By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

Success and failure are not necessarily antagonistic. They are cyclic, one feeding into the other. They are just like life and death, which are also cyclic, one feeding into the other.  When you succeed, the next experience is failing, and when you fail the next experience is succeeding.

We can learn from both success and failure, and thereby improve our situation. If we don’t learn from success and failure, then we cannot unlearn and relearn. The aim should be to improve on success and reduce possibilities of unwelcome failure.

One thing is true. Most people, countries or institutions do not see success as an essential aspect of failure and vice versa. They hate failure, as if failure does not teach how to succeed. All they want is success. They get disappointed when they fail, and refuse to take lessons from failure.

Many people have committed suicide rather than face failure and make good out of it. Some institutions have wound up because they failed. But we should accept failure as a necessary evil, although we must not strategies to create opportunities for it to dominate. We should take it as soring that spurs or should spur us to do better.

Personally I faced many failures during my almost 73 years of life on Earth, but I never allowed failure to make me question why God created me. I have used failure to learn new ways of living to the best of my ability, unlearn, relearn, and set new priorities.

I have de-emphasized what I used to regard as dear, but did not add value to my life in the long-term.. I have said to myself, every time I fail to achieve the goals I set myself, “If God failed with his project of humanity, which was to worship only him, and had to send Jesus to salvage it, and Jesus had to leave the Holy Spirit to guide, secure and protect those who accept him as their savior, who am I not to meet disappointments in life?

However, when I have met disappointments, I have always re-evaluated what led me to disappointments. I have critically thought and analyzed the factors involved in the disappointment, and set new directions for myself every passing year.

I have accepted that there are things that I was no longer able to do. One time, while working in the East African Marine Fisheries Research Organization (EAMFRO) of the defunct East African Community (EAC) in the 1970s, I wanted to train as a Ph D in Biological Oceanography at the University of Southampton in the UK.

This would have made me the first Ph.D in that field in East and Central Africa. But unfavorable political conditions in East Africa precipitated the collapse of the EAC in 1977, two weeks before I left for UK, and the British Council, which was to sponsor my education at that University on behalf of the EAC, withdrew the scholarship. I had to accept the new situation, re-adjust and move on in a new direction.

Our different Governments in Uganda, since gaining political independence from the British in 1962, have made numerous mistakes, which have denied us meaningful development. The mistakes have been in all dimensions: social, economic, political, ecological, environmental, ethical, moral, spiritual, educational, health, military, energy, legislative, executive, judicial and developmental, to name but a few.

In this article I want to focus on the developmental mistakes of the NRM Government since 1986 when its military wing, the National Resistance Movement (NRA), captured the instruments of power in Kampala.

My Thesis Statement is that “Most development projects in Uganda fail because President Museveni is at the centre of every development process”.

I will approach my topic “Why have so many development projects failed in Uganda?” by looking at three eras of development projects in Uganda over the last 36 years of NRM rule include: the Era of Barter Trade Project, the Era of World Bank/IMF Dominated Projects and the Era of Presidentially-dominated Projects.

Whatever the case, all the eras were politically mediated by President Tibuhaburwa Museveni himself. When I say “mediated by President Tibuhaburwa Museveni himself”, I mean that politics has been, and continues, to be at the centre of failure of Government projects in Uganda.

With Barter Trade Project Era, You may call it the Great Barter Trade Project. It lasted about 18 months. It reflected President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s seemingly anti-West, pro-Marxist-socialist stance.

When he captured the instruments of power from the Okello Military Junta on 25th January 1986 (changed to 26th January 1986 because the rebels did not want to celebrate their triumph on the same day Idi Amin overthrew the Government of Apollo Milton Obote on 25th January 1971).

President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, who ticked as a Marxist-socialist and obtained a lot of financial and strategic military support from Russia, China, North Korea and Cuba, preferred Barter Trade with the West and elsewhere, because he did not want his new regime to continue with loans from the West ( namely World Bank and International Monetary Fund).

