The Debate Was Some Thing, Not The Thing


Watching last Saturday’s presidential debate, I finally got why Museveni has ruled over Uganda so long. He is a wily charmer, and Ugandans are a sublimely gullible lot. Oh happy day, the President is here, let’s hold hands and avoid tough questions. We are one big happy family. Applause, applause, applause…

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For all the blissful enthusiasm around the debate, the fanfare and palaver galore window-dressed the hard questions voters should have at fore when choosing which box to tick on Thursday.

It was that fresh coat of paint that enlivens an old house whose insides are discoloured by leaking pipes and roof; whose plumbing could use an upgrade; whose floor has more cracks than leaves on a tree.

The thing that makes debate a thing is the clash. Without a clash, or series of them, there is no debate. And as far as debate goes, this was more an exercise in civic education than a debate. Eight ships sailed blithely passed each other at the harbour, and we cheered them!

The format was impractical. You can’t have 8 individuals answering to different questions and expect to have a debate. A debate is inter-active. The candidates ought to have taken each other on but the organisers seemed so paranoid about raffling feathers they chose to have the moderators act like an job interview panel. Babongele obugalo.

Were it not for Museveni challenging his opponents when he disagreed with their assertions, there would have been no clashes on which one could weigh the candidates against each other. In those moments, there were flashes of the thing. The moderators could have milked them. They chose not to. What we ended up with was eight parallel talks.

Given that the debate eventually took four fours, the moderators should have used the first two hours to put hard questions for all candidates to answer and left the remaining two for them to rebut, question, and engage each other. That would have a thing!

Whatever this thing was, anyhow, it was still a good thing. It exposed the Ugandan public to a broad spectrum of issues they should have in mind when weighing a candidate’s presidential potential. A single potato in the hands of a starving man is manna from heaven.

Kudos to the diplomats who engineered this thing. It achieved the historical feat of an incumbent sharing the stage with his opponents.

Now that we’re over this bridge, I look forward to watching an actual debate in 2021.

Fact Check: Many authorities claimed this was the first presidential debate in Uganda. There were debates in 2011 and 2006. Only Besigye and Bwanika attended. The rest sent representatives. The difference this time is that the organisers pulled enough weight to string Museveni’s participation. That shouldn’t be a pretext to strike previous attempts off the record.

#UgBlogWeek Day 1:You Foolish Ugandans!


This is the kind of thinking that will pull Africa out of the mud. Before we think of colonising foreign markets, let’s maximise our own.

Subtle Royalty

I was at a graduation party today. Silas, now with the title Eng. before his name has graduated as a manager of one of the fastest growing ICT companies in Uganda(or even the region, if you like). No, Silas didn’t finish top of his class. As a matter of fact, he’s supposed to have graduated three years ago. But retakes (and careless lecturers) at universities are real and we have them to thank for this company. One day Silas awoke to the fact that he would not graduate at the same time as his classmates. That day Silas cursed. “Phuck books”, he said. Then he went ahead to start the company which employed his classmates who had graduated. Some are even continuing on their Masters’ now, but he who only got a degree recently is their boss. *Insert Applause for Silas* If you are one of the people…

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Mwenda, Why Lie?


Andrew Mwenda, in his typical fashion, published a long missive blasting Ugandan media for poorly covering of campaign promises.

Mwenda’s piece is a case of bending the facts to suit one’s hypothesis. Data should lead to hypothesis not be led. I love data. I hate it when people abuse data, so I happen to have been vexed by his piece. Here is why in so many words.

First, his snide relegation of anecdotal evidence from the aristocratic company of scientific evidence is simply unnecessary. Anecdotal evidence is taught in research courses worldwide as a viable source of qualitative data. If the argument he was making is that quantitative data is superior to qualitative data in weighing evidence, he should have done so and made argument to that effect.

But even if you were to accept his unstated assumption that Besigye’s anecdotal evidence of Museveni’s failure pales in comparison with IMF’s quantitative evidence of Museveni’s success, Mwenda still commits some grievous analytical fallacies.

