Replicating Colonial-Era Land Acquisition Will Under-Develop Uganda

Morris Komakech

In critical development, colonial legacy is synonymous with under-development of Africa. That a post-colonial Museveni is reproducing under-development by replicating colonial era economic exploitation approaches is quite surprising.

When colonialism took root in Africa, its motive was to exploit Africa and its resources to feed European consumer capitalism. Indigenous Africans were valued only for labour, exploited, and disposed as needed.

Major aspects of the colonial tragedy included Museveni-type land possessions – forced mass displacement, internment in squalor and restricted movements. Leave reserves (villages) were tolerated for purposes of rendering self for labor or colonial duties.

We know well that whatever infrastructure and development put in place under colonial rule were primary to hasten the success in resource appropriation, mostly raw materials and containment of Africans to mitigate hindrances. From the railways, schools, hospitals, and Police…these institutions served colonial purposes. Indians and black laborers received residues as rewards associated with labour attachments.

These modes of development disrupted, excluded, deprived, and stalled cultural, social, political and economic developments of Africa. In essence, it was the development of Europe and under-development of Africa that became the colonial landmark.

I am sure Museveni knows these facts very well given his previous Marxist orientation. That he should replicate these colonial vices to further the underdevelopment of independent Uganda, defeats logic. The widespread land grabs and displacement of Ugandans from their ancestral cradles are no different from Colonial evacuations. Colonial era injustices continue to shape social and economic inequalities in contemporary society. We should be correcting colonial wrongs, and not perpetrators.

The discourse of colonial under-development, and its mechanisms are highlighted in various seminal works by Rodney Walter(1942-1980), Andre Frank Gunder (1929-2005), Amatya Kumar Sen (1933-), Irogbe Kema, Arturo Escobar and a host others.

Reflecting on the last three decades of Museveni’s regime, we distinguish three overlapping phases; the period consolidation of state power (1986 – 1996); transformation into the state (1997-2001); consolidation of monocracy (2002 -2011), and; transformation of absolute autocracy/Oligarchy(2012 – present).

For Museveni, his promise to professionalize the army marked the initial strides towards his transformation into the state and consolidating monocracy. Thereafter, state affairs became a monolithic one. The promotions of the “Bahiima Generals” typified the ethnicized consolidation of the state in his hands.

The sectarian overhaul of the state did not end with the army. The appointment of Gen Wamala Katumba and later Gen Kale Kayihura were later to transform, “ethnicize” and militarise the Police. Under the military stewardship, the civil component of the Police force collapsed into a reincarnation of South Africa’s apartheid-era police and Nazi-era Gestapo. The typical Museveni Police specializes in criminal suppression of political dissent, and subjugation serves to maintain status quo. Museveni is fused with the state and Uganda is his personal estate.

The above highlighted processes may not succinctly represent the organizational and structural setup of the complex system that maintains Museveni in power. However, it is obvious that the concept “development” under this regime means anything but development. One of such is developing individuals within the power nexus of the regime, through illicit transfers of public resources to private realms.  Such, explains the under development. The current proposal to amend the constitution to deprive Ugandans of land is one example of coordination failure. This proposal is not only suspect. It is cynical, opprobrious, and abhorrent.

We should operationalise Article 26(b) of the constitution in concert with provisions in the Bill or Rights as empowering practices. Indigenous rights to land should remain uncompromised. Rather, we should allow willing sellers and buyers to engage unfettered; even then, local people should contribute land as their share to an investment, whether industrialization, mechanization or infrastructure developments. Locals should retain shares in every investments and development that involves displacement. This model is untested, and yet has the potential to eliminate imperialist under-development models.

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