Changing Uganda: The Dilemmas of Structural Adjustment & Revolutionary Change

Changing Uganda: The Dilemmas of Structural Adjustment & Revolutionary Change

Changing Uganda: The Dilemmas of Structural Adjustment & Revolutionary Change

Changing Uganda: The Dilemmas of Structural Adjustment & Revolutionary Change

Synopsis

Yoweri Museveni battled to power in 1986. His government has impressed many observers as Uganda's most innovative since it gained independence from Britain in 1962. The Economist recommended it as a model for other African states struggling to develop their resources in the best interests of their peoples. But where was change to start? At the bottom in building resistance committees, or at the top in tough negotiations with the IMF? How was it to continue? Was it in the restructuring of the national army, in increasing respect for human rights, in the reform of education, in tackling AIDS, or in getting Ugandans to speak a common language? Was it in building more viable survival strategies for the poorest Ugandans or in restructuring the national constitution? The last five years have shown a radical approach to Uganda's dilemmas. Holger Bernt Hansen and Michael Twaddle previously edited Uganda Now. It was brought together at a significant moment just as President Museveni was gaining power in 1985-6. It was so much in demand that it even entered the magendo market on the streets of Kampala. The book, which is still in print, was described by The Canadian Journal of African Studies as 'virtually a mini-encyclopedia of Uganda' and by The African Studies Review as 'the best overview of Uganda's trauma in the last two decades.' The editors have assembled another team of Ugandan and international scholars to review the dilemmas of introducing revolutionary changes in an African country deeply affected by structural adjustment plans which have been imposed from outside.

Excerpt

Christine Obbo

The decline of Main Street, the proliferation of petty trading in all side streets and on uncontested space in towns and on major and rural roadsides, and the commoditization of nearly every activity and of domestic and wild products are outstanding features of the present Ugandan economy. These result from changes in the economy in the last 20 years that have threatened the 'living wages' of the majority of Ugandans. Most families from all socio-economic strata need at least two, or even three, income-generating activities to survive. Survival means being able to pay the inflationary rates of school fees, rents, taxes, food bills etc. the result of all this has been a blurring of the distinctions between formal and informal economic activities, commercial and domestic spaces, public and private concerns and business, and moral and amoral parameters.

This chapter shows the resilience of Ugandans as they struggle to recover from Amin's 'economic war' that never was, and the subsequent Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which have pressured the government to live within its means by balancing its budget, controlling wasteful expenditures and presumably generating enough foreign exchange to repay its 'development' loan debts. One of the sap provisions, currency devaluation, has caused progressively high inflation, thus increasing the number of people unable to live within their means. It must be pointed out, however, that the real causes of poverty existed before sap and that sap only aggravated the situation of the vulnerable -- the aged, women and children.

This chapter unapologetically does not deal with activities within the formal structures of fanned or air-conditioned offices. Rather, it deals with the njua kali (hot sun: informal sector) activities in building and city street alleys and corridors, city pavements, suburban kerbs and garages, some village schools and village paths. These are the areas where the struggles for the living wage are fought out each day.

The chapter also focuses on women and children because they . . .

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