Monday, April 18, 2011

We are on what? Standfast.

Over the past week here in Uganda things have been a little hectic to say the least. The opposition leaders who lost the Presidential Elections have teamed up for the month of April to partake in the 'Walk to Work' campaigns. So far there have been three demonstrations around the country with the third taking place today. The demonstrations have resulted in arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, real bullets and just over-all unrest. You see, the protests were in the form of 'Walk to Work Day' where people walked to work in protest of high gas prices and rising food prices, also known as inflation. Inflation in Uganda was probably caused by the government printing money arbitrarily to “fund” the election campaigns (side note: Musevini spent 3/4 of the annual budget between January and February). When the government has been in power for more than 20 years and can use government funds to back the party’s favorite candidates, and like other irresponsible monetary policy makers, when the government wants money it just prints it.

Short Econ Lesson:
1) Government wants money to do something (ex: build schools/buy failing company/fund campaign)
2) Government prints money (because they control the printing press)
3) Money goes into circulation
4) More money in circulation without added value to the economy makes the money worth less
5) Money is worth less so the price of other goods rises
6) Ta-da! Inflation!

Now people who had been saving money have x amount of shillings, the same as before, but they have less purchasing power than before. In severe cases, this can cause people to starve. That is why people are protesting. That is why the opposition is leading these 'walk to work' days. The government has had this miserable idea of arresting/shooting the opposing party and using the police/military force to shut down the protests. Problems with this method include:

1) Looking like an A-hole for shooting people walking to work (I mean really, the Lorax would walk)
2) Looking like an A-hole for messing with the opposition leaders in a less than polite way

I think it probably been better for the government to agree with the people that high prices aren't fair when due to government misuse, promise to separate party funds from government funds (aka people fund the politicians they like) and then allow (or join) the opposition in walking to work, thus unifying the country’s politics and look real mature. No burning tires required.

Today, opposition leaders Besigye, Mao, and Otuuno were all arrested while Jinja has stopped transportation going everywhere - boda boda drives and taxis are not running. Demonstrations in Gulu, Masaka, Kibale, Kampala, Jinja and now starting to move towards Mukono are taking place while NRM police lead opposition following close in toe.

Currently, Kayunga where I am living is quite. There are many people in town who do not agree with Musevini or the NRM, but who are nervous to start opposition movements due to the police presence here in Kayunga. In Bukoloto the next town over a group of people got together to express support for the 'Walk to Work' campaign and they were stopped immediately by police. For now Kayunga is safe and I am happy and healthy here at work and home in Nakalilo.

Peace Corps is keeping us up to date on what is happening in the surrounding areas of the country as well as having us all on Standfast. This means we must stay at our sites (where we live and work). Hopefully things calm down soon for the safety of Ugandas and others as well as so people can travel this upcoming holiday weekend.

If you would like to keep up to date on the 'Walk to Work' campaign and the happenings surrounding the events please click here.

Below is an article I would love to share with you from Uganda's President Museveni. It is a brilliant showing of how insightful, humble and caring for his people Musevini is (note: sarcasm):

1. "If you come and demonstrate in my farm here, I will spear you."
2. "I can see myself getting Nobel Peace Prize for managing the country, especially the army, very well."
3. "...if [Western forces] want another Vietnam, they will get it."

Enjoy - and be thankful no matter what your political beliefs are back home and how you feel about Obama that it could always be worse - thank the lord for democracy.

Demos won't topple me, we will defeat the West.
Daily Monitor April 18th, 2011

Ronald Ssekandi, Xinhua: Your Excellency, there have been demonstrations in town about the inflation and I am seeking your comment as the Head-of-State?

It is true inflation is going up. It was about 5 per cent; it is now going towards 11 per cent. The main factors seem to be food and fuel. There was some unreliable rain from August 2010 to January. Some of the crops did not do well.
There is also bigger food demand in the region. You people with your [Forum for Democratic Change party leader, Kizza] Besigye only think about the town people. When food prices go up, yes people in towns suffer but farmers are very happy. Farmers are wondering what Besigye is talking about. That prices have gone up is good for them.

