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Eric Kashambuzi’s Business Credentials & Service to the Community

There is a general consensus that Uganda leaders (Obote, Amin and Museveni) came to power without much practical experience. Obote who lived in Kenya came to Uganda a few years before independence; Amin had been trained and served as a soldier before becoming president in 1971 and Museveni spent most of his time engaged in guerrilla activities until 1986. Ipso facto Ugandans have a good reason to check the credentials of any Ugandan who appears on the leadership scene at any level. Since I began public appearance as co-host of an English program on Radio Munansi at the start of 2011 and later became Secretary-General of UDU, Ugandans are justified in seeking to know who I am. And since I am among those demanding detailed information about current and future leaders, I responded with two briefs on my political and leadership credentials. Here is the third and final brief about my business credentials and hands on experience as well as my service to the community in Rukungiri district, my home area.

Entrepreneurial credentials

As they say, I am among those that rose from “Rags to Riches”. I was born and raised in a poor extended family. My parents’ earnings were far inadequate to meet basic needs. Like in politics and leadership, I began entrepreneurial work very early in my life to supplement my parents’ earnings. I had to be innovative to survive.

1. While I was in primary school, I asked and got a piece of land from my parents and began growing coffee. I travelled there over the weekends from my father’s place of work or stayed with relatives in our home village to attend to my garden. I also rehabilitated some coffee trees that had been neglected. I earned some money and spent Uganda Shillings 180 – a lot of money at that time – to pay for the survey of two family pieces of land (each piece cost 90 shillings). We were told that with a land title, one could get a loan and start business.

2. While I was in secondary school, I worked as a gardener maintaining school premises during holidays and served as a night watchman. I also took on odd jobs like picking coffee and was paid by the tins (edebbe) I filled with coffee beans. I was thus able to supplement parents’ contribution to my education. While other students disliked menial work or to work as a watchman, I had no difficulties with such jobs so long I got paid.

3. While I was at university, I always found some work mostly as a temporary teacher and earned some money part of which I used to buy books that university grant did not cover and supplemented parents’ resources to pay for my brothers’ and sisters’ education.

4. When I returned to Uganda in 1980 after the fall of Amin’s regime I started business in my home district for various reasons: to demonstrate and encourage others that no matter where you start from you can rise from rags to riches when you work consistently and diligently. By way of appreciation, I also wanted to give jobs to people or children of people in my home area that supported me as I was growing up. I constructed two residential houses one in Rukungiri town for renting and another in Nyarurambi for family residence. I also constructed a commercial building in Rukungiri town and purchased another one in Kyatoko. I paid workers more than they had ever earned in a month. In purchasing building materials of bricks, sand and stones, I also added a bit more, not that I had money to throw away, but to show that I was a caring person and shared with others as they shared with me as I was growing up. I also wanted to urge others to do the same instead of exploiting workers. All of them were happy because they had never earned such amount of money in a short time. They were able to settle their debts including dowry, they sent their children to school, ate and dressed better. Some saved and started micro enterprises. Some of them stayed on as permanent workers and more have been hired since then, creating jobs in the process.

5. I had always wanted to encourage Ugandans to engage in agriculture which many shun as the profession of failures. I bought a piece of land which had been denuded by constant communal use. I fenced it off against everyone’s objection because fencing was novel in the area. On steep areas we planted trees and the flat sections we cleared for a ranch as a gift to my parents. I bought another piece of land in Mutojo, Kebisoni for ranching and food production. Within a few years, we began selling timber and fuel wood and milk and cattle. Neighbors began to see results. And they responded by fencing their land, planting trees and beginning commercial mixed agriculture of crop cultivation and herding cows or goats. Increased incomes came in and agriculture became relatively attractive. Some people that had been selling land to earn cash started buying instead to expand agricultural activities.

