By Frank K Tumwebaze
On November 21, 2017, the International Crisis Group, operating out of Brussels in Belgium released a report titled: "Uganda's Slow Slide into Crisis"!
The title of the report is even less pervasive, if compared to numerous ‘speedy crisis' reports that have been produced by detractors of Uganda and sponsors of Opposition politics in Uganda.
For those with knowledge of Uganda, the narrative of this report is nothing, but gutter content sponsored by anti-Uganda spin doctors, who have for long been sponsoring weaklings and non-starters in Uganda's Opposition to cause change of government, but in vain.
There is nothing new in the story save for the usual rhetoric on Museveni's longevity and the falsehoods they spin around it. Glaringly, the report is non-data-driven and full of despicable innuendos.
The only traceable iota of truth in the whole document is text on page 6 that talks of ‘Opposition in disarray'. But I wish to respond to three major falsehoods that have been repeated and rehearsed point by point.
Falsehood one: That ‘Uganda suffers from inefficient patronage politics and spiral of declining governance:
How do you talk of patronage in a system that runs an open and highly consultative budget architecture that puts citizens at the centre?
How do you talk of patronage in a country implementing devolution/local government and oversight over budgets by Parliament?
How can Uganda suffer from declining governance when it exercises rule of law, holds free, fair and regular elections, has a wide and robust press and delivers economic freedom and common good?
Uganda is a country where people enjoy many personal freedoms such as freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
The authors would have done themselves a favour, if they perused Africa's own Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) reports on Uganda. The current report on Uganda generally recognises positive changes made by the NRM administration since assuming power.
It shows that the country has undergone tremendous progress in democratic governance through holding regular elections, constitutional development, creation of an independent Judiciary, liberalisation of the media, decentralisation of power and establishing of legal institutions to fight corruption.
It also praises the country's economic policies for reversing previous hardships and notes the growing infrastructural development in the fields of education, health, energy and communication network.
One, therefore, wonders where and who these crisis ‘researchers' consulted in the process of developing and writing their report!
Falsehood Two: ‘Uganda suffers from poor economic performance and local insecurity
It is not news that Uganda remains a point of reference in regard to suave and steady macroeconomic management - for among others, keeping a single digit inflation rate.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Uganda remains one of the fastest growing countries at a consistent rate of over 6% per annum. The NRM Government has managed over the years, to steadily maintain a positive rate of sustainable economic growth in terms of real GDP.
Since 1992/93, fiscal policy in Uganda has entailed very strict budgetary discipline. The Government has kept firm control over its own expenditures to ensure that it does not have to borrow from the domestic sources to finance budget deficits.
Fiscal discipline has been absolutely essential for the control of inflation. In turn, low inflation is a prerequisite for the higher levels of private investment that have sustained rapid economic growth in Uganda.
For all this long, the main macroeconomic objectives of the Government that have been steadily pursued without any policy reversals or deviations have been to ensure rapid real GDP growth, to keep consumer price inflation to 5% or below, to maintain a prudent level of foreign reserves and to ensure that the real exchange rate is compatible with a competitive external sector.
Maintaining low inflation is an especially crucial objective of economic policy because high inflation has a number of harmful effects on the economy. In particular, it increases uncertainty about future economic variables and thus discourages investment.
Low and stable inflation is a prerequisite for private investment in long term productive assets. A poorly performing economy, therefore, cannot be posting this record of positive growth indicators and correct policies as the crisis group wants the world to believe.
In addition to the macro-economic policy instruments pursued by the NRM, which helped Uganda to achieve and sustain this resilient economic outlook, President Yoweri Museveni and the NRM Government took other deliberate actions to ensure security of persons and property across the breadth and width of this country.
Stability and security did not only anchor the economy on a strong foundation (because as economists say capital is the first coward), but also ended extra-judicial killings and all forms of criminality.
If there is any important ingredient of a functional state is the strength of its national army and how capable it is. Since colonial times, Uganda has never had a strong national army.
The UPDF has achieved on nearly every front because of a correct pro-people ideology that forms its doctrine.
It is no longer just the guarantor of Uganda's stability but that of the entire region. From Juba to Mogadishu, the UPDF has played a key role in ensuring peace and stability.
One wonders why groups like the crisis group that claim to be think tanks of objective analysis and research find it difficult to review and acknowledge such documented literature about Uganda's progress. If it is not propaganda, what other value do their subjective conclusions serve?