1:  The comparison with Kenya (and others)’s export growth rate between 1991 and 2015 insinuates that (I’m open to correcting the math) that Uganda’s exports grew by est. 96.2% from $200m to $5.4bn, while Kenya grew by est. 80.7% from $2.2bn to 11.4bn.

Mwenda claims this as evidence that Uganda has out-leapt Kenya (and the others) in export growth and leaves it to the reader’s imagination to do the math on how. Sneaky.

He omits to mention that nowhere in the world has a stabler economy recorded higher growth rates than an economy on the mend.

In fact, had he compared Uganda’s export growth rate with reputedly more advanced economies like Switzerland or Australia, he might have found them to be in the region of under 30% while Uganda soars high at 70%. Does this mean that Uganda’s economy is outperforming Switzerland and Australia?

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If Mwenda had compared Uganda to countries in similar conditions in 1991 (and preferably ones which had experienced regime change), his analysis might have been logically consistent. Then he would have been able to compare two economies dealing with similar drawbacks and objectively measure Uganda’s performance.

Two:

He cites public expenditure disparities between the three major East African countries as evidence of Uganda’s frugality; an easy presumption to make, except that these disparities have little to do with policy positions. Kenya and Tanzania both have a larger landmass and population than Uganda so if they are spending more money on the dollar per citizen, it doesn’t make Uganda’s government winner of  Frugal Government of the Decade Award.

His analysis might have packed more punch had it made allowance for the differences in administrative costs of reaching a larger population spread over a larger landmass?

Three

IMF indices (GDP, GNI,etc ) are already being contested in the scientific communities in Europe and America, where SDI indices(which employ the use anecdotal evidence) are being trumpeted as more reliable indicators for measuring the performance of an economy.

That fact alone nullifies the effusive confessions of how his own beliefs falling apart in his face at the sight of such undisputable evidence. Sheer rhetoric.

Four

Having danced about the corruption question, Mwenda finally blames Uganda’s failures on an incompetent citizenry. Mother of generalisations, what about the leader with has all the instruments of compulsion and coercision at his disposal to enforce standards, what his part in all this? Surely the bully can’t be victim and innocent bystander in the same sentence. It doesn’t make sense.

For what it’s worth, Besigye’s campaign (which Mwenda is for some reason unable to decribe as succinctly as he does Museveni’s, or Mbabazi’s is about the failure of public service delivery, not economic growth. Visiting dilapidated health centres in far flang rural posts is not rhetoric. It is showcasing the state of a broken healthcare system.

If the economy has grown as much as Mwenda’s statistics suggest, there should be better service delivery not declining quality. But Mwenda does not address himself to this question, which to me disputes any conclusion that the evidence he presents makes a case for Museveni’s success. It reinforces Besigye’s case.

My 50 shillings on Mwenda’s missive are thus:

To make readers plough through reckless splattering of mal-quoted statistics is not an improvement of the public discussion on campaign promises. It’s a mudding of the waters with a brick in place of a small stick.

But since the presence of extreme poverty amidst extreme wealth in New York City means there’s nothing wrong with that city, that should tell us that the deplorable state of the cited Abim Hospital shouldn’t cast any shadows on the laudable conditions of our national referral. After all, the great Andrew Mwenda himself consults Mulago when he is ill; what better evidence do you need to realise that Uganda’s health care system is getting along just fine.

However, should you so happen to disagree with this piece, no worries. The author is neither in the habit of writing letters to Mr. IMF’s, nor does he travel to New York more than four times a year- let alone once a decade. He is merely an urban villager with dusty sandals and a bad handwriting. He is certainly not smart enough to understand these things.

 

LETTER TO THE ANTI-KIBULE ACTIVISTS


So last night facebook (ug) was of fire. Apparently some not too intelligent MP suggested that that women who are raped and were dressed ‘indecently’ should be prosecuted instead for ‘inciting’ the rapist to rape them; the rationale of his logic being that they brought this on themselves by not wearing busuuti.

The feminists understandably went livid. I have not seen a hate campaign this intensive since that video showing Arinaitwe’s infamous arrest of Besigye gave Kampala folk a rude awakening about the true nature of their government.

