Uganda not a failed state

Jul 04, 2012

I find the critics’ attempts to land crunching punches on the Government’s efforts to develop Uganda rather noxious. I also find the claim that Uganda is a failed state a travesty of the truth


By Dr. Nsaba Buturo

CRITICS of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government have tendentiously and consistently claimed that Uganda is a failed state.

In a vein of fierce excoriation, they have also claimed that the current system of governance suffers from a democratic defi cit. They have airily dismissed suggestions that tell a more positive story about Uganda.

Instead, they have alleged that the government is responsible for undermining the constitutional balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of Uganda governance in order to accumulate exclusive power in the president.

I find the critics’ attempts to land crunching punches on the Government’s efforts to develop Uganda rather noxious. I also find the claim that Uganda is a failed state a travesty of the truth.

Individuals who argue that she is a failed state depict so poignantly a dismal state of their ability to conjure truth! 

Such people are simply caught in a vortex of powerful, insidious and often invisible forces that conspire to rob them of the joy and pride of belonging to a resurgent Uganda! Bile and rhetoric has coloured their judgement!

This aside, when does one tell that a state is a failed state? What are its attributes? The Fund for Peace describes a failed state as one which is ‘perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government’.

According to the Fund, attributes of a failed state include: “Loss of control of its territory or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force; erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions; an inability to provide public services; and an inability to interact with other states by social, political and/or economic failure”.

On its part, the Crisis States Research Centre posits that a state becomes a failed state when ‘it can no longer support its basic security and development functions and it has no effective control over its territory and borders’.

Such a state, according to the research centre is unable to ‘enforce its laws uniformly due to factors such as high crime rates, extreme political corruption, an ineffective and impenetrable bureaucracy, judicial ineffectivess, collapsed economy and collapsed infrastructure’. 

Going by the above descriptions, it is no where remotely sensible to state that Uganda has the stated attributes!

Only when a critic is sensationalist, dishonest or has an axe to grind against the Government or is under compulsion to satisfy needs or interests of Uganda’s enemies will he or she make the outlandish claim that Uganda is a failed state.

There is no space here to delve in some detail in the performance and record of the NRM government. If we had, we would adduce evidence of a nation which is heading towards a much higher plane of development. Granted! We would also show a nation which is somewhat challenged with occasional mistakes and failures. 

But then, is there a nation on earth which does not make mistakes or encounter failures? No, the state of Uganda is not a failed state. 

There is no part of Uganda which is being contested by internal or external forces. The NRM government is in fi rm control over practically the whole of Uganda! Its authority to make decisions is both legitimate and incontestable.

While in some instances provision of quality public services is problematic, ongoing efforts promise continued improvement. 

All in all, government’s ability to support the state’s basic security and development functions is not in doubt. Uganda’s standing regionally, continentally as well as internationally is refreshingly positive. It is also on the rise. 

Uganda’s rise from a failed state in the 1970s up to early 1990s to a functioning state now is a fairy tale story. This feat notwithstanding though, we should remain wary of festering social, economic and political threats that could render our nation vulnerable.

Social threats such as demographic pressures, economic threats like corruption and inequalities in education, infrastructure and jobs as well as political threats which include politically-inspired and violent demonstrations are worth guarding against.

Mind you, enemies of the Ugandan state would want to nurture these and other threats for purposes of christening Uganda a failed state.

The writer is from Institute of Development Studies (EA)


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