Magazine article New African

President Museveni "Development Is the Destination."

Magazine article New African

President Museveni "Development Is the Destination."

Article excerpt

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been in power since 29 January 1986, for a good 26 unbroken years. Uganda has in that time achieved political, economic and social stability, three vital elements that had eluded it for the first 25 years of independence. Now Museveni says the East African nation "is on the verge of a take-off to become a middle-income, and then a modern, country". As part of the so years of independence celebrations, he granted a wide-ranging interview to New African editor Baffour Ankomah, discussing almost everything-from cattle to roads, to politics and economics. Here are excerpts.

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Q From your book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, and from what you have done practically since coming to power in January 1986, we learn that you love cattle, you are a man of cattle. It is unusual, isn't it, to find a man of your standing who has such a great passion for livestock?

A: Well, it is my life. I am a cattle-keeper; I just came to town to help these people because they were stuck. But my base is in the village. I am just a visitor in town. I came because these townspeople could not manage their affairs. They couldn't run their government. So I just came to help them. But in reality I am a cattle-keeper. So you should ask me why I am not with the cattle all the time [laughs heartily].

Q: I was going to ask you that, Mr President. I was going to ask you ... for example, it is said that Prince Charles of Britain, a lover of nature, talks to his plants. Do you talk to your cattle?

A: Yes, we speak to our cows. You know English is a poor language, it doesn't have enough words to express what we do, but let's use the word "grooming". Yes, we groom our cows, so we are very close to them, it is our way of life.

Q: On 9 October 2012, Uganda celebrates 5o years as an independent nation. Looking back on this half century, would you say it has been worthwhile to have been an independent country?

A: Well, at independence there was a lot of optimism, although I think it was misplaced. This was because there were so many things that were not yet done, such as building a party that believed in nationalism not sectarianism. At independence, we only had sectarian parties.

Then there was the issue of building a strong and patriotic army, and also of utilising technology. These had not been done at independence, so the optimism was a bit unrealistic. So I think the journey we've travelled as a country was unavoidable, but we've been able to build from zero.

In the last 26 years for example, we've been able to construct the base of the government, to build the armed forces, which are an important pillar of the state, the civil service was already there but it has been enriched to develop our human resources, to educate Ugandans; Ugandans are much more educated, with literacy now between 74% and 80%; and we have revenues from taxes, and because of this we are ready to become a middle-income economy, and a modern country.

Q: The British, Uganda's former colonial masters, called the country "The Pearl of Africa". What was the state of this pearl in 1962? Did they leave Uganda in rude health--economically, socially, and politically?

A: When Winston Churchill called Uganda "the pearl of Africa", it was not at independence, it was in 1908 when he came here. At independence, Uganda was not prosperous, and though they called it "the pearl of Africa", it was misleading. I mean how many educated people were there, you can go to the statistics; how many people were in university, how many in secondary school, how many in primary school? Uganda was not prosperous, it was still very backward.

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Q: But you had Makerere University, very famous for its educational standards at the time.

A: But how many students were at Makerere? Even by the time we came into government [in January 1986], there were only 5,000 students at Makerere. …

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