Bad governance: Wealth being donated to the West

I have received your letter of March 21, 2005 in which you say that you will withhold some amount of money that you had promised to us following “governance assessment” after your High Commissioner’s meeting with our ministers, including our Prime Minister. Right Honourable Benn, I want you to know that I have a real problem with this paternalistic arrangement of the “donor” and “beggar” relationship.

As I told the G8 leaders during the G8 summit of 2004 on Sea Island, Georgia, US, where your Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was present, the real “donors” to the Western countries are the Africans who sell their unprocessed coffee, cotton, leather, gold, etc at 10 per cent of their supermarket value.

In other words, in every kilogramme of coffee, we donate at least $9 to Western countries, including Britain, which hosts the Nestle factories that use the coffee of the backward countries to generate money and employment for your people.

IT IS not entirely the fault of the former imperialist countries that backward states like Uganda were colonised. It is also the fault of our chiefs, who so divided our people that they could not defend our sovereignty. It is also the fault of many of the post-independence leaders of Africa who have failed to transform our economies and end Africa’s balkanisation in order to create power bloks on our continent with global influence when it comes to our legitimate interests.

What I find unacceptable, however, is for some of you to continue to think ‘ and even say ‘ that because of the modest sums you give a country like Uganda, you are entitled to exercise suzerainty over our sovereignty issues ‘ foreign

affairs, politics and defence ‘ our persistent but polite rejections of that position notwithstanding.

When we met last in Bombo, Uganda, I told you that, much as we may need some aid, in the short run, that support will not be productive if we do not insist on our independence in decision making. If we continue accepting positions we know are wrong, we would be committing other people’s mistakes in our names.

I must have told you, then, that if dependence and subservience were to be factors in development, then Black Africa should be the most developed part of the globe since we have had the greatest dosages of that debasement ‘ the slave trade, colonialism, etc.Point out to me one single Black African country that has transitioned because of that “aid” from the West in the past 48 years since Ghana’s independence in 1957.

I have always felt that we could put the nasty history of the relationship between Europe and Africa, behind us. I have, however, told all of you repeatedly that “trade, not aid will develop Africa.”

I was most pleased when US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, working with our supporters in the US ‘ the Black Caucus and Senator Bill Frist ‘ finally promulgated the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act law. I have described that law as the greatest act of solidarity between Africa and the West in the past 500 years. This is not an extravagant statement. The EBA of the European Union is also a good initiative.

You refer to the ‘800 million that you have contributed to Uganda’s recovery since 1986. Thank you very much. You need to know, however, that on account of the decline of coffee beans ‘ raw-material form ‘ prices, Uganda has had a cumulative loss of $16 billion in coffee export earnings alone.

In 1986, when our export crop was 2 million bags, we earned $4,500 million. Our export crop is currently 4 million bags. However, we are earning only $100 million. I am here talking of coffee beans which is a raw material; I am not talking of processed coffee, which, at the minimum, earns 10 times the value of the raw-material in the final retail market.

Who is impeding the industrialisation process in Uganda? The meddling by donors is part of the problem. They interfered with our counter-terrorism effort by constraining our modest defence expenditure, they forced us to scrap tax

holidays on which we had agreed with them before.

They constrain, if not banish altogether, our state’s possible intervention to kick-start industrial enterprises and yet foreign investors have now the whole globe open to them. They interfered with our energy development by forcing us to sequence the construction of dams rather than our preferred option of building two dams simultaneously.

You talk of “governance assessment” after your High Commissioner meeting our ministers, which resulted in the arrogant statement from your High Commissioner that, “the beggar has not qualified for his next meal.”

Did our Ministers endorse this assessment? Obviously not. It is, therefore, your unilateral assessment of us. Who assesses your performance in the UK? What rights do the British have to access governance in Uganda? You were here for 70 years as colonialists the first, very poorly organised, general election was in 1961.

Idi Amin, the monster that caused so much damage to Uganda, after almost 70 years of using our people in imperialist adventures, was one of the first two Ugandans your government sent to junior army training in 1958. What, then, gives credence to your position of assessor?

Right Honourable, I have tried, in the past, to be polite, which we call “obufura” in my mother-tongue. It seems, however, the politeness is not well understood in the West. In fact, some of the words do not exist in our languages.

Since you are spending the British tax-payers’ money, you are, of course entitled to know that the money is not stolen by the officials of the recipient country.

That is why I do not mind discussing with you corruption issues, either privately or publicly. Extrajudicial killings by state officials would also not be acceptable to any civilised community.

If I had aid, I would not extend it to such a government.

A government that does not practice democracy by having regular elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage by secret

ballot would not merit my support if I had aid to give. Economic mismanagement, leading to inflation, would not endear an aid recipient to me.

Beyong those four reference points, I would not be wise to interfere with the internal affairs of other people.

An American politician almost got into trouble on account of a rumour that his campaign had got a donation from the government of China. It is not correct to interference in the internal affairs of other people.

What would you say if I were to fund the Conservative Party candidates in your election? Would they be representing the British people or my interests?

Yes, governance can influence development. The question is: Who is qualified to judge what is or is not good governance? Does a freedom fighter like myself have ability to know what good governance is or is it a monopoly of British ministers and the British High Commissioner in Kampala?

Since you are in the habit of cutting off aid after your unilateral assessment, why don’t you cut off aid for our delay in adding value to coffee, cotton, beef, milk, cereals, gold, cobalt, etc? This is the real bad governance; leaders who continue donating the wealth of Africa to outsiders while their people are wallowing in poverty, without employment etc.

Why do your conditionalities for aid not include chastising leaders who are so myopic that they do not see the fallacy of only exporting raw materials? Our Movement has never made a strategic mistake in the past 35 years. We have made some tactical mistakes mainly because of the pressure of others. We always recover from those mistakes.

If we made a tactical mistake in thinking that countries like Britain were interested in a new relationship with African countries based on partnerships, rather than suzerainty, then it is time to review that relationship.

What Uganda and Africa need most is independence in decision-making, not subservience, satellite status or a dependency status. ‘ The East African (Nairobi).

September 2006
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