Fellow Ugandans and Members of the press, it is my pleasure to inform you that preparations to celebrate the National Resistance Army/National Resistance Movement’s 31st anniversary are in high gear.
This year’s celebrations will be held in Masindi Town at the Golf and Sports Club grounds. The Chief Guest will be His Excellency General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. We also expect dignitaries from within the region and overseas.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “UGANDA’S SUCCESS STORY UNDER NRA/NRM LEADERSHIP IS A SHARED VICTORY.” The NRA/NRM Victory is a shared victory because building this nation has involved many stakeholders including the wanainchi at the grassroots to whom the country actually belongs.
By the time the NRA/NRM took over the mantle of leadership, this blessed country of ours was on the verge of collapsing. It was a perfect example of a failed African state, it may not have reached the likes of Somalia of 2006 but we should all accept that Uganda had degenerated into irremediable political and socio-economic doldrums; got infected with the scourge of HIV/AIDS; blatant extra-judicial killings and complete disregard of the rule law and order even by the guarantors of the law. The story of the woes of Uganda of that time is too well known to warrant any repeated mention.
Of course, 31 years of life can be a long time for some people but the memories of life before 1986 is still very fresh in the hearts and minds of many Ugandans that were of age then, even some of us that were small then at least remember “Panda Gari” and “Dukaduka”. For those that may not be well conversant with the conditions of the day, let me take this opportunity to remind them of the country’s sorrowful state prevailing at the time, by gauging from a few dismal economic and social pointers as of 1986:
- Gross National Product had fallen by 25% between 1969 and 1986.
- There was an acute shortage of essential commodities which were bought either through Government allocation or on “Magendo” (black market) price basis. To access some essential commodities for example one had to get a chit from a government minister or a well-placed General in the military. Today even a four-year old can be sent to a nearby shop to buy mobile phone airtime.
- Inflation was 216%, it is now in single digits.
- Collapse of state machinery and infrastructure; e.g. the power generation at Jinja had fallen to less than half of the installed 180 Megawatts capacity, today total production is well above 850 Megawatts far above the total 500 megawatts national peak hour demand.
- Infant mortality was 122 per 1,000 live births, currently it is below 60 per 1,000 live births and it is on the decline.
- HIV/ AIDS prevalence rate was so high, now at 7%.
- Provision of clean water was at 15% in urban and 10% in rural areas. Now above 65% Nationwide.
- Life expectancy was 43 years, this has increased to 62 years now according to World Health Organization data.
The figures and developmental indicators of the time were so miserable. An unbiased critic once observed, it was a situation even where angels feared to tread. Nonetheless, the NRM and the People of Uganda dared it, reversed it and have continued to sustain the progress – hence a shared victory!
Let us have a flash back of our country before 1986, an independent nation with Militias marauding across the country each controlling whatever swathe they could protect using their guns. The army or what was left of it had become a symbol of terror, with soldiers terrorizing citizens at roadblocks with outright extortion, littering the highways and raping women. In many places, dusk meant people entering their houses and locking them up unsure of what the night portends.
A nearly-broken revenue system meant the government annually collected only Shs5 billion (yes 5 billion) in taxes. Basics like sugar, salt, soap had become rare, a preserve for the “connected” or accessed on the black market at astronomical costs. Only 16% of the country’s population had access to clean water. A total of 122 children of every 1,000 would die before celebrating their first birth day. Adult illiteracy stood at 58% (over half of adult population was illiterate).
This was our Uganda by January 1986. It is the Uganda that the NRA/NRM led by General Museveni inherited after a five-year struggle.
Reversing the above pertaining conditions has not been an easy match, it has not been a bed of roses, it has been a long journey of 31 years, it has been a journey of focused leadership of the NRM government and a dedicated citizenry that is committed to the rule of law, a citizenry that realized that in order to prosper our tribal, religious, gender differences must be put aside. A citizenry that has realized that defiance can only tear us apart as a nation, a citizenry that has embraced government programmes, a citizenry that actively participates in regular democratic elections to decide on who to lead them, a citizenry that has realized that education is a tool that has the power to change the course of life of their children and course of the nation. To steadily maintain a positive rate of sustainable social-economic growth there is need for continued active participation of all Ugandans.
