After President Museveni recently announced that he would deploy soldiers to oversee agricultural extension initiatives, former FDC President KIZZA BESIGYE has had his say on the matter. In his statement sent to The Observer this week, Besigye says the actual purpose of Museveni’s latest innovation is not to transform agriculture, but to entrench himself into power. We publish Besigye’s statement.
While on his way to London at the end of April 2013, Gen David Sejusa’s letter to his Internal Security Organisation (ISO) Chief was leaked by the press.
In the letter, he accused two high-ranking UPDF generals and Kampala businesswoman Kellen Kayongo of attempting to frame senior members of government; especially, himself, Premier Amama Mbabazi, Chief of Defence Forces Gen Aronda and “those perceived to be anti-Brig. Muhoozi project.”
There had been many tell-tale signs that Brig Gen Muhoozi, son of Mr Museveni was being groomed and supersonically promoted to take over power (of President) from his father.
Gen Sejusa, who failed to return to Uganda on 10th May 2013 as planned, went on to launch a struggle against the NRM regime from his London exile. It was widely rumoured that Sejusa had been mobilising UPDF/NRA veterans for the struggle before his departure.
Gen Sejusa’s actions triggered a “panic mode” in Mr Museveni’s leadership, whose sole focus (and even purpose) is his continued hold onto power.
On 23rd May 2013 (two weeks after Sejusa’s expected return), Gen Aronda was removed as Chief of Defence Forces and controversially appointed Minister of Internal Affairs.
Hero’s day (9th June) of 2013 was held in Nakaseke, the heartland of NRA/NRM war that brought Mr Museveni to power. He said he was very touched by the poverty and plight of the Luwero veterans.
Shortly thereafter, Mr Museveni launched a Veterans’ poverty eradication program, headed by his brother Gen Salim Saleh. By the time of launching this program, the 2013/14 budget had been made and published. There was no money for such a program, so Museveni promised that its budget would be included in the 2014/15 budget.
Without any formal processes however, more than Shs 15 billion was diverted from the Naads project and given to Gen Saleh to start the Veterans’ project.
It wasn’t surprising therefore, when on 26th Jan 2014, while addressing a “Liberation Day” function at Mayuge, Mr Museveni announced that all Naads Coordinators in the country would be laid off for failure to transform rural communities from poverty.
In a May 2014 publication on State House website, it was revealed that Mr Museveni had directed Cabinet to dissolve Naads due to non-performance. This was repeated in the June 2014 State of the Nation and Heroes Day addresses.
Mr Museveni said that the Veterans’ project had demonstrated exceptional delivery of services to its beneficiaries and would therefore be expanded to take on what Naads had failed to do.
The National Agricultural Advisory services (Naads) project was launched in 2001.The Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA), of which it was a component, had been launched earlier in 2000. The main purpose of the plan was to transform subsistence into commercial agriculture.
Naads was established as a semi-autonomous organisation (body corporate) by a Naads ACT of 2001. Its stated purpose was to increase farmer’s access to information, knowledge and technology. The law established an elaborate structure, with a Secretariat and District Coordinators. It also created “Farmers Groups and Committees” from every Parish to the District level. A National Farmers Forum was also created.
Though Naads was under the political supervision of the Minister of Agriculture, in practice, it was run directly by Mr Museveni from State House. There was established (not in law) a State House Naads Monitoring Unit. A Rev Sr Mary Akiror was appointed a Senior Presidential Advisor on Naads Affairs.
The appointments of Naads staff and its functioning was purely for the purpose of promoting the political fortunes of Mr Museveni, rather than helping farmers out of cycle of poverty. Mr Museveni personally went with Naads officials handing out money, agricultural inputs and giving promises to others.
A term of President of Uganda is five years. During this period, a President should deliver his manifesto promises. Naads has been operating, directly overseen by Mr Museveni, for 13 years! Each year, Naads is given Shs. 120- 200 billion for its programs. Mr Museveni himself (not the “disgruntled” opposition) admits that Naads has delivered next to nothing all this time. If this isn’t subversive, then what is?
Having “pacified” the veterans with Gen Saleh’s military officer team and Naads money, Mr Museveni now sees an opportunity to recreate “Naads” under someone he trusts; while, holding in it more military officers he doesn’t trust to be active in UPDF.
If Naads was primarily meant to help farmers access information, knowledge and technology to improve their production, certainly, Gen Saleh, Brig Nalweyiso and the military officers under them (all of whom, I know personally) are not equipped to achieve that.
If the benefit Mr Museveni is looking for in military officers is better financial management and ethical conduct, then he cannot any more off-track!
Gen Saleh, the team leader, was removed after a short stint as Army Commander for corruption and indiscipline. The military was nearly mutinying for lack of food under his command. It was after his removal that the system of distributing food to the military stopped and every soldier/officer was given cash to procure own food.
