Dear Hon. Paul Williams, MP for Stockton South, UK. On Tuesday, last week, I watched with a mixture of amusement, pity and outright pain as you addressed your colleagues on the subject of “Democracy in Uganda”.
In the build-up to the Tuesday address, using your Twitter handle and “friendly” press in Uganda, you had given us the impression that this was going to be a debate like no other.
Of course, the Ugandan constituency (the Opposition) whose interests you promote and bankroll, deployed their online forces in ensuring the build-up was trending.
The House of Commons, we were told, was going to drop all issues pressing the UK now (Brexit is an obvious one) and focus their energies on how “democracy is on the decline in Uganda”.
A daily newspaper here in Kampala did not only offer the splash headline to market your much-billed debate, but also granted you acres of prime space in which you gave a preamble to what was going to be the “discussion of the century”.
The same newspaper was quick to highlight how Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi, the supposed leader of the People Power movement, was to be a special guest at this sitting, basically as a support actor in your cast. Of course, he was a no-show.
With this hype, it was, therefore, comical when the videostream of the debate came through only for us to see a handful, not more than 10 MPs, purportedly debating your item, which we also learnt had been downgraded to third and last on the agenda of a lazy afternoon.
I have watched numerous debates in the House of Commons, especially the exciting PMQs. We all know what a debate in the House of Commons feels like. Truth is you conned your friends and media in Uganda and elsewhere.
This was no debate. It was a monologue of you, Dr Paul Williams, trying to exhibit what you think is an authoritative appreciation of the subject of democracy and human rights in Uganda.
It turns out, this authority is premised on the four years you spent in Uganda working as a volunteer health officer. It was such a critical grounding that it now makes you an expert on Uganda, to the extent that as you went about your diatribe, you had the guts to keep talking of your views as the “voice of Ugandans”.
You are not the first. We have seen many of your type who, after spending a few weeks in Africa as tourists or volunteers or whatever else, they return to their home countries and write and become overnight authorities on Africa.
You are simply keeping a tradition that dates back to your forefathers who came here as colonialists and slave traders. You are the modern-day version of these know-it-all masters who believe they can stand on an imaginary Mt Sinai and issue edicts to Africa, like Moses did with the Israelites.
In your so-called debate, you attack everything about the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government and President Yoweri Museveni. You rubbish our health system, attack our democracy and pour scorn on our security agencies, going to lengths to try and discredit the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), which you claim has committed “atrocities”.
The Uganda you tried to paint on that Tuesday afternoon is not the Uganda majority Ugandans know. We have never pretended that ours is an El Dorado, but neither can we be blind to the progress Uganda has made in the last three decades.
What you negatively consider as “longevity” of the NRM regime, has actually been a period of stability that has enabled this country not only recover from a tragic political past, but establish a foundation for prosperity that is beginning to flourish.
Let me give you some quick pointers. In these three decades, Uganda’s electricity generation has moved from 60MW to now more than 1,000MW. By 2020, we shall have 1,683MW. In the 30 years, our country’s revenue collection has moved from a paltry sh5b to now sh15 trillion.
Where we had one university, we now boast of over 30 accredited universities, 10 of them public. Our literacy rates have shot up, from below 45% three decades back, to now above 70%.
Today, over eight million children who would be out of primary school due to unavailability of school fees are studying, courtesy of a universal education scheme.
The Government you dismiss has presided over one of the longest and highest economic growth rates in this part of the world, averaging above 6%, for over two decades, even when the sub-Saharan average has been half of that.
And because of these correct policies, for the first time in decades, Uganda is enjoying a favourable balance of trade, earning more from our exports in the region than we are spending on imports. I could go over and over.
In your theatric performance, you claimed to bemoan Uganda’s lack of democracy. That is laughable. Uganda’s democracy is vibrant and thriving. Election results are a reflection of the people’s will and choice.
That explains why, despite campaigning hard in some areas, President Museveni or his preferred candidates, have lost. There are examples in Kampala city, Rukungiri, Jinja and several other areas. Is it only democratic when the President loses, but it is undemocratic when he wins?
Whereas some of your claptrap is tolerable, it is your attack on our army, which is most despicable about your submission. You need a crash course on Uganda’s military history to understand why the UPDF looks godsend.
Lacking in ideological grounding, the armies preceding the current administration had become tools of oppression, extortion and represented state decay and failure. The UPDF is perhaps one of the most disciplined forces on this continent.
It is not surprising that as you went about talking ill about our army, one of your colleagues had to interject and demand that you give due credit, especially for the UPDF’s role in pacifying Somalia. It is just not Somalia.
Uganda’s peace and stability, which has resultantly caused progress in other sectors, such as the economy and social sphere, has everything to do with the disciplined army that is the UPDF. Numerous surveys show that the public lists the UPDF as the most trusted institution.
Whatever your interests, the earlier you disabused yourself of the notion that you can sit in the comfort of your London sitting room and ferment trouble for Uganda, the better.
Uganda’s political destiny and who leads them is a matter of Ugandans to decide. Rather than lie to your acolytes in Kampala that you can help them rise to power through inconsequential debates in London, tell them to go mobilise and market their agenda to Ugandans.
Also, teach them that political leadership comes with discipline and responsibility. I saw you talk about the Arua incident. It would be good to know how many times you have mobilised your supporters to stone Prime Minister Theresa May’s convoy to show dissatisfaction with her.
In brief, to think of getting power out of constitutional means is political somnambulism and it would be best to come out of that reverie soonest.
The writer is the Senior Press Secretary to His Excellency the President