For all this long, the main macroeconomic objectives of Government that have been steadily pursued without any policy reversals or deviations but of course with adjustments to suit the circumstances of the time, the objectives have been: to ensure rapid real GDP growth, to keep consumer price inflation to five percent or below, to maintain a prudent level of foreign reserves, and to ensure that the real exchange rate is compatible with a competitive external sector.
World Bank Reports have variously praised Uganda’s performance “Since the late 1980s, the government has pursued a series of stabilization and pro-market structural reforms, resulting in a sustained period of high growth and poverty reduction from 1987”.
In the last 31 years, the National Resistance Movement has made tremendous contributions to the development of our country and it is on a steady progress. Among the achievements, I will mention just a few in the interest of time;
In terms of Infrastructural development –all corners of the country can be accessed by tarmac from Busia on the border with Kenya to Kisoro on the border with Rwanda, to Kasese, to Fort Portal, to Lamia, to Vurra on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Mutukula on the border with Tanzania; from Malaba on the border with Kenya to Arua, to Oraba and soon up to Musingo on the border with South Sudan, from Malaba to Nakapiripiriti through Moroto etc. Other road projects such as those under the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and Community Access Infrastructure Programme (CAIP) are being implemented across the country. The NRM has tarmacked over 4000 km country wide. The standard gauge railway is also in the pipe line.
Energy infrastructure, before 1986 the Owen Falls Dam the only dam at the time produced well below installed capacity of 180 megawatts, the NRM government through Bujagali and Kiira power dams has added substantial megawatts of power onto the national grid and in the next 3-4 years after the completion of Isimba and Karuma we shall have over 1,500 megawatts. Several other smaller power dams are being developed. Currently, through the rural electrification programme large sections of the country side is connected on the national grid. We should also note that government is promoting alternative energy sources such as biogas and solar at household level through the private sector. For example the Soroti Solar Power Station, the proposed 50 megawatts Namugoga Solar Power Station near Kajjansi, the proposed 10 megawatt Tororo Wind Power Station etc. The biggest challenge in this sector are the tariffs that government is working on to ensure that they are affordable even by our rural wanainchi.
In the health sector, the NRM government has over the years reduced infant mortality to below 60, increased universal immunization against immunize-able diseases, provision of free ARVs to persons infected with HIV/Aids, rehabilitating, re-equipping and building of new health centres up to sub-county level and a conducive policy and regulatory framework that has encouraged private sector participation in provision of health services. Before 1986, one would be arrested for having even a very a small bottle of ppf or quinine. The biggest challenge in the health sector today however is the high demand for quality services, some sections of the population would love to have health services comparable to those in Europe and USA forgetting the historical circumstances that gave rise to our nation and those nations.
In education, the rolling out of the Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education as tools of social transformation of society. The re-skilling Uganda programme through the establishment of vocational training schools, creation of a conducive environment for private sector investment in education at all levels etc.
Security, this has been a pillar of the NRM government. In the past 31 years our armed forces through counter insurgency operations have pacified the whole and at the moment the country is exporting peace to our brothers and sisters in neighboring countries of Somalia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. The harmony and discipline exhibited by our armed forces show the evolution of the nation in the right direction. The peaceful transition of leadership within the ranks and file of the armed forces also shows the cohesion and respect for the rule of law in this country.
Economic Stability, the NRM government has ensured macro-economic stability even during the global economic crisis period. At the moment, the major pre-occupation of government is stabilization of household incomes and this is being handled through Operation Wealth Creation, the Youth Livelihood Programme, the Women Entrepreneurs Fund, the Elders grant etc.
At the regional and international level, Uganda has worked vigorously for the deeper integration of the East African Community, strong participation in other regional organizations such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), cooperation with the Southern Africa Development Co-operation (SADC). Active participation in African Union activities and Uganda is the biggest troop contributor to the African Mission in Somalia and upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter and our other international obligations.
Finally, the above success did not start by accident but, by the NRA/NRM leadership mobilizing the wanainchi to work together. Togetherness has been a key strategy since the bush war days and it will remain so for our future development.
The entire NRM leadership under General Yoweri Museveni dedicates this victory to you all Ugandans. Thank you for being a part of this success story and I implore you to keep working hard and participating in nation building. We should together tackle the challenges of corruption, delivery of quality services for the betterment of our nation. This is your victory first and then a victory for the NRA/NRM leadership for having led with such clear vision.
Wishing you a Happy New Year 2017 and Peaceful Celebrations
For God and My Country.
Esther Mbayo Mbulakubuza (MP)
Minister for the Presidency