This Besigye man during campaigns said the government has brought down the commodity prices. Now the agricultural commodity prices have gone up, he is complaining! What sort of person is Besigye? But anyway, that is Besigye. He does not make any sense to people who are serious. Yes, food prices have gone up but this is temporary because the rain is coming. So the problem of inflation will come down. In the long run, the solution to all this fluctuation is irrigation which we shall embark on in the 3rd or 4th year of the new government. We will first deal with electricity and want to increase the supply to 3,800 megawatts by 2016. Then work on the roads before launching irrigation.

Fuel is coming from abroad. In the next 2-3 years, we shall have our own fuel coming from Lake Albert. But up to now we are importing. I hear the price of a barrel of oil has gone to $135 (about Shs300,000). If you add on transport, by the time a litre of petrol gets to Eldoret, Kenya, it is about Shs2,300 per litre of crude petrol. Then you add other costs on the way, plus a small Shs850 tax of government. Now I hear a litre of petrol is Shs3,500. You can see that much of that is before Eldoret. The tax on diesel is smaller; Shs530 per litre.

Some people are saying we remove the tax. First of all the tax is small; it is not the main cost. Besides we need tax money to build those roads and develop the country. And we cannot subsidise consumption. When you get people who subsidise consumption, then you know that those people are headed for trouble. What I would call upon the public is to use sparingly some of this resource. Don’t drive going to bars… Therefore; the consumer must be sensitive and responsible for their personal budget. If things are expensive, then use less.

Now Besigye says he is going to demonstrate against inflation? Will the world prices go down because Besigye has demonstrated? We are going to deal with him; there will be no demonstration in Kampala. He will not. If you want to demonstrate, work with the police and they say; ‘pass here.’ The problem is that Besigye does not want to coordinate with the police. He wants to hold demonstrations without reference to anybody. If you come and demonstrate in my farm here, I will spear you.

We are seeing increasing neo-colonialism lately in Africa. The West is pushing out Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi from power. What is your comment on this development?
Europeans and Americans intervening militarily in Africa is a new phenomenon. Our immediate reaction was when our African Union Peace and Security Committee, of which Uganda is not a member, met in Addis Ababa before the UN Security Council March resolution was passed on Libya, opposed the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.
However, African countries (South Africa, Guinea and Nigeria) voted at the UN in favour of the resolution. When I spoke to President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, he told me that they voted for the resolution to put pressure on Gaddafi.
But when the Western countries started bombing Libya instead of concentrating on protecting civilians, then the Africans got together. So the present position of African Union is ceasefire in Libya, then talks. I have had a lot of problems with Gaddafi but when it comes to foreigners interfering in the affairs of Africa without the permission of the African Union, I cannot support it. The position of Africa is; leave Libya to the Libyans to solve.

Tabu Butagira, Daily Monitor: Mr President, I am impressed you are encouraging dialogue in Libya. You worked in the past very closely with Dr Besigye; he was your personal physician in the bush. Why is it impossible for you, the two principals, to sit and talk so we don’t have this unnecessary tension and deaths during demonstrations?

Discuss with Besigye what? What are we going to discuss? Discuss what now? May be you could give me the idea. What politics? We don’t want to form a coalition government with Besigye because I have got too many NRM people to deal with. We are the majority in Parliament.
So discuss what now? Possibly, there is already an Inter-party forum created so that if there are some issues like how to organise elections, or things which affect all the parties, we can discuss them in that forum. (A journalist interjects: but both of you don’t attend). But I am the one who launched it in 2006. I can attend it any time; it is attended by the parties’ secretary-generals. I can attend; there is no problem at all. But we cannot discuss politics. What we can discuss are some national issues, for instance, oil, government funding political parties, Somalia, et cetera. But bilateral discussions between NRM and FDC parties; I don’t see what that would be because we don’t want to form an alliance with FDC. What would the discussion be about?