He especially wanted direct trade with the West. The two International Financial Institutions (IFIs) were ready to give his Government loans to reconstruct and rehabilitate the country.

The Apollo Milton Obote Government had relied on loans from the two IFIs to fund its Reconstruction and Rehabilitation programmes between 1981 and 1985 when it was overthrown by the Military Junta of the two Okellos ( Tito Okello and Basilio Okello).

The rebel leader, Tibuhaburwa Museveni, wanted to exchange both cash and food crops for goods and services from the West and elsewhere. He convinced Ugandans that a food crop was a cash crop. However, his juvenile Government was unable to meet the quotas agreed between Uganda and other countries, especially Cuba.

Therefore, the Great Barter Trade Project of the NRM/NRA politico-military regime was destined to fail, and it did after 18 months of resistance to Western Financial Capital. There was no alternative for politico-military regime but to revert to the IFIs to finance its Reconstruction and Rehabilitation initiatives and development plans, strategies and projects.

The rebels had played a major role in sabotaging the economy during Obote II reign and the 5 – month reign of the Okello Military Junta. They destroyed roads and railways, and ransacked and robbed factories, cooperative unions, cooperative societies, bus companies, ranches and  banks.

They even robbed the properties of progressive business people of the time. However, when they criticized the Obote and Okello regimes for failing the economy during 1981-1985, they never mentioned their own role in sabotaging the economy in order to capture the instruments of power.

They did so when those regimes were economically and politically weak. President Tibuhaburwa Museveni promised to make good the looted wealth of banks and cooperative societies and unions, but there is no evidence that was done. Many think it is that looted wealth that was the basis of many of his rebels who became stinkingly rich without work, primitively accumulating their wealth.

So, it was obvious that the politico -military regime in Kampala had to abandon the Marxist-Socialist stance and begin to rebuild the economy they had greatly destroyed. They had to turn to Western Capital through mainly the IFIs. It is, however, interesting to note that President Tibuhaburwa Museveni is reintroducing the failed Barter Trade Project in his new business relations with USA’s sanctioned arch-enemy: Iran.

Secondly, the Era of World Bank and IMF Funded Projects came about Soon after the collapse of the Barter Trade Project  in 1987, the NRM/A politico-military regime agreed to a reform package – the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) with the World Bank.

Almost immediately, the World Bank reintroduced the failed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), which it had handed to President to President Apollo Milton Obote in 1981 to reconstruct and rehabilitate Uganda.

One could say it failed mainly because of widespread rebel activities in the Luwero Triangle and in and around Kampala. Active implementation of SAP started in 1992. It was in essence application of the four Principles of neoliberalism: economic stabilization, de-regulation, liberalization and privatization.

However, none of the principles has been successfully implemented  in President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s Uganda. Despite this fact, however, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has not ceased to convince the gullible Ugandans that his politico-military regime has put Uganda on the road to become a Middle Income Country, which Tanzania became in 5 years of late Pombe Magufuli’s reign.

Economic Stabilization has been a total failure. In their Ten Point Programme, the rebels had talked of a self-sustaining and integrated economy. The Uganda economy, however, is far from being such a one, and continues to enjoy what I call “Unstable Stability” (i.e, Stability, which is unreliable as a measure of stabilization and progress in the economy).

The economy cannot stabilize in a socioeconomic environment whereby institutions are collapsed or collapsing; the few remaining institutions are run nepotistically, with people of one ethnic group or kith and kin dominating; economic activity is dominated by dealers or a few families connected to the First Family; indigenous economic actors are officially sabotaged through displacement and denial of business space but overtaxed, and preference is given to foreign economic actors such as Roko, that are allocated public money either to take off or stay afloat, given tax holidays and allowed freedom to repatriate all their profits to their countries of origin.

For God And My Country


The Writer Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

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