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One year later, challenges weigh Museveni down

When President Museveni took oath to serve another five years on May 12 last year, a kilogram of maize flour was retailing at Shs 1,200 while the dollar was trad- ing at Shs 3,350 against the shilling.

Twelve months later, a kilogram of maize flour costs Shs 3,000 while, as of last evening, the dollar was trading at Shs 3,690 against the shilling. Many businesses have gone under, some companies have restructured and the World Bank said last week that the economic growth rate may not reach 4.5 per cent this financial year, the lowest the economy has grown over the last 10 years.

The economic downturn has been the most defining feature of the president’s tenure so far, obscuring his vow that this is kisanja hakuna mchezo (tenure for serious work) and jeopardizing his ambition to take Uganda to middle-income status by 2020.

Government officials and Museveni’s close aides maintain that there is no need to panic. Don Wanyama, the senior presidential press secretary, told The Observer yesterday that the current economic squeeze is not restricted to Uganda. He cited Kenya, where prices of essential commodities have rapidly gone up.

“Things will get better once we lay down the fundamentals. That is what we are doing,” said Wanyama. “The contractions within the economy are just not only unique to Uganda. If you look around the region, the trends are similar.”

President Museveni

Yet Kenya is visibly trying to do something. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces a tough re-election battle, announced a raft of measures to ease the situation and cushion consumers. These include reallocation of funds from other sectors to subsidize farmers and provide relief aid to the affected people.

Museveni’s situation has not been helped by the fact that the country has faced one of the worst prolonged droughts in decades. The drought led to crop failure and famine. There have been cases of deaths of people and animals as a result.

Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political historian at Makerere University, told The Observer on Wednesday that the current economic atmosphere is nauseating.

“The country has not done well, as the president had promised. In the last one year, one cannot point out one outstanding thing that government has done well. Agricultural production is down, local businesses are limping... there is nothing to show,” Ndebesa said.

UNFULFILLED PROMISES

While some of the promises Museveni made during the campaigns, like the tarmacking of some roads are to be implemented in the medium term, there are those he pledged to put in effect after one year of service.

The most prominent of these was provision of sanitary pads to school-going girls, hand hoes in West Nile and scholastic items such as mathematical sets, which will start the coming financial year.

However, the president also promised that government will set up funds like the women fund, the youth fund and innovation funds. Each of these funds was to be given Shs 254 billion to spur innovation amongst the youth and to fight unemployment.

From the budget estimates for next financial year, there is no indication that these funds will be availed money. David Bahati, the minister of state for Planning, while presenting budget estimates before the Budget committee in parliament recently, said government had to lower the budget from Shs 30 trillion to Shs 28 trillion.

He added that this means that some items that had been budgeted for will have to wait until the economic situation gets better.

Wanyama said the president intends to fulfill all his campaign promises.

“When the president is campaigning, he campaigns for a five-year term; so, some of these promises will not be met in the first year because at the time of the campaigns, the budget process had already started. But I am sure the promises will be met,” he said.

SECURITY SITUATION

Besides the wobbling economy and unfulfilled promises, there have been challenges on the security front. The first flare-up happened soon after the election when a group of armed people invaded police stations in Gulu and Kapchorwa districts.

In November 2016, a standoff between the government and Rwenzururu kingdom led to a violent confrontation, which left hundreds dead.
There was the early morning killing of Maj Muhammad Kiggundu, a former ADF rebel leader who had denounced rebellion.

The nadir point came in March this year when Felix Kaweesi, the police spokesperson, was brutally murdered metres away from his home in Kulambiro, Ntinda.

Although some people have been arrested in connection with these murders, the cases have not been fully resolved.

In addition, last month a wave of crime perpetuated by criminal gangs hit various parts of the country, especially in the districts of Masaka, Wakiso and Kampala.

CORRUPTION FIGHT

Yet one area where Museveni had tried to walk the talk is the fight against corruption especially at the top level. Senior government officials, including Herbert Kabafunzaki, the minister of state for Labour, were arrested and arraigned in court over graft-related charges.

Ndebesa said Museveni had also “succeeded” at weakening the opposition by conscripting some members of opposition parties into his government.

Overall, Wanyama said President Museveni has performed excellently over the past one year given the challenges.
But on the other hand, Ndebesa feels the situation has become bleaker after one year.

He said, “Ugandans should pre- pare for hard times.”

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Comments   

0 #1 Apollo 2017-05-12 10:33
Mr. Don Wanyama works at an institution that benefited from a Supplementary Budget this very tough year.

Other departments, particularly those that that pay suppliers of Government (private sector) instead received Budget cuts!
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+1 #2 ainembabazi 2017-05-12 11:11
Uganda has been hard times ever since this gentleman ascended to power.

Whoever expects better times for Uganda can dream on.
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0 #3 rubangakene 2017-05-12 17:49
KAZENI MKANDA JAMENI! That's what Mwalimu Nyerere used to say; (Tighten your belts!) It is time Ugandans did the same.

Till all the land available, produce enough foodstuff to feed your bellies.

Forget about building huge castles in the city to show your wealth.

Do not wait for the government to feed you or provide you with rotten seeds. Use seeds from prior harvest; this is how it was in the fifties and the sixties!
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+2 #4 miki 2017-05-12 20:38
Mr. Wanyama is the kind of guy who would tell a mother with a crying, hungry because she can't feed the baby, to be quiet and feel good because the neighbor's children also went to bed hungry!

It is as callous as Mr. museveni's recent refrain to starving people forced in that situation by drought and poor policies, that they should not expect help because money that would otherwise have been used to help them is for use to build roads (possibly for use by the ghosts of these people after they die of hunger).

On a governmental level such inept explanations are cruel at best or simply an admission of failure at worst.

Governments are not in place to tell people to feel good about their problems because neighbors have the same problem too! (that is what Wanyama seems to be doing).

Leaders are elected to prevent such problems in the first place, or to mitigate them when they happen. If policies become more people centered and not Museveni centered, it would be good for a change.
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0 #5 Lysol 2017-05-13 22:59
All Museveni has done so far this year his to run around the world/globe trotting by attending conferences instead of addressing pressing issues at home.

Many poor Ugandans are dying of hunger and are being killed by the so called criminals.

Of course we all know that, he is trying very hard to still be relevant in the global affairs( for his own political survival) which is changing fast and may soon catch up with him.
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0 #6 gus 2017-05-13 23:47
everyone seems to be blaming the president, this problem will not go away, it will get worse, the president is trying encouraging investor to come in, trying to bail companies out but it will not work, the problems lies with Revenue Authority, it needs to be structures, the way the country collect taxes, the taxes as if in emergency situation and closing businesses down,the estimate taxes which can not be payable,

why not set calm system with long forecast, make it steady, businesses need calm and planing, but these revenue authority estimate taxes close the businesses, these the result of what is happening.
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+1 #7 kabinda 2017-05-14 14:52
Quoting rubangakene:
KAZENI MKANDA JAMENI! That's what Mwalimu Nyerere used to say; (Tighten your belts!) It is time Ugandans did the same.

Till all the land available, produce enough foodstuff to feed your bellies.

Forget about building huge castles in the city to show your wealth.

Do not wait for the government to feed you or provide you with rotten seeds. Use seeds from prior harvest; this is how it was in the fifties and the sixties!


You need to write a book and give it the title TALES FROM AN IGNORANT MIND.

It would be a nice read for pass time I guess.
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+1 #8 Phalanch 2017-05-14 18:34
This is nothing but a sinking ship slow but sure soon it will be landing on rock bottom.
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