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UPDF will crush, crash Uganda’s agriculture

Ikebesi Omoding

UPDF will crush, crash Uganda’s agriculture

When my colleague read this Tuesday’s headlines in the main dailies, he laughed out loud, pointing them out to me. I asked him what was so funny about that; and still sputtering with amusement, he explained with incredulity.

“Army to take charge of agriculture?” he questioned further. “That’s a joke of the last 28 years.” He said there were basically two reasons, possibly three, but first he told me a story. In Egypt, the army has taken charge of manufacturing their jeeps under the auspices of the Chrysler motor company of the US. They also sell some on the civilian market. Now the newly-elected Egyptian pharaoh, Gen./President Abdel Fatah El Sisi says that all manufacturing industry in the country will come under the army.

“That Sisi was elected with a ‘landslide’ of 97% with a voter turn-out of less than 46% tells the story. By banning the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group means that more than half the Egyptian population is not only disenfranchised, but officially it is no longer there,” my colleague added. That is the position of megalomania!

The catch is that the civilian/cum military government will not reveal any of the records and accountability, even to Parliament. As one commentator put it: the issue of the army control of manufacturing is like a locked box in a dark room. “Not only can a person not see what is in the room, but you don’t even know that there is anything in the room despite being told that it is there.”

Ditto here. How many army projects have succeeded? My colleague heatedly asked me. But before I could even answer, he said, “None that I know of, maybe you do.” I left it at that.

There is no accountability: the reason given is that of state security. Any explanation that is given will be on that basis and no one can question it. If you do, you come under all kinds of accusations bandied against you, most likely that you are a terrorist. So any failure will be termed a success. Figures will be “cooked” up to justify that, even if there is no physical evidence to it.

 If you don’t believe it you will be labeled unpatriotic; or worse, imprisoned. But for a soldier who will be manning such a project, it will be enough to give him an order to shut up on the pain of being court-martialled, and if found guilty, shot.

Secondly, even if the army is well-meaning, the amount budgeted for agriculture, at 4% of the national budget, is woefully insufficient to jerk up agriculture to the level that it will lift the population out of the less-than-one-dollar-a-day syndrome. Uganda is signatory to all kinds of international undertakings meant to benefit the people but none of them are ever implemented, just like the local policies. For agriculture, it has been a song that Uganda signed the Maputo Declaration of 2003 that required those countries to allocate at least 10% of the budget to agriculture, but despite talk and more talk, nobody in government has ever given a damn.

Economists and their agricultural counterparts have urged government on this score until their throats have pained, but to no avail. What is going to be different this time round? Merely saying so? Blaming NAADS per se will not do; the whole edifice of NRM control has failed.

Thirdly, appointing Gen. Salim Saleh as the super minister of agriculture/cum defense, is begging the same issue of the failed control. He will merely be replacing the LC system in the villages with soldiers; and if those in NAADS have “eaten enough money” before, what will stop soldiers from going on to eat enough for themselves, too?  Actually, they must be drooping with saliva at the announcement. By the way isn’t it the same Saleh who wanted to resign from all government positions? Isn’t agriculture a government undertaking?

There is a story about Gulu NUSAF officials “eating” money some years ago when the project was introduced in the North; and the same Saleh is said to have quietly gone to find out how the money was eaten. It is said that he found the official had known before hand of his going, and hightailed to Moroto. Saleh is said to have duly followed the official to Karamoja: then the trail goes dead.

Since now Saleh is going to head these governments projects he should first tell us what happened to the NUSAF money and the official. Otherwise, President Yoweri Museveni’s Heroes’ Day announcement will go like all the NRM projects: hot air! 



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Ikebesi Omoding is the acclaimed author of a weekly column titled: From the Outside Looking In

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