Uganda gifted by nature and cursed

The mistake has been to make the investors deal with the landowners, they should deal with the government; and then the government will deal with the landowners. You just tell those villagers to get out. You cannot stop the State from accessing its assets. We shall sort it out, we shall amend the Act. In fact, the Constitutional Court should say that Act is unconstitutional.

President Museveni is quoted as having said. Read more http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Owners-will-lose-rights-over-mineral-rich-land—Museveni/-/688334/2471678/-/f4jchu/-/index.html.

Unless President Museveni was misquoted, this is the classic example of how Uganda and perhaps Africa in general is not in control of its destiny, as compared to Asia for example. I deduce from the President’s statements that the State is working in the interest of foreign investors rather than in the interest of the ordinary people of Uganda. This is the inherent problem with Uganda and with Africa as a whole – we are not in control of our destiny.

Albeit its wealth in raw materials African countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Uganda, have either remained poor or gotten poorer over the years. It is reported that Nigerians were poorer in 2000 than they had been at the start of the oil boom in the early 1970s. Why? The State in Uganda, whenever it suits it, seemingly operates from the neoliberal model that was responsible for the recent world financial crisis that pretty much resulted from greed. Corruption is rife at all levels of government. African leaders and the elite often collude with foreigners to exploit Africa’s wealth for their own benefit. The list of African leaders that have amassed personal wealth from government coffers with impunity and in a heavy handed manner of brutality against the citizens of their countries is endless: Mobutu, Abacha, Bokasa, and many others. Is this where Uganda is headed?

At the end of the day, for the development of Uganda to occur, it is not what the investors’ offer that really counts. What matters is what Uganda’s leaders and the elite do with what Uganda receives in exchange for its resources, especially oil. Deducing from President Museveni’s statements, the legitimate owners of Uganda’s land that is rich in mineral resources have no claim for compensation – they are simply ‘villagers’ who the State will simply tell to get of the land. With no due consideration of what the land means to the so-called ‘villagers’. For most, their land is their source of wellbeing – food, medicine, spirituality, shelter, and much, much more. Are we to believe the State in Uganda will transform into a welfare state and that it will provide for its people food and medicine? I highly doubt this.

I am sure we are all familiar with what happened in Nigeria, the biggest oil producing country in Africa, involving the Dutch oil company (Shell), the people of Nigeria as represented by the people of Ogoniland and the activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. The standard of living of the people of Nigeria is the same as those African countries that are not ‘blessed’ with oil. It falls in the category of countries with a Gross National Product (GNP) per capita of below USD 545. It seems to me that Uganda is headed in the same route as Nigeria.

The Uganda government needs to wake up to the realisation that it is their responsibility to develop Uganda in a manner that does not impoverish Ugandans. Otherwise, the investor’s thirst for our resources will continue to be quenched, our leaders will be blessed with personal wealth and the people of Uganda will be cursed. It is disheartening that so far, Uganda government discussions of Uganda’s underground resources, particularly oil, have hinged on how quickly we extract the resources and sell them.

Very little or no attention is given on what and on how the Government of Uganda intends to utilise the revenue from the sale of resources. We only have generic statements about how Uganda will become a middle income country through industrialisation and modernisation of Agriculture. I am not yet clear on how this will transcend from rhetoric to action. Worse still, it seems the State is at the forefront in planning to impoverish millions of Ugandans. The strategy is to throw them off the land.

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