MBALE – If the Bugisu elders [RIP] who departed from the world between 1987 and 1992 came back to life, they would wonder what has gone wrong with President Museveni in regard to Coffee.
Why? Because in the late 1980s, when the president visited Bugisu, he allegedly asked the local Bugisu Coffee farmers to cut down Coffee, plant Avocado and Muringa saying Coffee had lost the market and was no longer a viable crop.
Upon this many Coffee farmers descended on their gardens and cut Coffee plants in preparation for planting Avocado; But for those who planted, they are still waiting for the avocado market to sale their products at good prices higher than Coffee.
The traditional farmers forgot that the lucrative coffee trade had led to the establishment of one of East Africa’s premier and pioneer coffee trading unions, the Bugisu Cooperative Union in 1954.
Many old men in Bugisu who attended the gathering in Sironko, Budadiri town council field can attest to this without fear.
But recently those who listened to President Museveni’s state of the nation address, June 7 at Kololo Independence grounds will tell you that he has now shifted goal posts to speak good about Coffee.
The president was tough while speaking about Coffee; one would notice from his voice that he was so annoyed.
The President said right from 1986, he started the struggle to add value to our coffee because the cadres who were deployed there told him of the value differentials between our coffee sold as beans and what it would get when processed as soluble coffee, surely did you start in 1986?
He described those attacking the Coffee project as supporters of okukenenula, (ekyejwiiso) of Africa – perpetual bleeding adding that if they were not, they would have responded to the NRM call of 1986 and added value to coffee and sought government assistance.
Mr President this was a tough speech for Coffee farmers in Bugisu knowing that you had asked them to cut down Coffee and plant avocado.
For those who keenly listened to president Museveni, you should have noticed the pain he was going through especially when he was speaking about the Coffee agreement.
Mr. Museveni has now aged, his regime has grown steadily more corrupt and autocratic and the elections he stages to award himself more terms in office are a mockery of democracy and they show that he has become, “the very thing he fought against.” as a novelist and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka puts it.
Mr President it is very easy to excite the cheering NRM crowds with populist promises, but at the end of the day the competing promises — your top bottom economics or Madame Pinetti’s Coffee business— will amount to the politics of handouts for the farmers in future.
Mr President the pain experience is an unpleasant sensory and emotional response to injury – only the person enduring the sensation can provide an accurate description and pain is a personal matter.
My grand Mother [RIP] taught us through a local proverb that “A wound which is not on your body does not pain you” I think there are a number of lessons here for you to learn from Mr President.
Mr President the controversial deal you are protecting has drawn widespread condemnation from sections of the political class and people involved in the coffee industry, saying that it deprives the local players of the chance to grow in the industry by giving the foreign company a monopoly.
Today, your cry should be a cry with a goal of providing the patient [the Coffee Farmer] with a sense of personal control over the pain by changing myths and misconceptions through education and noticeable results but you failed here.
Mr President you had a quarry with MPs who disagreed with you over the matter and you named Hon Abed Bwanika but I want you to rethink because the Bagisu teach something in this proverb; “be silent in two situations, when you’re angry on someone and when someone is angry on you”
I want to state here that your ‘good’ agreement with Pinetti now gives UVCC the rights to determine the price of the commodity at the disadvantage of the traditional Coffee farmers; who are the owners of Coffee, Ugandans.
Now, instead of doing anything to combat this exploitative trend, as a state you have decided to kill off competition in the coffee market like you have done it in several other lucrative businesses in the past that belonged to Ugandans.
And you ought to understand that from the UVCC agreement, in what appears to be misrepresentation or fraudulent action and negligent misstatement in the legal document, UVCC is given exclusive rights to buy all Uganda’s coffee even before the government can look at other players, for sure are you for Ugandans or Pinetti?
Further in the agreement, the UVCC’s concession will end in 2032, but it is subject to renewal and yet the total investment value is not stipulated as per the leaked legal document, what really are you up to? There seems to be something up the sleeve of a garment.
This agreement formalises fraud by government because for sure how would you create a monopoly—allow one player to determine prices in a free market economy? How come this doesn’t apply in other sectors?
Mr President like your minister of finance and economic development Mr Matia Kasaijja you seem not to have read well this document if not you clearly understand what you were doing but deliberately refused to help Ugandans understand.
The agreement says UVCC will enjoy exemption in regard to Import Duties, Value Added Tax, Excise Duty, Stamp Duty, Corporate Income Tax and employment-related taxes, as well as any other tax or imposition levied or charged under the laws or any other laws that may be enacted.
Article 4.1.4 of the deed says: “If there is any change in law or change in tax which substantially alters the economic benefits accruing, the company may within one year from commencement of the deed (February 10) write to government in order to maintain the economic benefits of UVCC, is n’t this exploitation?
Mr President one thing we can learn from foreign investors is the ability to think through the fog and noise, as well as look at what works and what is going to align itself to long term trends for our country, Uganda.
This country is considered a leader in the liberalisation of global coffee production and this is because the industry used to be controlled by the state, but was one of the first places to break away from this, becoming fully independent between 1991 and 1992. Today, the Ugandan coffee sector is privately owned, how do you negotiate for something that does not belong to you?
Mr President there is a tendency for you to lose sight of the language of the Constitution and in many cases you act as though the constitution gives you express powers over everything in this country without limits, please understand that you have limitations.
You have governed this country for well 36 years, let selfish interests and the lack of tolerance for divergent views — especially from the opposition, parliament and civil rights groups — taint your image in the eyes of many Ugandans.
I want to state that whatever you are doing in regard to UVCC agreement for this country in the political sphere is clear proof that absolute power does indeed corrupt and this is a vivid example of how some leaders hate their own people — out of fear of being ejected from the seat of power.
Mr President despite being held in high regard within the international community, you might go down in the books of history as a freedom fighter who betrayed his people, and a leader who knew what needed to be done but still chose to look the other way.
It is true capitalism has deepened, but prior internal developments, extreme inequality by social class, a profoundly changing international order at this time, and the subsequent NRM predatory political behavior have set Uganda’s economy on a very problematic path.
We have witnessed core features of that problematic path, including incentives for the NRM to use ethnicity to divide citizens and construct political bases that, in turn, has resulted in a flawed democracy, chronic corruption, a fragile state, continuing and perhaps growing inequality, frequent electoral violence, and enduring poverty across the country.
Dr Martha Nussbaum’s new book; Would Politics Be Better Off Without Anger?, advises that “Not only is anger bad because of its consequences—alienating political opponents, breeding revenge and violence, inhibiting progress—it is also a bad thing in itself, and For immoral and incoherent way of responding to the people.”
I want to ask my president to take this advice but also learn from a Bugisu proverb that; “holding on to anger is like grasping a hot stone with the intent of throwing it at someone else; yet you are the one who gets burned.”
The author, David Mafabi is a veteran journalist and PML Daily senior writer