President Museveni addresses a televised press conference on Uganda''s path for the next 50 years. Our reporters took notes
By Hellen Mukiibi, Henry Mukasa, A. Sengendo and Moses Walubiri
As the country strides towards the Golden Jubilee fete scheduled for October 9, President Yoweri Museveni has listed peace, democracy, literacy, enough electricity supply, oil discovery and regional integration as major achievements.
Uganda-Zambia match on TV
As a gift to Ugandans upon reaching the momentous occasion, the President offered to pay $30,000 (about sh75m) fees for Uganda Broadacasting Corporation (UBC) to screen live the make-or-break Uganda Cranes game against Zambia to be played at Namboole stadium on October 13.
50 years from today
Addressing a televised press conference, the President disclosed that his vision for Uganda in the next 50 years is to have a modern, first world country.
“We are about to enter middle income country status,” he said pointing out that the GDP per capita of Uganda is now $580 while the rich nations’ per capita is $1,000. He noted that the GDP now stands at $19.79b (about sh49 trillion) up from $0.45b in 1962.
“We have human resource and natural resources. We need modern agriculture, Uganda to be industrialised and the whole population educated.”
The President described himself as a philosopher, freedom fighter and strategist who believes in social economic transformation.
“Has Ssabalwanyi (freedom fighter) stumbled anywhere? Well, I don’t know what stumbling means but I have always arrived at my destination.”
On whether he is the only man with a vision to lead the country, the President said there are many Ugandans with a vision of patriotism.
He illustrated that the NRM he leads, as founder and chairman, stands on the pillars of nationalism, pan-Africanism, social economic transformation and democracy.
Any NRM cadre who cherishes these ideals and has the capacity to win a general election, Museveni said, has a right vision.
“There are many people with the right vision, especially the NRM cadres. All the people who voted for me share my vision. Otherwise, I would have got one vote — my vote — if no one shared my vision,” the President said.
He was responding to a question whether he is the only person with a vision to lead Uganda.
“If it was only Museveni with a vision why do I get over five million votes?” he asked.
“When we go to the National Conference (of NRM to choose a presidential candidate) the people (delegates) say, ‘Yes I believe in patriotism but can I win an election across the country? Let this old man continue… that’s how I come in,” Museveni explained.
There is hope
The President observed that the country was at a “vantage point”, the first in the history of Uganda.
“The situation in Uganda is good. If the political, administrative and intellectual class grasp this and use it well, Uganda can take off. We have the basics — peace, democracy as a system of government, oil, gas and including a free press — which we never had before,” he stated.
Casually dressed in a pin-striped white shirt, black slacks and matching shoes, Museveni congratulated Ugandans upon the 50-year jubilee and prayed that all citizens live to celebrate the fete due in 13 days.
Over100 local and international journalists attended the briefing.
Peace and stability
The President said there was peace in the whole country including Karamoja. “This peace will not be disturbed because the State has a lot of capacity to guard it. This is something that was not there. The army, police, security services and population itself is there to guard it,” he said.
The north-eastern region bordering South Sudan and Kenya has for long been volatile, marked with marauding armed warriors who rustled cattle and killed at will. Several police and UPDF operations have ended the anarchy through an expansive disarmament programme.
The President said after 17 years of universal education, the literacy levels in the country have shot to between 73%-75%. The number of students in secondary school now stands at 1.5 million up from 190,000 students in 1986.
He said the primary school pupils are now eight million up from 2.5 million in 1996 while 150,000 students attend the various universities in the country.
On the problem of high dropout rate, the President said the existing bottlenecks will be sorted out, noting that the number of pupils completing primary school from UPE schools was on the rise.
He said for the second time in Uganda’s history, there is enough electricity in the country with 800 megawatts being generated up from 150mw in 1986.
Museveni named regional integration for a bigger market, the discovery of oil in western Uganda and existence of democracy as a system of government in the country as other landmarks.
“These five as we celebrate 50 years are strategic achievements which I would like to draw the attention of Ugandans to,” he said.
He cited corruption and ignorance of the intellectual class as one of the weaknesses and vowed to fight them in a guerilla style.
Executive, Parliament relations
On the standoff between the Executive and Parliament over a demand by legislators to increase funding for the health sector, Museveni said he would not allow any cut on the defence allocation.
“That one we have made clear, Defence is already under-funded.”
The President refuted media reports that Uganda is in the process of purchasing six new Russian jet fighters, although he left the door for future purchases open, as the country continues with the process of building a viable modern air force.
“We have not signed any agreement for new jets, but when we get good terms in future, we shall continue building our army,” the President said during a Presidential Media Interaction in Rwakitura on Monday.
Uganda bought six Sukhoi SU-30MK2 last year.
Museveni said defence just like electricity, scientific innovation and building railways and roads are core components of government’s plan to transform the country thus making them off limit for budget cuts.
“We might not be able to finish all these this financial year, but if we can tackle two or three, it will be fine,” he said.
Teachers, policemen’s pay
On the questions about teachers and policemen’s emoluments, the President empathised with their plight but, noted that the Government is having the challenge of executing a tight balancing act of improving remuneration of all civil servants without sacrificing infrastructural development.
“We have demands for salaries but also for infrastructure. But now that we are about to get our oil revenue, we intend to have tax revenue deal with salaries while oil revenue is channeled into infrastructure,” he said, while appealing for patience.
However, Museveni chided Ugandans for a profligate lifestyle and poor saving culture which has seen many mired in avoidable poverty.
“Why should someone borrow sh5m to organise a graduation ceremony when he does not have a job? Many people spend a large share of their income on drinking, travelling and partying which is not productive,” Museveni said, as he encouraged Ugandans to borrow a leaf from Asians with their frugal culture.
Museveni also explained the recent NRM loss in Butambala blaming it on intra-party fights, while also alluding to a shared leadership vision in the NRM.
He also advised the leadership at Mengo to help people in Buganda to tap into the economic potential that comes with the good infrastructure and proximity to Kampala, or else “their people will expose them.”
This was in response to reports that Mengo is planning to hold a mourning ceremony to commemorate 50 years of Uganda’s independence.
“They are wishing themselves bad luck. For us we shall celebrate and move forward,” he said.