By Stephen Lwetutte
As Museveni is sworn in this week on 12 May 2021 for the 6th 5-year term, the occasion is more of a royal coronation than a solemn event of a democratically elected leader. Still billions have been charged on the tax payer for the event that Uganda’s ailing debt-saddled economy can ill afford.
A benevolent tyrant with some shame and conscience left in them would have abandoned and skipped the ceremony in solidarity with the impoverished and starving COVID19-hit population and just done basic symbolic function orchestrated on TV in the comfort and safety of State House. This would save the country the risk of further spreading COVID-19 that the congregation of over 4,000 people the Wednesday event would inevitably pose.
Just last week, the government made a Shs 44.7 trillion budget for the financial year 2021 -2021 and, if last years budget performance is anything to go by, the government will struggle to finance half of the budgetary allocations. Last year, URA was only able to collect Ushs 17.5 trillion against a budget of over Ushs 40 trillion. For a President that can hardly collect half of the needed resources to run the country, to okay such a lavish and expensive ceremony, demonstrates the insensitivity of the man who, after 36 years of unlawful occupation of State House, now takes Ugandans for granted, and Uganda as his chattel available to the highest bidder. It is a far cry for a country which, at independence 59 years ago, was a debt-free, respected and dignified nation, able to balance its national budget!
At one point, Mr Museveni held illusions of being able to fully finance the recurrent budget and proudly announced to all and sundry who cared to listen to his utopian tales, even though no country anywhere under the sun has been able to achieve that feat under dictatorial conditions. He would use every occasion to hype how soon Uganda would be able 100% to finance its needs from local resources. That was long time ago and now, with the government perennially unable to make 50% of the money needed to run the country, the man is totally mute about it.
In its 10-point program at inception some 40 years ago, Prof. Yusuf Lule’s (replaced on death by Museveni) National Resistance Movement (NRM) had as point number 5 “Building an independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy”, yet here we are in 2021 with the man who replaced Prof. Lule, leading a highly dependent beggar economy bearing no resemblance whatsoever with the objectives NRM founders had in mind. Time and space do not permit me here to delve into the details of this and the other remaining 9 points, but suffice it to say that this high degree of dependence has had a deleterious effect on the democratic trajectory of our country.
A case in point, and without going into the merits and demerits of the matter, parliament in 2018 chose almost unanimously to approve a bill that would toughen the sanctions for homosexuality, which was and still is already an offence in conservative Uganda. Museveni, having initially opportunistically on cheap populism signed the bill into law, turned around in behind-the-scene manipulations to have it revoked on technicalities, warning the MP and Minister, David Bahati, who had initiated it not to retable it on foreign policy considerations. However, no voice in support of the democratic choice of the Ugandan people in this matter was ever heard emanating from western capitals.
Moreover, Ugandans are stuck with President Museveni owing to the economic, military and diplomatic support offered by his backers in the west for doing their bidding, not because he is Ugandans’ democratic choice – in that context, he is the net beneficiary at the cost of Ugandans, not quite unlike the situation that obtained in Egypt. Egypt was one of America’s staunchest allies in the Middle East, before the events that unfolded on Tahirir Square, where millions converged leading to the collapse of Hossein Mubarak’s government, being compelled to side with the Tahrir Square demonstrators.
In addition to the atrocious governance record and endemic corruption in Uganda under Museveni, the so-called swearing-in ceremony is a microcosm of everything that is wrong in Museveni’s Uganda. Like Egyptians, Ugandans will evidently mostly have to fend for themselves and push the western funders, who invariably jump ship before it goes under, to assist in holding the tyrant accountable and ease the lot of the long-suffering Ugandans. They possess all the levers, economic, political, diplomatic, financial etc to do so. They have done so elsewhere, they can do so in Uganda to quicken the processes to democratic transition.
The writer is a Multilingual Human Rights Practitioner, formerly at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for over 20 years and now Legal and Human Rights Consultant.
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