Counting 32 years of NRM Stewardship

By Ofwono Opondo

Jan, 17, 18

Next Friday, Ugandans commemorate Liberation Day, thirty-two years since the National Resistance Movement (NRM), and its military wing, NRA, ousted regimes that represented decades of political decadence, disenfranchisement, human rights violations, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, and economic collapse.
The NRM/A, led by Yoweri Museveni, promised “a Fundamental Change,” and today, Uganda, from border-to-border enjoys that unprecedented peace, stability and security, which in turn has engendered reconstruction, development, and on-going socio-economic transformation hopefully to a modern prosperous country. Indeed, Uganda’s politics is healthy, although recent extension MP’s recent extension of their tenure by avoiding elections is a low point.
Ugandans had relied on smuggled salt, sugar, soap, soda, beer, bread, posho, margarine, cigarettes, scholastic, construction materials, and countless other goods from Kenya, Zaire (DRC), Sudan, and beyond. Due to the economic breakdown since 1973, both Idi Amin and UPC II regimes gazzetted the above items as “essential commodities” distributed only through controlled outlets with chits signed by government officials. Today, these sordid stories sound fiction to the younger generation especially considering opposition hubris.
The NRM’s Ten Point Programme was the benchmark from 1986, upon which, Uganda has made great strides. Key among the ten points was restoration of popular and participatory democracy with free, fair and regular elections. Restore peace, security and stability, whose absence had sent millions of Ugandan refugees into Zaire, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, apartheid South Africa, and the global diaspora.
NRM undertook to rehabilitate and reconstruct the economy, and social infrastructures that had been rendered a waste. It promised to build an independent and self-sustaining economy, consolidate national independence, and regional integration.
So far, great achievements have been registered in economic recovery programs through rehabilitation and development of health, education, energy, water and transportation infrastructure, reduction and control of inflation, increase in internal resource mobilization, local and foreign investment through private sector led growth. The tax and export base continue to broaden and getting bigger to fund our needs. Contrary to the false claims by some political charlatans that President Museveni and NRM have ‘digressed’, the ten-point program is on course, and has been expanded to handle new challenges.
West Nile region that witnessed a half a million people-children, women, men, and soldiers from former national armies seek refuge in then Zaire and Sudan will host this year’s celebrations in Arua district under the theme “Uganda’s Liberation Struggle, A Significant Contribution to Our Present and Future Development.”
The big successes registered in health, especially primary healthcare, immunization, water and sanitation, education, and mobilization for gender equity means that infant and maternal mortalities have greatly reduced. Also, average life expectancy has increased from 42 to 63 years today, implying there are more Ugandans to be given expanded and better health, education and family care. And while this remains a long dream, it’s nevertheless a better challenge, which we must prepare ourselves for.
The relative success in education has produced thousands of graduates without employment, but this too, is a better challenge, if Ugandans adopt flexible attitude and re-skill for the available job market. The ongoing expansion of infrastructure in energy, transportation, ICT, water, social services, industries, and in rural development can absorb many of the educated young people.
Last year had challenges mainly from the prolonged drought that wrecked havoc on the agricultural sector leading to widespread insecurity and famine. Also, a section of public servants, mainly doctors and state prosecutors staged a prolonged strike over poor pay and working conditions.
It’s hoped that the ongoing harmonization in the public service pay structure will be comprehensive and deliver equity, although we should underscore that inadequate pay and poor working condition isn’t unique to Uganda. The UK and Kenya had prolonged strikes by doctors two years go. Government has agreed to increase salaries for public servants in phases beginning with health, education, judiciary and armed forces in line with resources available and priorities which, is hoped, will calm the waters.
Equally, government reassures the country that the recent incidences of criminality especially murders of women in central region is being dealt with, and no criminal will find sanctuary from the long arm of the law. All suspected criminals apprehended are either in custody or before courts of law, and despite these cases, security continues to prevail in all party of Uganda.
On the regional and international front Uganda continues to consolidate good relations, and active engagement evidenced in the ongoing stablisation of South Sudan and Somalia. Uganda is currently home to over 1.3 million refugees, and last year hosted the Refugee Solidarity Summit aimed at generating resources from the world.
As we consolidate our democratic gains, Ugandans need to appreciate that the constitutional framework and judicial system is available, functional and effective in mediating any disagreements that arise from time to time. Despite emerging challenges, NRM government is proud that Uganda is on the right track, and Steady Progress is evident. Ugandans must continue to tighten the noose around the neck of corrupt public officials, so that with efficiency we realise the middle income status, and Vision 2040, if we all pull purposefully in one direction.