Gen Saleh resigned as Senior Presidential Advisor on Military Affairs after it was discovered that he was dubiously involved in the sale/buying of Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB). He confessed to receiving a $ 800,000= bribe on the notorious Junk Helicopter scandal; he was implicated in the 2001 UN Security Council report for illegal exploitation of DRC natural resources etc.
The UPDF as an institution has a very poor record regarding its participation in productive activities. It has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in failed projects and more relevantly, all its agricultural projects failed miserably!
In 1989, Ministry of Defence set up a State Corporation known as the National Enterprises Corporation (NEC)to help UPDF officers and men participate in production.
NEC in turn set up many subsidiaries to organise enterprises in different areas. These included the following:
1. NEC Construction and Engineering.
2. NEC Healthworld Pharmaceuticals.
3. NEC Luwero Industries.
4. NEC Transport.
5. NEC Tractor Hire Scheme.
6. NEC Textiles.
7. NEC- Mukisa Foods.
8. NEC Restaurant (Kasisira).
9. NEC Lime Dura.
10. NEC Farm Katonga.
Government very heavily invested in all these enterprises, even at a time when the policy was for privatisation. All of these enterprises have very sad stories of systematic looting and mismanagement. After 20 years of NEC, the Managing Director, Col Fred Mwesigye (now MP for Nyabushozi) told Parliament that all enterprises were making losses and its assets depreciating at a rate of Shs 1.3 billion annually.
NEC was under the direct supervision of Mr Museveni as Minister of Defence. He was also the appointing authority of NEC Managers.
NEC Farm was created by buying the property of Kisozi Ranchers (owned by Hajj Kassim Kiwanuka). Kisozi Ranchers sold 26 sq mls of developed ranching land together with about 8,000 cows to NEC Farm. At the same time, Mr Museveni also negotiated and bought 3 square miles of land from the same Kassim Kiwanuka. This is the land Mr Museveni used to start his (now famous) Kisozi ranch.
Considering that Mr Museveni was the Minister of Defence and direct supervisor of NEC, his transactions with Hajj Kassim Kiwanuka cannot be devoid of a clear conflict of interest.
NEC Farm Katonga has, since, collapsed while under the management of Senior UPDF officers. I understand that the farm now has less than 400 cows! In the meantime, Mr Museveni’s ranch in the neighbourhood has more than thrived, boasting a developed infrastructure and thousands of cows.
Besides NEC, UPDF has a Directorate of Production. As Chairman of the NRA/UPDF High Command, Mr Museveni directly appointed the Directors of Production.
Large swathes farmland and equipment were acquired under the Directorate of Production. Some of the land tracts were in Kiryandongo, Singo, and Mubende. This department used UPDF personnel whose salaries were paid by the army. Even with all these, the department failed miserably.
Mr Museveni eventually gave the very prime Kiryandongo land away to Mukwano, who has established a lucrative farm.
From the above, it is clear that Mr Museveni knows very well that UPDF officers are not suited to manage any agricultural project. They neither have the necessary competences, nor the discipline to do it.
The preoccupation of Mr Museveni is not how to lift people from humiliating poverty but simply how to hold onto and expand his power and wealth. The Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) and the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA)were elaborate (though inadequate) plans that largely remained on paper.
The people Gen Sejusa said were being framed in order to advance the “Muhoozi project” have either been moved or are on the way! Gen Sejusa is in UK, Gen Aronda is no longer CDF and PM Amama Mbabazi is still being isolated for possible annihilation. The people accused of framing them, Gens Saleh and Kayihura are firmly in the driver’s seat.
More soldiers will be brought into Government (political jobs) and civil service to contain them there. The patronage system will escalate in size and activity as 2016 draws near. Meantime, humiliating poverty will continue to reign across the country. Government books suggest that absolute poverty has fallen below 20% of population, the reality is certainly different.
Agriculture was the first of four priority areas for wealth creation in Mr Museveni’s State of the Nation address 2014. More than 70% of the population depend on Agriculture directly. However, in the 2014/15 budget, it has been provided Shs 440.7 billion only, equivalent to 2.9% of total budget. Even after heavy expenditure on Defence for 28 years, it’s provided 7.6% of total budget this year! Then there’s the ever-escalating cost of public administration.
Uganda is like a merchant ship that’s taken over by pirates. The interests of the pirates and the ship owners are at complete variance. Pirates will pursue nothing in the interest of the ship owners. The sooner Ugandans realise this, the earlier the possibility of regaining control.
When Ugandans regain control of the country and get an accountable government, then public resources will be spent according to their priorities. We have advocated for a long time now that funding to agriculture must be increased to at least10% of the budget.
Modernisation of agriculture would involve heavy investment in research, re-developing a producer and marketing cooperative system, effective extension services, agricultural equipment, irrigation infrastructure, improving soil fertility, and storage infrastructure, among others. Uganda can be transformed in a very short time!