Secondly, any government that consistently invests in physical and technological infrastructure cannot be accused of mismanaging the economy. Infrastructure is the enabler for Production and growth.
The NRM government continues to be focused on reducing the cost of doing business by expanding the road network and investing in the railway not to mention other investments in ICT connectivity and innovation.
The integrity of any research can only stand, if it values evidence and data to form and prove hypothesis.
I challenge this Crisis Group to review Uganda's development statistics in various sectors of the economy. For example, in 1986, the total national trunk road network was 7,900Km.
Of the 1900Km that had been tarmacked, only 114km or 6% was in a fair condition. The national trunk road network stands at 21,000km and about 4000km of this is paved and the rest is motorable. In the next four years, 2,000km of new roads will be constructed.
This will increase the tarmac roads network from 4,000km to 6,000km. Electricity generation has been scaled from 60 megawatts in 1986 to about 1,000 megawatts today. Upon the completion of Isimba, Karuma, Ayago and Achwa, Uganda's annual generation of electricity will be about 2,600 megawatts.
To expand frontiers of business, entrepreneurship and jobs, the NRM government improved access to credit through both the public and the private sector. For example in 1986, there was only one commercial bank.
Today, there are 24 commercial banks and several microfinance institutions spread across the country.
Furthermore, records from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development show that as at July 2017, over sh84.5b had been disbursed to 11,503 youth groups with 144,235 beneficiaries under the Youth Livelihood Programme.
In addition, as at June 2017, the Government had, under the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme, disbursed over sh12.5b to 2,412 women groups with a total of 30,766 beneficiaries.
Through the Uganda Development Bank (UDB), the Government will use the tax-payers' money to inject low-interest finance for manufacturing.
With enough electricity, for the first time, since 1969, Uganda is now set to take off as far as manufacturing is concerned. In fact, a number of factories are already springing up in many places such as Tororo, Mukono, Wakiso, Luwero, Lira, Namanve, etc.
The only remaining hurdle is to lower the price of electricity to five American cents per unit for manufacturing. Isimba will deliver six American cents. All these are glaring facts that the Opposition and cabal of foreign financiers and backers do not want to look at.
So how can the economy be mismanaged, when the fiscal policies are correct and fixing the core pre-requisites of economic growth and directing budget resources to the productive sectors?
Falsehood Three: Museveni does not want to leave power and is behind the push for amending article 102(b).
Indeed this falsehood clearly brings out the motive behind this Crisis Group report on Uganda which ignores to acknowledge the already known milestones registered.
It is a spin effort aimed at lending credence to the perennial anti-NRM opponents and losers. The proposal to amend the Constitution is a political issue of Uganda's constitutional governance.
It has the majority voices supporting it because of the logic it presents and a few voices dissenting.
Any external group, therefore, making conclusions on this matter and without paying attention to the views on both sides of the divide serves no other purpose other than joining the bandwagon and wave of opposition irresponsible politicking.
And so we understand their motive, tone of their report and desperation in making the baseless conclusions.
First of all, President Museveni is not in leadership to seek benefits. If that is what leadership means to them, sorry; he is in leadership to transform Uganda. Transformation of a country is not just like pursuing a career.
It is a revolutionary mission that must be fulfilled irrespective of how long it takes. That is why he fought a bitter war and liberated Uganda.
Those who seek benefits and fortunes could not subject themselves to such risky struggles as he did. We are supporting the proposed constitutional amendment on the basis of the merit of its substance.
The obsession with Museveni's long stay by the Opposition (in cohorts with their Western backers like the Crisis group) should not deny Ugandans and the world at large a honest discussion on what progress the country has achieved.
Ugandans should discern and reject these corrupted narratives seeking to frame what their country is not. Political contests should be based on policy issues and general performance track-record and not on political rhetoric driven by envy and rivalry.
What exactly is the essence of leadership, especially political leadership? The 33rd American President Harry Truman said: "In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."
What is key and emphasised here is leadership and the quality of it. It is not about how short or long the period of a leader is. Mark that! It is for such and many more reasons that age-limiting makes no sense.
And that is why most countries of the world, including the bigger Europe where International Crisis Group resides, do not embrace age-limiting as a democratic best practice.
So why should Uganda be an exception!
I hope next time the International Crisis Group seeks to make a report on Uganda, it will consider undertaking wide consultations for both qualitative and quantitative truth. Otherwise, doctoring reports full of falsehoods about Uganda earns them not respect, but contempt.
The writer is an MP and the Minister of ICT and National Guidance