission that he (President Museveni) has failed. The government, which is charged with offering these services, is formed by one party,” Gen Muntu says, “This would bring the army into a partisan process. We contest that.” Mr Christopher Twesigye, a political science lecturer at Uganda Christian University, said drafting the army into managing agriculture and rural development would amount to ‘militarisation of the country”.
However, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the UPDF spokesperson, views the new task as proof that the President and the public trust the army.“Even your newspaper in 2010, voted UPDF as the most trusted institution in Uganda,” Col Ankunda said.
Prof Augustus Nuwagaba, a poverty eradication consultant, backed the move, saying the army has been “exemplary” in discipline and organisation and the President may want to draft it into the rural development agenda.
The FateStill waiting. The fate of the 13-year-old NAADS programme has been the subject of public and government discussion over the last many weeks. Last Sunday, President Museveni convened a crisis cabinet meeting to discuss the fate of the programme ahead of the budget reading on Thursday.
Information minister Rose Namayanja confirmed the meeting took place but said only the President will make an official announcement on the fate of Naads, “in the next two or three days.” No announcement has been made yet.
Civil society organisations, under their umbrella body, Civil Society Budget Aocacy Group, said on the eve of the budget reading that the country should not “narrow a full government agricultural extension programme to a mere ‘project’ of Naads.”
“Naads is an aisory service. Whether he disbands it or not, we need an extension programme to take modern farming down to farmers, not NAADs,” said Ms Agnes Kirabo, the national coordinator of the Food Rights Alliance at a press conference.
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SOURCE: Daily Monitor