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close this bookUganda's Water Sector Development: Towards Sustainable Systems (SKAT, 1996)
close this folder2. Roller-Coaster Ride
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View the documentLaunched into the abyss
View the documentTurning around the corner
View the documentHeading in the right direction

Launched into the abyss

Uganda has not always carried the standing of a global pariah. It had a reputation within East Africa and wider afield as a country blessed by nature. Straddling the equator, but high enough to enjoy a moderate climate, Uganda prospered from its inheritance of fertile soils and regular rainfall. Agricultural exports led the economy. Cash crops such as tea, coffee and tobacco supported a growing industrial base. However, post-independence years highlighted the frailty of Uganda's political situation. As time progressed, the veneer of economic and social well-being also disappeared.

Uganda has been on something of a roller-coaster ride since it inherited an easily won independence on 9 October 1962. The elation of freedom was short-lived — the country lasted less than four years before its first constitutional crisis. Disbelief that history was not turning out as expected quickly led to dismay as the fabric of a prosperous country started to unravel. Within ten years deep political, economic and social decay had taken hold.

Poorly prepared for its role as an independent state, the country was simply 'launched into the abyss'. Political commentators have argued that Uganda's independence constitution was "a triumph of hope over experience".1 It was a hastily prepared document that attempted to knit together a group of semi-autonomous regions and traditional kingdoms into a single nation state. Allowing for co-existence of unitary and federal forms of government, it stipulated direct election throughout the country except in the federal state of Buganda; a recipe for future dissatisfaction. With so much at stake and inexperienced politicians at the helm, the country soon became 'unhinged'.2

In retrospect Uganda was ill-suited to a Westminster form of government. The country consisted of diverse peoples pushed together in a marriage of convenience. Uganda's public institutions were also unprepared for their roles in a post-independence environment. They lacked the skills necessary to undertake their administrative tasks unaided or to contain the demands placed upon them. The army never displayed the professional discipline required to support a democratic political process.

The National Resistance Movement ten-point programme

- the establishment of democracy
- the restoration of security
- the consolidation of national unity and elimination of all forms of sectarianism
- the defence and consolidation of national independence
- the building of an independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy
- the restoration and improvement of social services and the rehabilitation of war ravaged areas
- the elimination of corruption and misuse of power
- the rectification of the errors that had dislocated society
- co-operation with other African countries in defending human and democratic rights
- the adoption of a mixed economy strategy
NRM Legal Notice 1, Kampala, January 1986