The initial 10 years of President Museveni’s leadership (1986-1996) marked a firm foundation for Uganda’s socio-economic and political recovery.
By Richard Todwong
The National Resistance Movement (NRM) has just celebrated 30 years in power. Keeping in power for this long is no mean feat as Uganda has had governments that have come and gone, but the NRM has reigned longer than all the past regimes combined.
Political philosophers and scholars hold that the main aim of a political party is to capture power and do everything in their means to retain that power. And that is what the NRM has done.
In his first address after being sworn in as President at the steps of Parliament on January 29, 1986, the then 42-year-old Marxist revolutionary, wiping his forehead with a brimmed army kofia, asserted that theirs was "not a mere change of guards but a fundamental change in the politics of Uganda". That statement defined the NRM's journey towards the restoration of democracy, peace and security as outlined in the original Ten-Point Programme.
Museveni has since led his fellow countrymen and women by popular mandate through periodic free and fair elections since the very first democratic election in 1996 following the promulgation of the Constitution.
While opening the first session of the National Resistance Council (NRC), which acted as the national parliament, on April 11, 1989, Museveni was elated to see that one of his long-held wishes had come true…to see the emergence of a measure of political consensus in Uganda; a system where Ugandans were free to participate in the democratic process of choosing their leaders.
The Movement system
This was the beginning of real democracy, where aspirants for the various elective offices got their mandate from the masses under one-man-one vote system.
President Museveni had had a long-held disgust for multipartyism on the mantra that parties fomented sectarianism and divisionism among the citizens of the country, and that they were the number one reason as to why Uganda had been trapped into anarchy. He said that they had better put parties in abeyance until such a time as when Uganda was prepared for multipartyism.
This set the pace for a no-party state under the all-inclusive Movement system, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), which was a broad-based system bringing together members who subscribed to the various political parties and fighting forces. Until the opening up of the political space in July 2005, all Ugandans, by law, belonged to the Movement system.
Road to constitutionalism
The road to constitutionalism began in 1990, when President Museveni, who was meant to step down that year, as per the schedule of the transitional government [1986-1990], sought the mandate of the NRC to add him more five years [1990-1995] to see through the process of birthing a new supreme law for Uganda.
Thus the transition of the NRC to the Constituent Assembly (CA) in 1994 to pave way for the new constitution, a process that saw various politicians seek the people's mandate through elections of one-man-one-vote to set foot in the CA. It was this delegation that debated and promulgated the Constitution in 1995; the first Constitution in which the citizens of Uganda were consulted on the various issues under the Odoki Commission.
The 1995 Constitution replaced the 1967 Republican Constitution of Apollo Milton Obote that had been hastily drafted after the bitter fallout between Obote and the then Kabaka of Buganda, Sir Edward Mutesa, also President at the time.
Uganda's first free democratic elections.
With the new constitution, Ugandans, for the first time, elected their leaders in what was dubbed the first democratic elections in which President Museveni offered himself up for elections alongside his first interior minister, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, (DP-leaning) and Muhammad Kibirige Mayanja, who stood on the platform of JEEMA.
Museveni was overwhelmingly voted by Ugandans garnering over 75% of the vote under universal suffrage to begin his new and "first" [as stipulated in the new Constitution] five-year tenure of office.
The landmark of the NRM's democratic process was the inclusion of special interest groups such as women, youth, workers, the army and persons with disability (PWDs), of whom some like women battled it out with men under universal suffrage. The workers, army, youth and PWDs are elected through electoral colleges.
Indeed, women have been accorded more space in politics and other leadership roles in government. Currently, the women comprise 35% of the overall representation in Parliament.
Foundation for recovery
The initial 10 years of President Museveni's leadership (1986-1996) marked a firm foundation for Uganda's socio-economic and political recovery. This was the time the NRM embarked on policy interventions that would place the nation on the pedestal of real progress.
NRM strength lies in correct diagnosis of the country's challenges and systematically administering policies that are geared towards dreams of Ugandans. We pride in balancing investment and consumption, infrastructure development and social developments.
The NRM government introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997 which saw enrollment swell from 1.8 million pupils to 8.2 million pupils today. The economy underwent rapid transformation following Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) which included liberalisation, privitisation, deregulation, and opening up to Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).
Indeed, in the last two decades, the economy has grown at an average of 6.5% of GDP and revenue collection increased from sh5b in 1986 to sh13trillion today. The budget has also increased to Shs23trillion as of 2015/16 financial year.
This was the period the NRM government was engaged in fierce battles against insurgents such as Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRFI&II), Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Karamojong cattle rustlers. All these reactionary forces have since been defeated by the now professionalised people's army, the UPDF.
Uganda is now more peaceful and secure at all the borders and the UPDF is now working hard to stabilise the region through its pan-African mandate of peace missions.
The next 10 years (1996-2006) saw refocused planning (sectoral reviews and investment plans) in terms of realigning our budgetary priorities with the aim of delivering on the essential services such as health, education, transport and communication infrastructure, energy, agriculture ie NAADS, human resource development, etc.
Hope for the future
In this phase (2006-2015) when the NRM marks 30 years of steady progress, the economy is now robust with sound macro and microeconomic policies that have stabilised the economy, keeping inflation to manageable levels.
The NRM government, through prioritisation, is now consolidating on key sectors such as roads, energy, health, security and defence, ICT and scientific innovations.
Ugandans are now more hopeful of the future; they see reason enough to collectively develop their country. The government has recently launched a national development vision which aims at transforming the country from a peasantry to modern, transformed, middle class and industrialised society within 30 years. This vision can only be realised of we embrace President Museveni's mission of wealth creation and poverty eradication at household level.
The writer is deputy secretary general NRM