Some unserious individuals who cannot attach their identity to their claims have used technology to come up with a checklist pitting the NRM Government against past governments of Idi Amin and Milton Obote and circulated it widely. In one graphic titled “After 35 years of the Robbery. Movement, the issues on the list were “Functioning major hospitals”, “good sustained road network”, “illegal detention of opposition/critics”, “public harassment of opposition/critics”, “suspected poisoning of opposition/critics”, “government corruption”, “land grabbing by government officials”, “quality education system”, “nepotism” and “number of presidential advisors”.
On all the negative issues, the crafters of the checklist tick NRM/President Museveni. On the positives, they tick Amin and Obote II while cancelling out NRM/President Museveni. Obviously, the checklist is the work of biased persons who are anti-NRM and President Museveni, which is okay since we are in a pluralist dispensation where “every goat is free to go on its tether”. However, in dealing with facts, there is no freedom of choice. Facts are facts which one cannot hide or force out of view. The reason the people behind the checklist cannot append their identity to it is because they are ashamed and cannot stand a public challenge to their distortions.
On the issue of functioning major hospitals, how does someone cross out NRM when Mulago National Referral Hospital still exists, and not only that but it has been rehabilitated, expanded and modernised to international standards? Have the people behind the checklist been to Mulago of recent or heard about the new specialised unit now capable of undertaking operations that were previously impossible to imagine that they could be carried out here, such as open heart surgery and separating of Siamese twins?
Yet Mulago is not the only major hospital functioning in Uganda; every district has at least a health center IV with district and regional referral hospitals catering for Ugandans in the countryside. That is not counting the innumerable private facilities which are part of the national medical and wellness network for the good health of Ugandans. These would not be in place without peace and stability and the willingness of different players to work with NRM to serve the people. There couldn’t have been better health services in the past than today when governments of then could not even rid Ugandans of the six killer diseases and polio which were kicked out by the NRM government.
On roads, Uganda today is connected by tarmac from each major border entry point to another-Malaba to Katuna, Mutukula to Nimule, Kyakika to Oraba and so on. In 1986, the total national road network was 7,900Km and of the 1,900Km that had been tarmacked, only 114Km was in fair condition. The remaining was in a poor state. Currently, Uganda’s total road network is estimated to be 129,469km long. 7% are urban and 17% national roads. The stock of the paved road network is over 5,224 Km. Most district and community roads are in motorable state, with every district having a set of equipment to maintain the roads. Movement between places is easier than ever before, which is why in the age of mobile phones, people still prefer physical travel.
On education, at no time since time immemorial has Uganda had a more educated populace that today. During Amin’s and Obote’s time, there was only one university (Makerere University). Today, there are over 50. Every year, 10, 000s graduate. Primary and secondary schools are innumerable, with U.P.E and U.S.E easing access for the formerly deprived. Every child has a school within a radius unimaginable in the past. There is little comparison, in fact. If Obote and Amin came to life, they would be impressed.
Harassment of critics and opposition: how many critics or members of opposition are in detention or being questioned at this moment or any other moment under NRM’s charge? Uganda is a big country with very many people who do not agree with government but they are doing so freely and exercising their Constitutional rights including voting who they want. If anybody acts outside of the law while enjoying their rights, the law is there to set the boundaries. Was there freedom of dissent under Amin and Obote? Big joke! People died even for thinking against those governments. The uninformed should go back and research if freedom of expression or dissent, or democracy existed under Amin and Obote.
Government corruption: there is nothing like “government corruption”. Government does not steal its own resources or the resources it needs to serve the people. There is corruption to varying degrees, practiced by a few individuals. Just because the NRM government has established more and better mechanisms for detecting and reporting corruption cases and increased media coverage to shine a spotlight on them does not mean that NRM is presiding over corruption anymore than any other government. NRM’s policy is zero tolerance to corruption. The corrupt are NRM’s enemies.
Land grabbing: how much land has been grabbed, by whom from whom? There is no policy for taking anyone’s land illegally. Landowners and buyers haggle freely before agreeing on a transaction. Anyone aggrieved seeks legal redress and will succeed depending on the strengths of their claim. Issues of land are best understood on case by case basis rather than lumping them together as a land grab bonanza. That was only possible in the past where military officers would round off villages and chase away everybody without any legal basis or Amin would walk on a street and point out a building and hand it over to a henchman without any legal basis. NRM is different and Museveni is not an Amin.
Nepotism: NRM’s practices a policy of zero tolerance to nepotism and any other form of sectarianism. Anybody aggrieved can seek legal redress because nowhere does the legal regime practice institutionalized sectarianism.
Some of these issues require in-depth responses to satisfy unlike the allegers who only throw a line or two and do not care to provide factual context. This is a great disservice to Ugandans. Unfortunately, opposition players seem to enjoy this practice of feeding the public with half-truths and half-baked lies. They will be surprised.
The author is a Private Assistant to H.E the President in Charge of Media Management