Dear Mr. President,
Kindly allow me to raise the current issue of NAADS.
Since your recent announcement during the State of the Nation address that the UPDF would get involved in the NAADS agricultural support program, there have been many comparisons between Idi Amin and you.
The main theme of the complaints is militarization of government.
I am not sure many young people have the correct, practical knowledge to discuss Amin.
However, it is that comparison that has prompted me to react, primarily on government support to agriculture, and secondly, the economics of privatization (a related issue involving government assets,many of which were put in place to support sectors like agriculture in the first place).
UPC and NRM, the two main parties that have largely run this country since Amin left, have unashamedly blamed his government for the appalling state of the economy that I recall discovering in shock when I returned to Uganda in 1994.
Yet I can clearly confirm that Amin left a country that was intact in terms of government assets, roads, buildings, satellite television, world radio, public transport and many other services including those intended for farmers.
These assets included government parastatals,cooperative unions, and major technological capacities that were literally looted, run down or destroyed by the “Liberators”.
But let me start with a brief look at today’s NAADS, the now failing government program for agriculture.
This program has failed for the same reasons as all other government companies since”liberation”: Corruption.
Mr. President, the NRM followed the recommendations of the IMF and World Bank in getting government out of industry and business. The argument was that government didn’t know how to handle business (basically the endemic corruption) and therefore would do better to leave all sectors of the economy
in the hands of the private sector that would then have to fend for itself.
To put it bluntly, the poverty stricken population was told “adapt or die. We won’t help you.”
This decision, Mr President, has directly affected agricultural output and productivity as the government subsidies have literally been reduced to seedlings.
Yet the same mismanagement continues in NAADS and many other government programs
(i.e. Global Fund program, OPM…etc.).The perception out there is that the introduction of the military in the running of government programs is equivalent to taking the country back to when Liberators took over these companies, run them down, then sold them under the privatization program of the
90’s to themselves and their friends.
You may be aware of those in your government that escaped being held accountable for mismanagement. To them, the privatization program must have sounded like the salvation enabling them to escape accountability as government parastatal companies were privatized, and their mismanagement, theft and plunder therefore erased.
In regards to NAADS being militarized, many arguments have been put forward by all kinds of political analysts.
But to me, the most shocking visionary was a seemingly ordinary government official at a hotel reception. He had taken a break from an ongoing ministry workshop and was discussing agriculture. He then said; “This NAADS militarization is just Museveni saying “entebbe ewooma.”
His proof was that today you seek to increasingly re-intervene in the agricultural sector with the military.
However, we should again question sweeping privatization.
It now seems that it isn’t the best economic remedy for any country. The efforts government put in taking control of the oil sector is evidence that points at the necessity for state control in sectors of strategic economic interest. Like agriculture.
If Uganda had the required logistical capacity, government could actually have done oil extraction, refining and transportaion by itself.
But todays government obviously can’t achieve that. Corruption is just waiting for the opportunity to jump in. We here from parliament that it already did.
Britain had always regarded nationalization as a problem since post independence Uganda.But they were doing this for their self interest: continued control of Ugandan resources and supremacism ideologies. The companies that Apollo Milton Obote wanted to nationalize back then were mostly British.
So what else could anyone expect from them besides condemning nationalization.
We can therefore assume that privatization was your way of bowing to colonialists interests so as to access their aid cash.
It is public knowledge that Western aid has strings attached. The elections that Uganda has these days was a positive condition though for western aid. Without that clause in exchange for aid, I still wonder who would have ushered democracy to this country.
But getting back to my initial point, if officials already exterminated governments capacity to intervene in selected crucial market sectors, I wonder what miracle this lone UPDF “askari” per district is going to achieve upcountry under NAADS.
The fellow doesn’t have a single tool, let alone ideas on modernizing agriculture.
When Amin appointed senior army officers to oversee government parastatals as exclaimed in the comparisons being made between you and him, his was a security matter: Preventing sabotage.
