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Open message to President Barack Obama

Thirty five million Ugandans are more important than one president

Excellency

From the time you became president of the United States, you have to the delight of Ugandans and other suffering people around the world consistently stressed the importance of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and good governance, meaning ending corruption, sectarianism and mismanagement of public funds. You have also eloquently and repeatedly warned leaders who have stayed in power too long. President Museveni came to power in 1986 and has already signaled he will contest the presidential elections in 2016.

Uganda under President Museveni which has been classified as a failed state by Foreign Affairs magazine in collaboration with Fund for Peace with respect inter alia to human rights violation; uneven development and economic decline has continued to enjoy cordial relations with the United States.

Contrary to popular belief, Museveni has been a de-stabilizer, not a stabilizer of the Great Lakes region. His involvement in Burundi coup in 1993, in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994, and in DRC since 1996 is well written about.

At home, rampant corruption, sectarianism, cronyism and mismanagement of public funds are very well known. The current Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa – whose daughter is the wife of Museveni’s son Brigadier Muhoozi who is being groomed to become the next president of Uganda – was censored by Uganda Parliament while serving as minister of state. President Museveni appointed him full minister of foreign affairs. He was suspended but the president returned him to government as minister of foreign affairs before investigations into his wrongdoing were over.

Sam Kutesa did not attend the last two sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. President Museveni has nominated Sam Kutesa to be the President of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly starting in September 2014. Some members of Parliament and many Ugandans have opposed this nomination on account of his rampant corruption, sectarianism and mismanagement record. Uganda and the rest of Africa have better candidates and we recommend that the United States reject Kutesa’s nomination.

It is true that Uganda registered a robust economic growth record in the 1990s reaching 10 percent in the mid-1990s. The growth has since declined rapidly to an average of four percent according to government statistics against a population growth rate of 3.2 percent. What is even worse is that income distribution has been so skewed that a few rich people have disproportionately benefited from economic growth.

Regionally and sectorally there have been distortions. Some 75 percent of GNI is generated largely from the capital intensive service sector in Greater Kampala with a population of some 2 million while 33 million people outside Kampala generate a mere 25 percent of GNI, confirming that economic growth, growth poles and trickle down model has not worked. Nevertheless, Uganda has continued to follow the Washington Consensus neo-liberal model although it was formally abandoned in 2009. Controlling inflation to five percent annually has continued to enjoy priority over unemployment.

Consequently, some thirty three percent of Ugandans go to bed hungry every night while Uganda is a major exporter of foodstuffs; some 80 percent of Uganda youth are unemployed; some 80 percent of primary school children drop out in large part because they don’t get lunch which the president has personally rejected although it was adopted by NEPAD, a branch of African Union. Dropout children start families in their teens and have contributed to rapid population growth, a development that would have been avoided if the children had stayed in school longer. The education and healthcare systems are on the verge of collapse, witness the quality of education and re-emergence of diseases that had disappeared.

The regressive taxation announced recently will impoverish the already poor and vulnerable people even more because it has focused on items of vital importance to poor people such as kerosene, water for domestic consumption and wheat and wheat flour.

Agriculture and rural sector, home to some 90 percent of Ugandans (depending upon how an urban area is defined) have been neglected as seen from budget allocation in the neighborhood of four percent against AU’s recommendation of at least 10 percent of the national budget.

The abuse of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the name of maintaining national security has gone too far. Secondly, NRM government has failed to draw a distinction between national security and human security in terms of individual freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to live in dignity.

NRM government enacted anti-sectarian and anti-terrorism laws so broadly that any Ugandan can be arrested at anytime and locked away indefinitely. We have brought this matter to the attention of State Department.

Although Museveni government has cooperated with the United States government in the fight against terrorism, this worthy collaboration doesn’t mean that President Museveni should be treated as more important than 35 million Ugandans that he has subjected to too much suffering in all areas of human endeavor.

United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) recommends that Sam Kutesa’s nomination to become the president of the United Nations General Assembly should be rejected by the United States and Museveni should be discouraged from contesting presidential elections in 2016. Not least, we request you President Obama to accord priority to 35 million Ugandans that are more important in Uganda and USA relations than one individual – President Museveni.

Accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration

Sincerely,

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary General, UDU

© 2011 United Democratic Ugandans. All Rights Reserved.