By Milton Emmy Akwam
Uganda became independent from the United Kingdom on October 9, 1962. According to history, the East African country later passed through violent conflicts some of which led to the overthrow of governments.
During these violent conflicts, the country received different kinds of support from within and afar. The United Kingdom, and the United States of America, among other countries, continue to stand with us since Independence Day.
The U.S., for example, says, “Development assistance to Uganda began in 1962 when the country gained its independence. Since the 1960s, USAID has worked in close collaboration with the government and the people of Uganda.
“The current President, Yoweri Museveni, assumed power in 1986 and a period of relative stability ensued. USAID was able to transition assistance from emergency relief and assistance to long-term development, with an emphasis on agriculture.
“USAID teamed up with Makerere University to fund the university’s research facility, which resulted in innovations such as the hybrid sunflower seed. Commercial farming associations and cooperatives received training in good farming practices, and the country saw an increase in maize production. USAID built a modern post-harvest handling facility, trained staff in management and helped forge new market channels.”
Like USAID, several U.S. state-owned departments have been supporting Uganda, including those from the UK, and Canada, among other countries.
It’s obvious knowledge that Uganda’s relationships with the West have been cordial, full of diplomacy, big on investments and continues to be so. However, one major thing looks set to tear us apart. This is our Anti-homosexuality Law.
On May 29, President Museveni ratified the Anti-homosexuality Bill 2023 into Law. His decision and that of the Parliament to pass it is irritating the West – with countries like the US, Canada; United Nations (UN) Secretary General, UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby all sending condemnations.
Through 13 government agencies, the United States invests almost $1 billion annually in Ugandan communities to promote economic growth and employability, improve health and education, uphold democratic values, and strengthen security.
Meanwhile, in Uganda, Museveni’s love rate has doubled – or even tripled. Many are applauding him for being “bold and ignoring” the West’s pro-calls on the same.
After getting our Law in place, here is my view for Ugandans and those leading us. One, we should know how we will manage our country going forward, and how we will fund our projects in case those annoyed with us, over our Law, withdraw support.
We should be told in detail if our Oil will be a game changer, a substitute for the foreign support we have been getting for decades.
The corrupt culture Uganda has shown in recent decades makes it hard for us to be independent enough, in making the economy resilient, fast-growing and stable. A bigger per cent of the taxes collected by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) are misused, stolen or shared by a few elites (IGG report/finding).
To have enough money to run the country, Uganda’s Parliament will show us the way. They will have to agree to reduce spending and huge allocations. For example, after every five years, each MP receives shs200m to buy a car. This money, if lowered to, for example, shs80m per MP, will ensure enough is saved to cater for other critical areas like health, education, and infrastructure.
But, to think our Lawmakers will agree to reduce their salaries and emoluments is a night joke.
Assuming our Lawmakers unanimously agree to reduce their benefits like they heartily did to pass the Anti-homosexuality Bill 2023, will the Heads, Directors of parastatals (MDAs) accept the same? My guess is No and Yes. Yes because MPs make Laws and amend them. No, because these MDA Heads will say, “Leave us alone.”
Even if the tax base is expanded, traders are mobilized to be patriotic or force is applied for us to pay taxes, with the current corruption, we may not see good results.
And because we have been over-reliant on the West, we may need to think carefully about how we react to our decisions, how our Law is making us excited while it gives them utmost anger. We were right to come out with this Law and let us end the party now. Let us build our tax base, let us condemn our corrupt leaders. Our courts should start sentencing economic saboteurs, and crooks (in the words of President Museveni) and we should stop the attack and continue to respect those who will be affected by this Law.
In 1971, following Idi Amin’s military coup and subsequent internal instability, USAID suspended its work in Uganda. When USAID returned in 1981, it found the country’s progress had been decimated, with industries in disarray and many Ugandan partners absent, having fled the country’s unrest. The next six years were challenging given Uganda‘s continued instability.
If, for example, you come to me for help and I do so not once, twice or thrice but a dozen times and you talk bad about me and abuse me, I may be hurt and stop helping. This is what the West is telling us, they’ll react aggressively. How should we encounter it? Keep silent?
Further, there should be a big change, an overhaul of nearly all State departments. We need as a country to know that shortly, we’ll be left alone, and we’ll not see millions of dollars or pounds coming to support our economy, support our critical infrastructure for us to endure.
We must start thinking now. We have to fight corruption with all efforts. Without favour, we need to apprehend economic crooks. Above all, if we pass Laws that offend the West, let us not bark, let us learn to keep quiet and ignore them.
The writer works with GLCSMS and TND News