6. In starting and running business, I came face to face with real practical challenges. Because of this exposure, I do not theorize about Uganda’s development challenges. I write and argue in a practical sense devoid of ideologies and that is why I often disagree with some armchair professionals on the radio and in print. That is why I have disagreed with NRM government policies designed and implemented by people who have inadequate or no practical experience either as nationals or foreigners. I know what is involved in growing coffee, picking the beans, drying and marketing them. I know the difficulties of obtaining an urban plot, surveying it, clearing the construction plan with the town clerk. I know the difficulties of transporting materials, finding cement and getting good and reliable brick layers, carpenters, electricians and guards etc. I know the difficulties of finding a veterinarian when one or several cows get sick. You find one in town but he has no transport to the ranch or you find him and transport but there are no veterinary drugs in town. You buy an expensive spray pump, only to be told it was stolen a month later and cows have been invaded by ticks. I know problems connected with marketing crops and/or selling milk because more often than not the cooling plant broke down a week ago and has not been repaired so milk goes sour and you lose money. I could go on but I think these illustrations will show that I have hands on experience in starting and running an enterprise in Uganda or recommending appropriate policy and strategic responses. Although it is preferable to manage business on site, you do not necessarily have to be there thanks to modern technology that has simplified communications and facilitated solving problems from a distance.

Giving back to the community

While I was growing up and going to primary and secondary schools, I received tremendous and unsolicited support from community members regardless of their religious or ethnic background. This was particularly the case when I walked twenty miles barefoot to school and back home from grade V to grade VIII. I was simply their son or brother. But I could not thank them all individually. So I undertook projects to serve a community purpose, among others, in the following areas.

1. I built the first permanent building with bricks and (Kagyansi) red tiles primarily to thank all the people of Rukungiri for supporting me in various ways: Those who gave me a ride in their vehicles, on motor cycles and bicycles; those who gave me food or drink and those who simply wished me well. I was travelling alone most of the time as other students had either dropped out or lived near the school.

2. Planting trees was done in response to various deficits: Lack of fuel wood for cooking and timber for construction and to rehabilitate the area that had suffered serious degradation and drying rivers. Planting trees provided fuel wood as we allowed people to collect dried branches or dead trees. Trees allowed rain water to sink into the ground rather than drain away in floods, raised water tables and increased volume of water in rivers which became perennial once again and restored soil fertility as soil erosion was checked. Trees served to encourage neighbors to develop wood lots. Because of lack of building materials, houses were built with mud bricks which left holes in the ground that collected stagnant water serving as mosquito breeding ground and spreading malaria. The provision of building materials ended construction with mud bricks and reduced the number of places with stagnant water and spreading of malaria. Households were able to collect enough fuel wood to cook beans the main source of protein, which they had abandoned because they require a lot of fuel wood.

3. Many children were dying in the area primarily because of drinking unsafe water, poor hygiene and malnutrition. My brother and I constructed spring wells on our respective lands for communal use and urged that drinking water should be boiled. Sanitation was a big problem. We encouraged construction and use of latrines, washing hands with soap before touching food and fumigating latrines to keep away flies. Regarding food security, households were urged to diversify food intake. Food was not the problem. Nutritious foodstuffs were being sold and the family ate cassava, bananas and maize which are nutritionally deficient. With milk now available in the neighborhood and with energy to cook beans, families began to eat better than before. Consequently with mosquito breeding ground reduced and standing water drained away, child mortality declined considerably.

4. I had planned to invite people in my community for a feast in one of the end of year festivities to thank them for supporting me. When I floated the idea, some leaders suggested that instead I should contribute to building a new church. I agreed to pay for all the roofing materials. I did that so they can speed up building the walls. The process was slow because of economic hardship. I decided to build the whole church with bricks and corrugated iron sheets. You cannot imagine the excitement and the news that spread when the roof was fixed onto that church. That an individual had built a church for the community was unprecedented. For me it was a humbling experience. I was simply giving back as a token of appreciation to the community for their support as I was growing up and thanking the Almighty for guiding the son of a priest from a rural village in southwest Uganda to the corridors of power in the United Nations General Assembly, ECOSOC and Security Council where I served for many years.

Let me end on a note of clarification

Religious, regional and ethnic differences don’t bother me at all. I was born in a family with Protestant and Catholic members and we interacted closely. Catholics have been among my best friends at school, university and work places. Some of the managers of my businesses in Uganda are Muslims.