Tabu Butagira, Daily Monitor: Since September 2009 pro-Kabaka riots, followed by the Kasubi Tombs burning riots in March 2010 and again on Thursday in Gulu District, people have died allegedly of gunshot wounds. But there is no prosecution and a culture of impunity is developing among the armed forces because they know they won’t be punished. Does it worry you that perhaps when you are no longer the president, you could be prosecuted for the deaths of civilians since you are the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces?
I doubt very much, Mr Butagira, that in the world, that there is any group that is as accountable as NRM. Because since we came from the bush, we have condemned 123 soldiers to death because of killing civilians. I doubt if anybody has got such a record in the world. The Kasubi riots you are talking about, we don’t know who actually shot people. Because of the indiscipline of some people it is not easy to know who shot. That is what happens when you create this type of situation.
Museveni being worried about being prosecuted afterwards, I can see myself getting Nobel Peace Prize for managing the country, especially the army, very well.

Maurice Mugisha, NTV Uganda. On the demonstrations in Kampala, I would like to pick your mind is it really just about the food and fuel prices or is there another plan by the opposition.
I think it is more about the bankruptcy of the opposition. Because what other plan (chuckles)? (A journalist suggests mass uprising to topple the government). Aaaaaaaah! We had elections, the opposition lost. You think you can change that by anything else? There is no other plan. If they had other plan, it is an idiotic plan. It will never work. I always read this rubbish in the intelligence reports – that Besigye is planning this, Besigye is planning that. He is planning nothing, nothing, bure, bure bure (Kiswahili word for nothing). It is not possible, theirs is idiocy.
For us we shall deal with it for you because you entrusted us, very capable hands, to deal with that idiocy. It is true they are using any pretext to cause trouble but to cause trouble for nothing.
Unfortunately, you the media become accomplices. You are giving live coverage to Besigye’s idiocy as if it was a football match. That encourages some of those shallow people to think that this is the way forward. His plans are like unfertilised eggs.

Shifa Mwesigye, The Observer: What is your reaction on the brutal way in which the police handled the public; picking them from their homes and tear-gassing school children, and shooting at a pregnant woman (Brenda Nalwendo)?
I need to study each case; I haven’t studied it very carefully. Was this pregnant woman in the demonstration? (Journalists say she was going for antenatal checkup and got trapped). The police and I are preoccupied with controlling Besigye from passing through crowded places where 300 people move with him – of course he has no control over them - and they begin stealing things other people are selling.
That is why we have politely begged these people; if you want to demonstrate agree with the people so that we can see which route to pass.
Of course, some of these police may also be indisciplined. I have given orders to everyone to know what to do. Why do you follow somebody if they have gone into their houses? Leave them. Unless you saw somebody killing someone and in this case you follow to arrest him.
In Gulu District, three people were killed because the police there were not prepared and the army that came in is not used to this type of civilian issues and that is how we ended up losing some people. But we are going to be ready everywhere in the country to stop this nonsense.

You saw the embarrassing way in which former Ivory Coast President Laurent Ggabgo was ousted and picked from his home. What is your reaction to that? Doesn’t it worry you?

The issue of Ivory Coast is a complicated story because there are long-standing conflicts between some political groups in the North and South. I have not been following it myself until when I went to South Africa, just before the February 18 election, when President Zuma briefed me because he was on that committee. It was clear that this was a complicated situation, it wasn’t so simple.
Eventually the AU committee which was involved recognised Alassane Ouattara as the one who had won the election. They recommended that he leads the formation of a government of national unity. Before that happened then the French came in (and) I have not known how they came in or under whose authority they came.
Foreign troops coming into Africa without the permission of the AU is not accepted. We are going to deal with it. Because when it happened in the past, the results were always negative.
Can the European troops go and intervene in Africa? No, they will not. Because we will not allow it and if they want another Vietnam, they will get it.
My reaction is it will stop. We defeated colonialism in the past, and this one also will be defeated. So those traitors who are banking on that, they would rather get something more useful for themselves to do.