Your book ‘Sowing The Mustard Seed” is one clear collection of long standing clandestine efforts to undermine his government.But the important point here is that the parastatals and government entities during Amin’s time had adequate assets (offices, heavy duty harvesting equipment, tractors, lorries, bank accounts, vehicles, telecoms, staff…etc).
They worked with cooperative unions and other organizations that also had their assets,funds and a local agricultural management structure where state equipment could be utilized by farmers grouped in districts.
It was also common knowledge that Idi Amin would immediately procure whatever else was lacking in the field as soon as it was requested for.
In case of emergencies, officials and citizens could dial 20241, his publicly known telephone number back then, and trust me issues would be dealt with promptly.
His intervention in the economy simply provided strict security oversight against saboteurs and that is how government companies were able to do exactly what they were meant to do.
Back then, much as an essential product like sugar was problematic for Ugandans to get because of the economic embargo to get spare parts for industries, the agricultural sector functioned.
Coffee, tea and cotton continued as exports. Other agricultural products for local consumption continued being produced, and had their immediate market.
Farms and fields were producing milk, vegetables and other staple foodstuffs across the country.
I remember attending the launch of Kibimba Rice Scheme, a vast rice plantation that was being operated by Chinese government experts in order to produce and supply rice locally, then export any excess to neighboring countries.
But today, if truth be said, there is chaos in the emptiness of governments’ logistical capacity to massively and decisively develop agriculture, yet we hear officials talk rhetorically of food security.
Just last month, a news program was presenting ongoing famine in Napak, Karamoja. Famine is unheard of ever in Uganda.
Yet we have an entire disaster preparedness ministry and another specifically for Karamoja. If that isn’t incompetence, what is?
Mr. President, as you rightly diagnosed, almost the entire budget of the NAADS program goes to pay salaries of its employees.
Virtually nothing is left for actual agriculture development in terms of equipment, storage & processing infrastructure and agricultural inputs like seeds, pesticides and fertilizers.
Looking at a surviving government organization like the Coffee Marketing Board, it is a skeleton of its former self.
The department can’t achieve a tenth of its goals because of lack of funding and the inherent absence of honest, decisive political will to develop the sector.
What we hear in seminars and news stories has started sounding like empty rhetoric by so-called brilliant specialist officials.
Yet the Coffee Marketing Board has a major role that they used to proudly perform back then as they processed, marketed and exported quality Ugandan coffee. They were heavily supported by government and the country was behind coffee as our star product.
Today coffee is still a big Ugandan international export product, and therefore still requires special preferential treatment.
Particularly with the fluctuating coffee market abroad and the sometimes virulent coffee wilt disease that affects farmers productivity.
Today, it is a handful of enterprising private individuals who are using their own creativity and meagre resources to try and improve the image of Ugandan coffee abroad.
Obviously, talking to government departments is like talking to a brick wall. So these individuals have focused on using foreign platforms available for developing countries.
Their government just doesn’t care.So looking at the current NAADS militarization, it is difficult to expect economic wonders from the UPDF officers. The uniform alone can’t help and the NRM already sold the required
assets/technical capacity that could have allowed a robust intervention.
You rightly said that we needed more tangible agricultural assistance to the farmers and less administrative costs. Therefore you have correctly diagnosed the problem Mr. President.But your treatment is tantamount to re-injecting viruses back to the patient.
In fact, on top of that, the country could now also brace itself for another humongous financial loss due to corruption.
The people are aware in advance that funds will surely vanish mysteriously under this newinitiative. It’s as sure as the rising of the sun tomorrow morning. Your guys just can’t help it being corrupt when money is in front of them. Honestly!
The kind of fundamental change that government needs to undertake within its ranks and its policies to meaningfully develop this country’s economy are the kind of things I can’t waste time mentioning here.
Officials are known to simply pay lip service to important initiatives and only act when it suits their ulterior self seeking purposes.