I have friends in all regions of Uganda. That is why I co-founded the Uganda Unity Group (UUG) to unify groups from different religious, ethnic and regional backgrounds. I participated very actively in the establishment of UDU for the same reasons. I served as best man to a friend from the northern region. Some of my close family friends are Baganda. The Ambassador of Uganda who covered the ACP/EEC negotiations in Brussels in the early 1970s is from the Eastern province and we remained friends besides other family friends we met in New York, Zambia and other places.

Because of writing truth about the distorted history of the Great Lakes region that has been dominated by ethnic conflicts and ethnic domination of current Uganda politics some Ugandans have distorted my contribution as sectarian and are using it to undermine my professionalism mostly through surrogates who cook up stories. Because my father served in different churches in Rukungiri and Kanungu districts we interacted with many members of different ethnic groups. And they all liked and supported us. Many of them including Bahororo now governing Uganda were and those still alive are some of my best friends. I have acknowledged some of them by name in my book titled “Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century and Related Regional Issues”. The sharp ethnic divide in Rukungiri began with UPC split into Banyama (meat eaters) and Baboga (vegetarians). In order to stay on top after independence Bahororo split Bairu. In their hearts Bahororo believe they are born to rule and others to serve them. The practice started in southwest Uganda and it is now spreading to the entire country through impoverishing other groups, a silent development that many Ugandans do not seem to have grasped. And I object very strongly to domination by one group over others because we are born equal in rights and freedoms. It is indisputable that Uganda will not enjoy peace, stability, security and prosperity if exploitation, corruption, sectarianism and abuse of human rights and fundamental freedoms continue.

This concludes the three part presentation of my political, leadership, entrepreneurial and community service credentials. I would urge present and future leaders to do the same or Ugandans to demand it to give an idea who we are dealing with now or are likely to deal with in the future. Leaders bursting onto Uganda’s political stage out of a “corn field” have created tremendous problems for a country well endowed in human and natural resources. I welcome comments provided they are presented in a civil manner, are substantive and constructive.

Thank you.

Eric Kashambuzi

March 31, 2012


Eric Kashambuzi’s leadership credentials

Since I was elected Secretary-General of UDU, some have wondered whether I have what it takes to lead. My leadership credentials have a long history. Here is a summary for easy reference combining political and non-political leadership roles. There will be some repeat of what I presented under political credentials.

1. In Kashenyi primary school (Ruhinda sub-county), I was made a time keeper (to ring the bell at start of classes, change classes, take and end break and at the end of the day). I was selected because I used to get to school earlier than others and rarely missed classes. This leadership role instilled in me to this day a strict observance of punctuality and ending meetings on time;

2. In Kinyasano secondary school (Rukungiri district), I was made a librarian because I read too much and would ask teachers to give me additional books after I went through the assigned texts. Being a librarian exposed me to reading broadly, a habit that has become part of my being and helped me to set up my own home library;

3. At Butobere senior secondary school (Kabale district) ordinary (O) level, I was appointed a prefect and served as scouts’ troop leader. These were heavy responsibilities especially in dealing with students who came from all parts of Uganda and different religions that had never mixed before. Interacting for the first time carried potential for conflict, so students had to be led carefully especially when I led scouts to a district camp at Marumba in Rukungiri district. We came second in overall performance;

4. During senior secondary school at Butobere, I served as president of Rukungiri students’ association for one year. Under my presidency we organized a successful concert in Bushenyi town;

5. At Ntare school (Ankole disrict) for advanced (A) level I was made a prefect with responsibility for managing O & A level students. The style of leadership had to change to accommodate students from form I to form VI so different strokes were used for different folks;

6. At University of California, Berkeley (USA) I was elected president of African students association for one year. The late 1960s and early 1970s marked an unusual situation on university campuses. Leading students from first degree to Ph. D. levels also needed careful handling as they presented different problems to be discussed at University committee meetings where I represented them. Each category had to get something;

7. At the East African Community, I worked as advisor to the minister in charge of African negotiations with the European Economic Community. In that role I led the collection and preparation of reports for meetings and statements for the minister, often at short notice in an age without computers. Establishing good working relationship with delegates from member states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania was a major asset because I received valuable collaboration. The Ambassador of Uganda to the negotiations helped where I would have encountered great difficulties with delegates at ambassadorial level;

