OPINION: Tapping the Power of Rural Economies to Make Sense of Museveni’s Wealth Creation

Morris Komaketch

By: Morris Komakech

The paradox of our generation is the “strongman” malaise that has undermined socio-political development in Africa in the last three and a half decades.

Strongmen are old-fashioned residual posturing of Leninist/Maoist fascism, thumb a derision drawn out of misinterpretation of Marxism.

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Every non-progressive African country has a strongman ruling a divided country with urban and rural economies separated. This strongman foreboding needs proper theorising if Africa is to become truly productive.

Uganda is a country of well-travelled, highly educated folks, and tortured souls – people who have endured a long history of trauma, tribalism, civil wars, sectarianism etc.

This profile of a society would command national solidarity, and inspire resistance to repeat adversities. Unfortunately, we acquired opposite reaction tendencies – compliance, submissiveness, and reproducing our predicaments.

Mr. Museveni makes it worse by his colonial type social experiments that alienate the economies of the rural from that of urban Uganda.

When you see the ever-widening gap between the Museveni urbanite plutocrats and their subdued miserable rural subjects, you confirm it by a confrontation with lapses in all aspects of public institutions.

There is a deep flaw with the NRM liberation ideology beyond its deceptions. The gaps in social services between rural and urban settings reveal a major contradiction, or a limitation of that brand of ideology.

These contradictions make it harder to manage a modern economy peacefully, where the supposed liberators are now the oppressors.

A modern capitalist society constructed under the aegis of neoliberalism needs to conform to neoliberal ideologies with uncompromising democracy as part of the deal. The regime is averse to democracy and alienates rural communities from such discourses.

The near collapse of social services is another example of the regime’s inability to curb the vagaries of the liberal market, or develop a sustainable balance between public and private enterprises to extend to the rural economy.

Underwriting Mr. Museveni’s ability to comprehend such a dichotomy of the economy is suicidal, thus the reproach. Our gist is that Mr. Museveni’s arrows have simply run-out of his quiver. Some Christians say, “where human ability ends, God’s begin”. Mr. Museveni ought to do the biblical Moses thing. When you see the end, accept, hand over to the younger generation; have faith that they will lead the flock to the Promised Land. This stretch of the economy belongs to the younger crop of economists and entrepreneurs who understand globalisation, neo-liberalism and the liberal market trick-books. We should allow them to transition and integrate these economies to a unified engine for driving prosperity like Chinese government achieved in the last two decades.

Mr.  Museveni’s tries to politically re-invent himself by experimental approaches – he moots ideas to modernise agriculture, and promotes the use of hand hoes, slashers and menial irrigation; promises wealth for all, while his cows and crops are infertile or auto-suicidal. Too many contradictions demonstrate a blurred vision. They are retarding Uganda’s economic potential.

A good example of a failed experimentation is that private health services are not expanding fast enough to compensate for restructuring of the healthcare system. Uganda’s fragile economy would respond by ring fencing certain critical aspects of the market by instituting universal social policies.

Critical areas in health, education, early child development, social security, Infrastructure, Water, and Agriculture, with strict regulations on environmental protection, would suffice. Ugandans wouldn’t mind paying a little more in taxes to finance a robust social policy that works for them, to build skills, prevent premature deaths; leverages opportunity for productivity and mobility, and offer social security and fair market competition.

To make even the least sense of Mr. Museveni’s experiments, the wealth creation program should be de-politicised and de-militarised. Social and economic programs should avoid liberation mentalities and politicking of Mr. Museveni. Such programs should put the people of Uganda first.

Lastly, by linking wealth creation to health, we support the idea that when people have income, they tend to have better health and afford health resources. Health and Agriculture are inextricably linked in a country were over 78% of our population still survive and reside in rural communities. The power of Uganda’s economy remains untapped in these rural communities.

The author is a Uganda social critic and political analyst based in Canada.


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