Grace Matsiko, AFP: Could you give us a background to the acquisition of the Shs1.7 trillion fighter jets and have they arrived in the country yet?
The second-hand planes we have been buying and overhauling have got a limited range. Like the other time we went to operate against Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we could not reach him quickly. That’s how he survived and fled. So we acquired the jet fighters for two reasons; complete our plan for a smaller but better equipped army which we started in 1991, and secondly to give ourselves a better capacity so that we have a longer arm. You think it is a bad idea? Peace is the foundation for the economy to grow. Thirdly, because this is new equipment, we are now going on holiday, we are not going to buy new equipment for the next 20 years.

Daniel arap-Moi, WBS TV: Parliament last week exonerated your key ministers implicated in the Chogm scam and the media quoted you as directing the Prime Minister to punish these people. No action has been taken. What is your take on the talk that your government has no political will to fight corruption?
I only fight wars I am clear about. I could see there were some suspicious things but there was no proof. My original advice to these people who are involved was that why don’t you leave the investigations to IGG? But because people were fighting political wars so that the one you hate politically is smeared, they continued. That political ‘shadow-boxing’ has now concluded with nothing. If some money was stolen, is it the work of Parliament to investigate? Why not get the professionals such as the IGG, accountants and the police to catch the thief properly. It is just a circus. The IGG will continue (with the Chogm investigations) and if the IGG finds out; you will see what I am going to do.

Joshua Mmali, BBC: The Activists for Change group is promising to push with the demonstrations every Monday and Thursday?
(Museveni interrupts: Activists for Change; what change according to you BBC?)
Mmali: Maybe you could ask them, Your Excellency. But how exactly are you going to deal with them because they are going to carry on with the campaign?
No, they will not. The law of Uganda will stop them. If they think they will change the government of Uganda unconstitutionally, are you one of the witnesses to prove that? If you are a witness, I can even charge you with the offence of misprision of treason. If you want to demonstrate peacefully, inform the police. But there will be no illegal demonstrations.

Siraje Kalyango, BBC Kiswahili. It is said your May 12 swearing-in ceremony will cost Shs3b and if that is true, why don’t you do a simple ceremony at Parliament?
Parliament has approved Shs3 billion but I have told some people to tell me if we really need all that three billion. If we don’t, then we shall use less, save and do something else. But I have invited quite a number of African leaders. This is just not for ceremony; this is for business.

So you can call that swearing-in “economic swearing-in” (laughs heartily). You are just talking about things you don’t know. If only you could have some little humility and know that there are also some intelligent people somewhere who plan things, you could save yourself a lot of trouble. Since we hosted Chogm in 2007, I think we are now earning something like $1 billion from Tourism annually.

You think when I bring foreigners, I bring them to only look at them? It is business. These people are the ones who control decisions in their country – when they come, we discuss politics and business. When a man like Museveni is chairing a meeting, this man is not known to be an idiot (chuckles). But somebody comes, talks as if all the other people are fools except himself! Hmmnnn! Be careful! But of course these bureaucrats can use it (swearing-in budget) to put something here and there which is not necessary and I totally agree. That is why I told Parliament you study it quietly; do not go to the newspapers.

Halima Othman, Uganda Radio Network: As President, does it concern you that we don’t have fuel and food reserves unlike in the past?
Uganda has financial reserves which are easier to look after than grain reserves because grain reserves, there is a cost involved in keeping it. If it became absolutely necessary to buy food, we would buy it. There are people who are arguing that we should interfere with the export of food to neighbouring countries, which is a wrong argument because it will suppress us, we the farmers.
That means you will deny us selling to all these buyers in the region and you will make us your slaves to keep selling to you the ones in Kampala only. This will turn Ugandan farmers into ‘captives’ - that we only sell food to these Kampala people who are playing matatu (cards). That will discourage farming.

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