Yet there are so many brains out there and they aren’t necessarily NRM. Most are actually young, professionally motivated and apolitical when it comes to partisan politics. They are interested in serving government, having a family, educating their children, building a house and getting treatment for their grandparents.
They would actually want to avoid the headaches of having to serve in politically charged working environments.The same can be said of the private sector.They are good at courting government only to protect their commercial interests. Let it be clear that they will definitely continue doing the same with the next administration.
Ideally, they would be glad to avoid government officials altogether, because some are said to have become worse than pests, constantly extorting money.
Investors themselves have complained openly to you about this Mr. President. They are tired of being turned into piggy banks where so-called “respectable” officials smilingly extort hard-earned cash on a regular basis while withholding government services that are either supposed to be free-of-charge or at a publicly fixed nominal cost.
The private sector is the main source of income for government and should therefore be allowed to grow without undue interference.
This reminds me Mr. President, sometime last year during a live press conference in Kampala, you mentioned the creation of NRM companies. I looked for details of the announcement in the press the following day to no avail. It then dawned on me that the herd of journalists that were present during the
briefing were completely oblivious of a historic U-turn in economic policy that was happening right in front of them. Your initiative was in total contradiction with the purpose of the privatization program.
If government couldn’t make state companies successful in the 90’s, how could anyone expect the same people to make NRM companies successful.
Even opposition parties have smaller but better maintained party headquarters.But let us take a closer look at how leading world economies have strategically avoided privatization in crucial designated sectors that remain firmly under government control.
The EU for example, has a budget that goes almost entirely to subsidizing their economies, particularly agriculture with almost 80%, science & technology/research and education.
Many Western flagship companies (i.e General Motors in the US, Peugoet/Citroen in France, Rolls Royce vehicles and aviation engines in the UK…etc.) are either government owned, have government as their major client, or receive heavy subsidies from their respective governments, particularly in times of economic recession.
Airbus industries, a world leader in civil and military aviation construction, is another example of a common EU governments effort.They build the state-of-the-art Euro-fighter jet that we can’t even afford to dream of.
The point is that certain industries are important and wouldn’t exist without
government leadership and direct investment.The space industry is another example. It is globally controlled by US, EU and Russia.
But this specific investment has enabled all the telecommunications, digital television & radio, Geo-positioning services, research of all kinds on populations, resources and environment via all sorts of satellites orbiting
And the countries involved in this sector are seeing a return on investment as major corporations hire their services for transporting private satellite payloads.
Mr. President, these are momentous government initiatives from the very people who successfully told your government to divest from government enterprises. Their misleading argument was that the private sector will handle it.
When? From the examples above we see that markets can be directly created by governments.Particularly when innovation is a policy priority.It also requires that government be bold enough to invest and provide visible, tangible leadership in crucial sectors of a countries economy.
In the meantime, allow me to call upon the media to objectively report back to the people in a years time on how the UPDF/NAADS initiative is progressing.
We wouldn’t want to read headlines like “NAADS Staff Face Military Court Martial For Treason, Sabotage, Misappropriation Of Funds”. Would we?
As to the current comparisons between yourself and Idi Amin, they have reached beyond 70’s levels.Your Uganda is now also referred to as a nepotist and sectarian gross abuser of human rights and involved in the killing, rape and butchering of over 6 million congolese.
Your Uganda is being called a police state that is imprisoning, torturing and killing political opposition.A British commentator recently said that the “fundamental change” you announced in 1986 has indeed turned into “No change”, which happens to be your NRM party motto today.
The international press is now regularly talking of “Dictator Museveni and his henchmen”. The one who gave himself the presidency for life by forcing the lifting of term limits in the constitution.
Soon someone will go a step further and give you the title of “Supreme Leader”. Dont smile when you hear it. They are being sarcastic. That was the title of your “friend” Ghaddafi.
Hussein Juruga Lumumba Amin