8. As a staff member of UNDP in Lusaka (Zambia), I served as Chairman of UN Staff Association bringing together international and local staff to work together as a team. While in Lusaka I also led the efforts that established Uganda Unity Group (UUG) and demonstrated that with determination Ugandans from all walks of life can be unified as one nation under God;

9. As Deputy UNDP (United Nations Development Program) Resident Representative (DRR), I served as the officer with overall financial and administrative responsibility including for staff of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Food Program (WFP) and UN staff in Mozambique that did their shopping in Swaziland because of acute shortages in Mozambique as a result of guerrilla war. UNDP office in Swaziland cleared their allowances and gave them checks for local currency. In the absence of the Resident Representative, I combined his and my duties. The experience in Swaziland introduced me to dealing with African leaders at director, permanent secretary, ministerial and Deputy Minister and how governments work.

10. In New York’s UNDP office I served in various capacities. As Deputy Regional Chief, I handled daily responsibility for managing the regional program. In the absence of the chief I combined his duties and mine. I chaired in New York, Geneva and Africa many tripartite (government or intergovernmental like SADC, executing agency and UNDP as funding organ) and inter-agency meetings. I chaired thematic meetings such as Transport and Communications Decade for Africa that brought relevant UN agencies such as ECA, World Bank, ICAO, ITU, IMO, and Sub-regional organizations as well as multi-sector programs that brought different departments together. I chaired meeting involving UNDP support to Organization of African Unity now African Union.

11. In the Eastern Division of Africa Bureau (UNDP New York), I was Deputy Chief and desk officer for Uganda. I led a team of national and international experts to develop Uganda’s development program that came up with a unique program of only two sectors – private sector and decentralization (usually there are many sectors in a country’s program which scatter resources too thin).

12. With the release of Mandela in 1990 and ending of sanctions against South Africa, I was reassigned to Southern African Division (UNDP) and served as desk officer for South Africa. I led the first ever United Nations Joint Team of UNFPA, UNICEF, IFAD, UNDP and UN Secretariat to draw up a joint program for supporting that country. With South Africa independent and the program ready I was reassigned to the External Relations Bureau of UNDP in large part because of exposure to international relations at school and at work and dealing directly with governments in Ethiopia, Zambia and Swaziland where I served with UNDP.

13. In External Relations Bureau, I was UNDP’s Liaison officer with the General Assembly, ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) and Security Council. With my training in International law and International Relations, I provided useful service to UNDP writing reports of presidents’ and ministers speeches in the General Assembly and ECOSOC meetings respectively, gaining diplomatic and negotiating skills at the highest level.

14. I was reassigned to the Executive Board of UNDP and UNFPA Secretariat within the External Relations Bureau where they needed a combination of demography and writing skills which I possessed. I led preparation of reports of Board meeting and highlights to be distributed immediately at the end of meetings.

15. I moved on to the UNDP supported Millennium Development Project under the overall leadership of Professor Jeffrey Sachs (Special Advisor to the Secretary-General) as external relations officer dealing with African missions, AU Liaison office to the UN, Group of 77, Secretary-General’s office, ECOSOC and General Assembly. I provided diplomatic leadership during preparation for the Five Year Review of the United Nations Millennium Declaration that took place at the end of 2005 and implementation of millennium Villages.

This summary hopefully will give readers an idea of my leadership credentials and settle this matter. You noticed I have led at various levels from early in my life, requiring adaptation to different situations especially when dealing with people from different cultural background and nationalities, levels of education, expertise and experience. I encountered relatively few problems in large part because I was honest (telling the truth can hurt those who have committed errors and want them hidden from public view) and led from my heart, played no favoritism, treated everyone with respect, encouraged open discussions and made sure all staff under my supervision played by the same set of rules. Above all, I worked hard and knew what was going on thanks to my diverse training in Geography, Economics, Demography, International law and Diplomacy/International Relations and Sustainable Development. My supervisors’ grades of my performance reflected their appreciation of my work to make a modest contribution to improving the welfare of human kind.

In the next and last issue, I will deal with my entrepreneurial work in Uganda as an indication that I have some understanding of development challenges not only theoretically but practically as well. I will share information about services I have rendered to my community in Uganda in appreciation of their support as I was growing up.

