Mr President; why have you chosen a growth retarding path when it is you who had removed the barricades in the path to prosperity?
Mr President, “Stop hiding your head in sand and address succession,” following your exchange with Dr. Kizza Besigye in the media. The exchange centred on Besigye’s allegation that you were illegally promoting and grooming your son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to succeed you as president.
You wrote two long articles in the papers defending your son. This, I knew, would work to alienate several of your comrades with whom you went to the bush over three decades ago to fight insensitivity, among other vices. Continuously, frustration and a common sense of betrayal has swept through all strata of NRA/NRM and the results — with inscription “the centre can no longer hold” — are out for everyone to see.
Mr President, I remember writing in these pages, on several occasions, that your failure to give Ugandans assurance that their country will for the first time change president without bloodshed was generating uncertainty and frustration. I also warned you that although Ugandans loved you so very much, justifiably because you dedicated a greater part of your life struggling to better their lives, you risked wasting away everything you had achieved due to your failure to show us that you are different from other selfish leaders who have led this country before. Uganda has seen several “liberators” and “freedom fighters” turning predators and self-liberators.
As I wrote in February, we are spending sleepless nights thinking where our country is heading. I also wondered whether you have taken trouble to analyse events across Africa and elsewhere lately. Trouble has been brewing mainly in countries where presidents attempted to build dynasties by maneuvering to pass power over to their family members. This is what happened in Mubarak’s Egypt, Gadaffi’s Libya, and Mutharika’s Malawi among others.
Why generals are mad with you
Mr President, it started as a whisper and a rumour that you were grooming your son to take over from you. Now, the infamous “Sejusa letter” and its aftermath — the unwarrantedly panicky reshuffles both in cabinet and the military — have left absolutely nothing for guessing. It doesn’t require one to be a genius to know that the levels of mistrust and insecurity in the government and the army have reached unprecedented levels. We are in such times when some people start to get frightened by their own shadows! But how did we get here?
First, as I told you sometime back it is a frustrating gambit on those who put their lives in the firing range to fight with you to right the many historical wrongs of this country, only for you to disregard their feelings and attempt not only to lead them forever but also to impose on them some of the members of your family as if Uganda was monarchy.
Mr President, the reason things will never be the same again is one and only one — you and some of your family members have become extremely insensitive to your comrades! For example, in September 2011, just a year and a half ago, your son, then Lt. Col. Muhoozi, while reacting to Wikileaks reports that you were preparing him to take over from you, said, “If by grooming (me) certain people mean that because Museveni is my father and given his excellent credentials with the Uganda electorate that I would be a popular candidate, that cannot be helped.”
I would confidently posit that it is statements like that uttered by Brig. Muhoozi, very conceited and insensitive, that are eating up men like Tinyefuza, Kasirye Gwanga, Besigye, and I am sure many others that fought alongside you to enable you build these “excellent credentials with Uganda electorate.” I wrote that although Brig. Muhoozi has every right, like any other Ugandan, to compete for any office in this country, including the presidency, few would welcome a lecture along the lines he took. It was simply tactless especially to the men and women who 32 years ago joined his dad to fight self-serving leadership, insensitivity and arrogance. Didn’t Tinyefuza’s letters allude to that fact?
Who led the dogs out?
Secondly, there is also a team of young leaders and hangers-on who are not helping things when they come out to belittle your bush time colleagues. I have read several articles in the media, written by some very young leaders — many of whom are of my age and calibre — disparaging four-star military generals and other senior members of our society. It all started in 2005 during the bisanja (presidential term limit) debate when young cadres, notably Ofwono Opondo and Charles Rwomushana, went on rampage abusing senior leaders who were opposed to the amendment of the 1995 Constitution to lift of the two term limit. The late Eria Kategaya, Amanya Mushega, Bidandi Ssali, Miria Matembe were at one time baptised a “malwa group” by these young cadres.
Now, it is again young people like Frank Tumwebaze, Andrew Mwenda and others who, in the bid to promote the so-called “Muhoozi project” are out to write articles that ridicule their seniors. I read one of these articles written by Hon. Tumwebaze and I thought it was uncalled for. To me these misguided exchanges are bound to create more rifts in government and more insecurity. Mr President, you should come out and stop this. It does not even help the “project” if at all it existed. I raise this with the view that “whoever led the dogs out” — a popular song — should take them back to their kennel!
On a serious note, Mr President, you seem to have lost your historic asset — the ability to read trends and respond in the most humane and progressive way possible. Why? Why have you chosen a growth retarding path when it is you who had removed the barricades in the path to prosperity? It is Jared Diamond, who in his 2005 book, “Collapse”, said that countries choose either to fail or to succeed. Why do we Ugandans always choose failure? Isn’t it plainly clear that failure to address the succession question will take us back? Can anyone fail to see this?
In the State of Nation Address yesterday, emphasis was put on the economy, as if the economy can prosper in this political chaos. We know that political unrest breeds economic unrest. The reason our economy collapsed in the 1970s and ‘80s was not because Obote and other leaders could not make good plans and read them in Parliament. No. It collapsed because the politics had failed and they failed to fix it.
Political uncertainty breeds economic uncertainty
Likewise, the reason the economy recovered quite impressively in the 1990s and early 2000s is not because Uganda had oil or much electricity. Never! The economic recovery of the last two decades was a result of the good politics and predictability that enabled several economic reforms to take place.
Mr President, the economy which had started to show signs of transformation, is gradually collapsing under the weight of fiscal indiscipline, running inflation, a weakening shilling, massive corruption, and political uncertainty. I have written on several occasions in these pages that the trend our politics is taking will only worsen our not so much promising economic performance.
Always, political uncertainty will breed economic uncertainty. The reason investment expenditure and consumption are dwindling is because people are no longer certain about the future. In economics we have what we call intertemporal choices: decisions that economic agents (individuals and business firms) have to make under uncertain circumstances. For example, households have to decide how much to save or to spend, or whether to consume now or in the future. A business firm also may have to decide how much to invest now, whether to borrow or sell part of its assets in order to obtain capital to invest and increase its future output and create higher profits.
These decisions depend on the future expectations. To manage these expectations and uncertainties, it is the government’s responsibility. My damn feeling is that history has taught Ugandans to be adaptive expectants — building their expectations about the future depending upon the extent to which their expectations about the present period turned out to be wrong! Ugandans have historically been disappointed by leaders who promise them heaven only to deliver them to hell. No wonder few risk lovers would stake their money now in form of long term investment.