Searching for Sustainability
Uganda, an East African country about the size of Oregon, has often been referred to as the poster child of Sub-Saharan development, but lately this title has been questioned. In the 1980s, its charismatic president, Yoweri Museveni, led the country out of civil war and created reforms that reduced poverty and disease. However, the leader has been in power for over 25 years and his rule has become increasingly authoritarian. Over the last decade, Uganda’s government has run off of a patronage scheme funded by foreign aid, but rising corruption has made donors withdraw. Museveni now looks for revenue in the early stages of a local oil industry and in partnering with the United States military in the war against terror. This may bring economic prosperity and security to the country, but how the Ugandan people will benefit must be critically examined. For quality of life in Uganda to improve, the current aid flows must be frankly assessed and a grassroots approach must be implemented.
A Success Story
At face value, Uganda is a success story of how, with the help of foreign assistance, a country can rise from the shambles of conflict and disease to develop into a modern state. Thirty years of brutal dictatorship and civil war followed after Uganda’s independence from Great Britain in 1961. On its heels came an HIV/AIDS epidemic and twenty more years of guerilla attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army. However, Uganda’s charismatic president Yoweri Museveni has done much to achieve stability in the tiny East African country. After leading his National Resistance Army and Movement to victory against Milton Obote in 1986, Museveni called for an end to tribalism and for the promotion of democracy (Mwenda, 2007). He embraced the structural adjustment programs of the World Bank and the IMF and quickly became the darling of the international community who guided him towards holding regular multi-party elections (IMF & IDA, 2010; Joseph, 1999). Museveni’s aggressive campaign against HIV/AIDS led to a 10% drop in the infection rate (AVERT, 2011). In 2009, his soldiers chased Joseph Kony’s LRA out of Uganda and refugees have begun to return to their homes in the North. An estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil have been discovered in western Uganda that could further infuse revenue into the economy (Moro, 2011). The numbers certainly indicate that there has been progress. Uganda’s poverty rate dropped from 56% in 1993 to 25% in 2010, surpassing the Mlllenium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. It has also moved forward in reducing food insecurity, providing universal primary education, and gender parity (World Bank, 2011).