Eric Kashambuzi’s political record

Since becoming Secretary-General of UDU in July 2011, there have been some questions about my political credentials. Here they are in a summary form for easy reference.

1. I co-founded the UPC Youth Wing at Butobere Senior Secondary School when I was in Senior III in 1961 and became its first president. I met with John Kakonge (RIP) UPC Secretary-General when he addressed a rally in Kabale town and he gave me tips on how to mobilize supporters;

2. As polling official, I participated in Kigezi district council elections in Rukungiri and one parliamentary election in Kabale when I was at Butobere School and another one in Rwampara when I was at Ntare School;

3. I became president of Rukungiri students association in 1960;

4. I became president of African Students Association at University of California, Berkeley, USA in 1970 and represented African students on student welfare and fellowship committees;

5. I co-founded Uganda Unity Group (UUG) in Lusaka, Zambia that attended the Moshi conference in 1979 and one of the delegates was elected minister of state in the transitional government;

6. I became Chairman of United Nations Staff Council in Lusaka, Zambia;

7. I co-founded Amicale of African staff at the United Nations in New York to coordinate various activities related to career development;

8. I co-hosted the political English program on Radio Munansi in the first six months of 2011 including campaigns for the February 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections;

9. I co-founded the United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) in July 2011;

10. I created a blog as a channel of communication on Uganda and great lakes political and other issues.

In the next issue, I will summarize my leadership and entrepreneurial record.


80 percent of 33 millions Ugandans are poor

A new poll has revealed that 80 percent of Ugandans are poorer and sadly confirmed what we have been saying all along but ignored by the NRM government that considers advice from the opposition sabotage. Uganda has been in recession for a long time if you go by the unemployment and under employment levels. This represents excess labor capacity. It means that private sector is not investing enough in the economy. When this happens, the state steps in and invests in public works like road construction and repair, building or repairing schools and clinics and environmental rehabilitation like wetlands restoration and reforestation of degraded landscapes. It increases hiring in public sector at least on a temporary basis until the situation returns to normal. This is what has been happening in many countries in developed and developing world. Those like Uganda that stuck to austerity measures to balance budgets and reduce deficits have degenerated from recession to depression with serious political consequences.

NRM government has remained glued to the Washington Consensus conditionality of macroeconomic stability and reliance on market forces, private sector and trickle down mechanism that have not worked. Although NRM government officially abandoned structural adjustment in 2009 following global determination that the Washington Consensus had failed to deliver as expected and was abandoned, the NRM government has continued along the conditionality path of structural adjustment. While reporting progress to the NRM policy organ recently, President Museveni focused on inflation control, economic growth and foreign currency reserves. He did not report what had happened to human condition since the 2011 elections that pumped too much money in circulation contributing to the economic troubles the country is experiencing. In order to put Uganda’s economy on the right development path, one needs to understand what the problems are.

First, when there is a paradigm shift that has occurred from Washington Consensus to public-private partnership or neo-Keynesian economics, there should be a commensurate change in advisers and senior staff so that staff and advisers familiar with the new paradigm take over. In Uganda staff in the key ministry of finance, planning and economic development and central bank, the government has retained the same staff, some of them non-economists. Presidential economic advisers have remained the same. When you have been in a place for a long time, you develop a tendency to resist change even when you know that what you are doing is not adequate. This explains in large part why Uganda has continued to implement austerity measures which are likely to be maintained in the new budget (cutting public spending while increasing taxes from the least able to pay) making a bad situation worse.

Second, there does not appear to be political will to make things better for the majority of Ugandans. When pressure mounts for improving living standards or providing school lunch, the government makes statements about the need for reform but it does not go beyond that. For a long time, the government has talked about lowering interest rates to enable potential investors to borrow and invest in labor absorbing enterprises. It has talked about improving the quality of education, modernizing agriculture, processing primary products to add value but that has been more in rhetoric than in action. In practice the government has focused on urban service sector-led development mostly in the nation’s capital which generates some 70 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) with only 2 million out of 33 million Ugandans. Uganda has thus been developed as if it is Singapore, a city state. With some 90 percent peasants living and earning their livelihood from agriculture in the countryside, the logical priority should have been agriculture and rural development by supporting peasant capacity to increase productivity (not replacing them with large scale farmers as the prime minister has announced). This sector, vital as it is, has received not more than four percent of the annual budget against the minimum of ten percent agreed at the African Union Summit in 1993.

