Wednesday, January 9, 2013

IS 2013 THE YEAR TO MAKE OR BREAK FOR UGANDA'S RULING NRM?


The Golden Jubilee year was a good time for reflection.

I think the consensus would be that after fifty years of independence we as a nation have fallen short of the aspirations of that generation that saw the union jack come down and the new Ugandan flag rise in October 1963.

At the top fo the pile people like Milton Obote and Kabaka Mutesa most likely appreciated the enormity of the task ahead. The general public was probably swept along with euphoria of the occasion and were content to believe that now that their own sons were in power things would improve exponentially.

Unfortunately the British, on the brink of bankruptcy after the second world war couldn’t leave fast enough and in the process left a lot of unresolved issues. Issues which quickly returned to bite us and trigger a downward spiral into political instability and economic chaos.

So lately we have been picking up the pieces. Trying to mend this entity called Uganda which in all fairness was formed under dubious circumstances to begin with.

In 1986 when the NRM came to power it inherited a country whose economy was on its knees and which had become ungovernable, in no small measure due to the “bush war” but also because of government infighting. In addition you had a largely incapable, diseased population that was lurching from one day to the next without hope or purpose.

And as fate would have it one challenge would not wait for another to be resolved before it raised its head, putting added pressure on the NRM which not only had to run the affairs of state but also work at widening its legitimacy as a political force.

Fast forward to the present.

As the first tentative steps are made into the New Year, one would be forgiven for being pessimistic about the country’s prospects.

Economic growth is expected to slow down as donors suspend aid over revelations of corruption in the Office of the prime Minister and in the public service ministry. We have adequate power but not for long as demand rises quickly to suck up Bujagali’s extra 250 MW. The delayed construction of the 700MW Karuma dam meanwhile is tied up in the courts.

Politically the ruling NRM continues to look like a house divided, as internal snipers hold the government ransom at every turn. A good thing in the sense that government has to watch its step, as its overwhelming majority in parliament does not guarantee that its every whim will be supported. On the other hand for reasons rather than ideological differences or patriotism – one suspects, this rear guard action is proving a stumbling block rather than an enabler to the smooth running of government.

Whether a country develops or not is determined by its politics. Political boundaries make a difference.

Uganda, like many countries on the continent has been set a tough political paper.

We are expected to develop, raise the living standards of our populations, while operating as full democracies. It has never been done before.

The process of development while empowering is also a disruptive process.

Unpopular decisions have to be taken from the minor things like forcing people to use pit latrines to the contracting of major infrastructure projects like communication, transport and energy networks to the decisions to wage war or even put a man on the moon.

These endevours require a singleness of purpose.

As the dominant political party and given the huge decisions the country has to make in the coming years, something has to give.

The NRM is the only political organization with a credible nationwide presence, which is its greatest strength. But it shows weakness and a lack of organisation when it struggles to take advantage of its numerical strength in the house or fails to rein its errant troops.

In the absence of credible opposition the internal heckling serves to show up the NRM as a liberal organization that tolerates dissent, but this playing to the gallery has its limits and has debatable long term value.

A line has to be drawn in the sand.

The NRM has been entrusted with the mandate to lead this country to a better place, its internal bickering is compromising this mission the sooner they realize this, the better for all.

Is 2013 the year of reckoning?

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