Has Museveni destroyed Uganda? 

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On Monday, President Yoweri Museveni was nominated to run for an eighth term of office. When (not if) he wins this election, it will take him to 40 years as president, a remarkable feat. His efforts to cling to power, in spite of many promises not to, tells us very little about Museveni the man but a lot about power itself: few men find it possible to leave it easily and willingly. But that is a debate for another day. For now we need to deal with his legacy.

 I think Museveni should retire. His inability to bequeath Uganda the first ever-peaceful transition of power is perhaps his worst act as president. Yet in spite of this conviction, I find it difficult to associate with Uganda’s opposition. Even when I try to warm my heart towards them, their leaders and activists just make it extremely difficult. One such example is the cartoon they have been circulating around of a malnourished Uganda feeding an overfed NRM.

You cannot position yourself as a viable alternative to any government without offering anything new that you want to do. Uganda’s opposition have a very narrow view of the future of Uganda. They believe the problem of Uganda is Museveni and the solution is “Museveni agende” i.e. Museveni must go. This narrow vision has led them to a blind alley, where they have invented problems that do not exist and then invent solutions for them.

In respect to the cartoon, the belief that Museveni/NRM is feeding off a malnourished Uganda is false and unnecessary. Museveni inherited a country where both the state and economy had collapsed. He has reconfigured the state: a country that was once considered a failed state is now helping other nations of Africa reconfigure themselves – Somalia, South Sudan and DRC. Museveni/NRM also placed the economy on a long-term growth trajectory. For the last 34 years the economy of Uganda (measured as GDP) has grown at an annual rate of nearly 7% per, its per capita income at 3.8%, both of which are among the best in history.

Thus Uganda’s economy was about $1.7 billion in 1986, now it is $35 billion. How do I arrive at this number? According to the information provided me by the World Bank at my request, our GDP was $6 billion in 1986. But this is misleading because the exchange rate at the time was fixed by the government and hence did not reflect the actual value of the shilling. So I went to IMF and Bank of Uganda sources and found the actual market rate, then called Kibanda.

Although in 1986 the official exchange rate was Shs1,400 to the dollar, the Kibanda rate was Shs12,000 – almost 8.6 times its value. So the market exchange rate of our GDP was about $700 million and a per capita income of $46. When we adjust these numbers to inflation, Uganda’s GPD was about $1.7 billion and its per capita income was $113 in 2020 prices. Today, Uganda’s GDP is $35 billion and its per capita income $800. If this is evidence of Museveni and NRM sucking life out of Uganda, our country is better off with such suckers

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