Third, the mixture of professions in government has been skewed. While Uganda has a wealth of economists and political scientists, NRM government tendency has been to hire lawyers and medical doctors and assign them to ministries where they are least qualified. For example, why should the president (no disrespect) appoint a medical doctor to be a minister of finance? Why should the president appoint a medical doctor to be a minister of foreign affairs? Why should the president appoint a medical doctor to be a vice president? Why should the president appoint a police officer to be a minister of health or education?

At a time like the present one when the country is facing serious economic problems that have resulted in 80 percent of Ugandans getting poorer and over 80 percent of youth unemployed, why did the president appoint a lawyer to be the vice president? Why did the president appoint a lawyer to be the prime minister? Why did the president appoint a lawyer to be the speaker of parliament where economic policies will likely dominate the debate? Is there a rationale? Where did economists in Keynesian economics who should be in the ministry of finance, planning and economic development and central bank go? Where did Uganda experts in international law and international relations who should be in the ministry of foreign affairs negotiating good deals for Uganda go?

This is the time for serious reflection about the future of Uganda including those who are benefiting from the status quo because it may be good for them now but not for their children tomorrow. This is the time to stress hope over despair, optimism over pessimism and forward over backward looking (we look at history only to help us understand the present better). Under NRM government many things have obviously gone wrong undermining the future of Uganda children. NRM has failed and has no will and energy to arrest and reverse course. The choice on the way forward seems obvious. Ugandans will decide to maintain the status quo or make changes.

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary-General, UDU

Lessons from Buvuma land dispute in Uganda

The land dispute in Buvuma Islands has offered timely and valuable lessons for Uganda land owners and peoples’ representatives. It should be emulated by other land owners and their representatives in similar situations now or in the future.

First, the land holders of Buvuma Islands should be warmly congratulated for their courage to fight for their inalienable right to land ownership. It is a God-given right to own land (and other properties) and use it to meet basic human needs. Land ownership is not a privilege that authorities can give and take away at will. That is why the recent statement by Prime Minister Mbabazi that NRM plans to take away land from peasants and give it to large land owners is a breach of this inalienable right. There isn’t even scientific, environmental, social and spiritual justification. The people of Uganda should resist that. It is the right and legitimate thing to do. Being prime minister does not entitle Mbabazi to do what and when he wants. That is abuse of public office. In the absence of functional literacy for many Ugandans to get them a reliable job and income outside agriculture and social security for temporary unemployment and retirement income, land remains the only asset and source of livelihood.

Second, land compensation should be approached with great care. Even if compensation represented market value of the land, there is a big risk in trading land for cash. Once you get cash, you are likely to spend much or all of it on consumer goods and have little to invest in viable activities to earn you a reliable income for yourself and your family. You therefore end up landless and jobless and there is no human condition worse than that. If you are really hard pressed for cash, it is better to borrow using part of your land as security or in the worst situation to sell a small piece to tide you over. So be careful about compensation in cash even if it represents market value of the land and is given on time.

Third, Buvuma Islands Woman Representative, Nantume Egunyu, should be congratulated and even garlanded for her commendable effort in leading her constituents in their protest. This is a clear demonstration of what peoples’ representatives are supposed to do: to protect and defend the interests of constituents, thereby fulfilling the social contract with voters; not to serve their own interests at the expense of the people they represent. Hopefully other members of Parliament will draw a lesson from this action by Nantume Egunyu.

Fourth, the action taken by Buvuma people confirms that peaceful demonstrations work instead of arming themselves to engage in destructive fights. This is a lesson that should apply nationwide as the opposition to NRM government mounts in the wake of its failure to deliver. Non-violent resistance works when people are united. The people of Buvuma have confirmed that. They got together and confronted those who wanted to rob them of their land. And they succeeded.

Fifth and finally, this local matter did not need to go all the way to the president’s office. This is micro-management and cost ineffective on the president’s part. He should discourage it so that he focuses on macro-issues leaving macro-matters to his ministers.

Eric Kashambuzi

Secretary-General, UDU


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