The approach to development in Uganda for the last 33 years has been the “Destroy and then Build” approach. This approach is wasteful in terms of resources -physical resources, time, energy and money -and is wrought with corruption. What haven’t we destroyed and then started building new entities or structures, believing we are developing?
We destroyed our public enterprises.
We destroyed our public transport system, which was seen in Uganda Transport Company and Uganda People’s Transport for many years.
We destroyed our railway transport system and virtually collapsed Uganda Railways.
We destroyed the Coffee and Cotton growing enterprises and associated value addition and the boards that run them.
We destroyed Jinja as the industrial town of East Africa and are now fidgeting to rebuild it.
We destroyed our cooperative movement and associated cooperative bank, and are now fidgeting to reestablish them.
We destroyed the people’s bank, Uganda Commercial Bank, sold it and allowed Kenya Commercial Bank to operate in Uganda.
We destroyed our health care system and rebuilding it has proved as difficult as going to heaven.
We destroyed our chain of Uganda hotels and gave the hotels almost free to individuals, and we have been destroying our tourist industry by destroy, among other things, sites of tourist attraction. Besides, the tourist industry is very sensitive to sociopolitical instability. We are eroding sociopolitical stability by stressing retention of power, and by so doing, creating hotspots for future chaos.
We have destroyed our once excellent traditional schools and replaced them in stature with what we thought was an innovation -private schools -to service the profit motive.
We have continued to destroy our forests, preferring grass, principally sugarcane and the false tree called oil palm tree yet it is a grass which pretends to be a tree; or else we have replaced natural forests and deceived ourselves that when we replace them with plantains of foreign tree species of pine and Eucalyptus, we are reestablishing forests.
We have destroyed our natural seed and corrupted them with stupid genome, deceiving ourselves that we are improving quality of food.
We have destroyed our River Nile by burdening it with dams whose real value in the long term is not easy to see, and the stout quantities of electricity from them is more than imaginary.
We have destroyed our Lake Victoria by polluting it and thereby throwing numerous species of fish into extinction; and we have also destroyed it by destroying its banks, which were the breeding sites for most fish species.
We are destroying our fresh water resources in the oil region, along with the the forests that renew them, preferring to exploit the heavy oil, which was know almost ten years ago to last for only 30 years.
We are planning to effect a 1997 plan to cover the whole of Northern Uganda and three quarters of Eastern Uganda with plantations of Oil palm similar to those in Kalangala. These will definitely disrupt community life and lead to population displacements and treks to towns and cities; or else to genocide by other means.
And now some Ugandans are celebrating because government has acquired two huge planes. But we destroyed our original airline, Uganda Airline, at a time when it was less expensive than today to run such airline. We preferred to give the airline to an individual to profit from a public property. Now we believe we are building a new airline. Should I also celebrate? No please. It is deception to destroy and then hope to build an airline. It has been already too expensive for the taxpayer to acquire the planes. With so much corruption eating up the ethicomoral fabric of the country, time will tell if corruption will not bring the airline down. I know you will say I am too pessimistic. But it is the same regime that destroyed everything else, and allowed corruption to grow supersonically, thereby retarding the rebuilding of what was destroyed, that has acquired the planes and has appointed or will appoint those among its cadres to run the airline. Mediocrity is can ever present threat to Ugandan development.
For God and My Country
Prof Oweyagha Afunaduula is a former Makerere University lecturer and environmentalist. This article first appeared on Prof. Afunaduula’s facebook wall.