Uganda is one of the stars of African development. President Yoweri Museveni tells us how

Uganda is now seen as one of Africa's most stable nations, a remarkable achievement given its situation in 1986. However, your opponents claim that this stability has been bought at the expense of democratic rights. Is this criticism justified?

This stability has been achieved through the hard work and sweat of the National Resistance Movement government, the national army and the population. Do not forget that two decades of misrule had resulted in the breakdown of every aspect of our life as a nation and as individuals: peace, security, the economy, democracy, moral values - all had been destroyed. These are not things that one can restore with a magic wand.

We have achieved stability by working together with the people, step by step. We have rebuilt the economy, step by step, by instituting policies that we knew would reactivate healthy economic activity.

As far as democracy is concerned, let me first of all tell you that we fought a bitter war for years to restore the democratic rights of the people of Uganda. However, we realised a long time ago that we needed to restore democracy in a fundamental way, not just superficially. In other words, we are not interested in simply appearing to be a democratic society. Our main interest is to ensure that democracy is embedded in the life and culture of the people of Uganda so fundamentally that it can never again be tampered with.

In order to achieve this, we are restoring the democratic rights of the people step by step to ensure that the people understand what these rights mean and that, for democracy to start functioning in any degree, it is crucial to have stability. Stability has not replaced democracy, but stability is the foundation on which we have been able to restore democracy, the economy and the normal political life of our country.

When do you plan to introduce party politics?

When the people of Uganda want me to. One of the most important things we have achieved is to restore the vote to the people of Uganda. The people are thus free to reject or adopt any political system of their choice through a free and fair debate.

How do you plan to boost regional ties, for example with Ethiopia and Eritrea?

We are already doing this through closer political ties and co-operation on major issues that affect our region and the whole of Africa. The main channel through which we are co-operating is the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of which Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia are active members. IGAD has recently been revitalised to expand its areas of activity, which will now include development of infrastructure, food security and environmental protection.

We are co-operating very closely on political issues, such as conflicts in our region, on security issues as well as economic issues such as desertification, locust control and how to improve telecommunications and transport in the region. We have also been trying to see how we can boost inter-state trade and commerce in the region and how we can give each other mutual support. And even more significantly, IGAD is being used as a framework under which bilateral relations between our respective countries are being developed and strengthened.

Do you support the restoration of the East African Community?

East African co-operation and integration is one of the top priorities of our programme. We have already covered good distance because the three countries of East Africa have agreed on this co-operation not only politically but also in practical terms. We have already set up a secretariat for this purpose and signed an agreement on mechanisms for strengthening co-operation. Presently, officials of the three countries are working closely towards arrangements on immigration, air transport, road transport, standardisation and other fields specified in the agreement.

Fortunately, the governments and peoples of the three countries are now fully committed to co-operation and I see no major obstacles to the implementation of the programme. I personally am fully committed to East African co-operation because I am convinced that it is the only way we can forge ahead in development. Not only do we want and need to co-operate; we have no choice but to do so.

Is there anything to suggest that a restored EAC will be any more successful than the original community?

Yes. First of all, the people and leadership of the region have seen the negative impact on our lives of the past break-up of the EAC. There have been real difficulties in the movement of people, goods and capital. Secondly, the people of the three countries have all along defied the break-up by co-operating among themselves, albeit with harassment from governments, in trade, commerce and labour. The spirit of co-operation has never left the people of East Africa, who have been yearning to live as one people. Therefore, with the full backing of the three governments, there can be no going back.

You have introduced measures to curb corruption among government officials. Is corruption still a major problem?

Yes, corruption is still a problem and our resolve to fight it and root it out is as strong as ever. However, it has been our experience that we cannot fight corruption without having strong corruption-detecting agencies. We therefore place a great deal of emphasis on the CID, the Inspector-General of Government and the Auditor-General to ensure that we can nail corruption and severely punish the culprits so that it becomes as clear as day that engaging in corruption is a very risky undertaking. It is not good enough to merely preach against corruption and to suspect individuals of corruption. We intend to ensure that we have adequate capacity to catch the culprits.

We have also steadily worked to narrow the areas where corruption can breed. The most important blow we have dealt to corruption is by privatising public enterprises. We shall continue using policy measures to narrow the fields of operation of the thieves until we make their activities impossible.

The World Bank and IMF in early 1994 selected Uganda, along with Ghana, as the two African states whose economies had improved most in recent years. What lies behind Uganda's economic success?

The main ingredient is that the present leadership has spent years working closely with the people so that all along we have been conversant with their problems and the difficulties they face in trying to develop themselves. This has enabled us to design and implement policies that address the development bottlenecks in our country. The policies have been successful because, since they are designed to address the people's problems, they are easily embraced and internalised. Since we knew very clearly what ailed the economy in the past, we were able to set up sensible and practical economic policies to revive the economy and keep it healthy.

Uganda enjoys a good relationship with donor organisations. Will this relationship continue?

I expect this relationship to continue and I am sure that it will. The policies which we are implementing are sensible policies that have been working to revitalise our economy, therefore donor organisations can see that the money that they give or loan to Uganda is put to good use. We are also very open about how we spend donor money; the donors are free to see for themselves that donor money is not diverted to things other than what the government has earmarked the funds for.

Finally, where do you see Uganda at the turn of the century?

The main objective of what we are doing in Uganda is to turn our country into a modern one. We are convinced that modernisation is the only answer to the problems that we face, and it is only through modernisation that Uganda can become a viable state in the 21st century. This process has already started and, if we maintain the speed at which we are moving, as we intend to do, Uganda will have a vibrant modern economy and an educated society by the turn of the century.

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©Kensington Publications 1996