For avoidance of doubt, I find MP Kisule’s comments laughable because only an invalid mind can reason in this way and not see the problem with it. That said, I have a statement of my own. And it goes out to every single Ugandan felt who offended enough to spend their day spuing fury on the web. IF YOU DIDN’T VOTE SHUT UP.

Here’s the thing. politics in this country (and I venture to envelop the continent) are a mess because of people like you- the ones who don’t vote- and we are frankly fed up of your whining so this is my reaction to the reaction against Kibule.

Leaders like Kibule are not our problem. You are. You are our problem because you are the ones who put them in office by not voting. They know this and that is why they do whatever they like. They know they will get away with it because the people impoverished by their impunity are the majority and they are desperate enough to trade their vote for a kilo sugar.

And don’t you dare accuse the poor peasant of selling their vote. They don’t know any better but you do. They are poor, and perhaps your obnoxious ‘middle-class’ or ‘corporate’ mind can’t wrap itself around what poverty really feels like since it means something else in your book…but in their world it means something else.

In their world it means living in want every day. It means sugar and soap are a treat for a rainy day or a courtesy for visitors from Kampala, and if you have to do to get a free kilo and two bars of soap is simply queing and placing a tick or thumbprint against your benefactor’s name, it’s a bargain. These might seem like petty items to you, but in their world it’s an easy bargain.

If you voted, you are entirely justified and I hope you do something more concrete than spuing fury into keypads. But if you know you stayed at home when the barely over 40% voters who turned up had nothing better to do, here’s what I, an ordinary citizen and a nobody, have to say to you. SHUT UP AND GET IN LINE. YOU ARE GETTING WHAT YOU DESERVE.

Let me make this straight. We don’t like it when elected officials make ridiculously foolish statements. And we’re even more offended when they misappropriate billions of shillings that could have given a little human dignity to millions of Ugandans without the privilege of sharing insignificant details of their private lives on facebook and twitter. But we like it much less when those who frustrate our efforts to keep such people away from power complain when they get what they bargained.

I am not asking anyone to demonstrate or pick up a gun or anything that is remotely identifiable as protest. If that’s your thing, power to you. But there is one thing we all can do, and which costs you absolutely nothing (if you live near your polling station), and that is to vote.

This is not one-size-fits-all solution. It’s an appeal to conscience. That is if your conscience is not yet entirely calcified.

It is obvious that voting alone is not enough and can’t solve everything, so will skip the merits debate and get right down to why you shut up if you live in an elective state and choose not take part in its elective process.

Here’s what happens when you vote. It sends a message and if you don’t think that’s important, try living without being able to communicate when something makes you uncomfortable.

It sends a message to leaders when 99% of the electorate turns up and says these are the kind of leaders we want. It sends a message.

It sends a message to people who care that things function correctly (and are actually competent enough to make them function) that if they offered their services to correct things, the people would accept them. It sends a message.

It sends a message to people who treat public office like personal property that certain classes of excess will not fly and, as the culture deepens, gradually refines these classifications until the situation of governance is more tenable and an MP actually represents the opinions of his constituents. It sends a message. And sending a message is an important first step in dealing with impunity.

I understand that this sounds simplistic to you, perhaps even idealistic. But mark my words, it is the only way all this stops.

There maybe some weight in the counter argument that this approach is long and painful and does not guarantee results. But when has giving birth to a child and raising it ever been easy.

Building a nation is labour. You are bringing into being something that isn’t so naturally it will take more than a hump in the sack to birth a healthy nation. You would think the parents and children amongst us would appreciate the analogy. Voting is just the sex part and you won’t do it yet you want children. (I hear some cheeky devil’s advocate hissing artificial insemination but I won’t bother preempting such stupidity. this is serious business.)

You, educated fools (yes I said it) are precisely the problem we have in this country because election upon election you won’t stoop to do the bare minimum to make some change. You complain and complain and look for the first opportunity to jump ship and leave this suffering country so you can go Europe and America and complain about how this country kills potential. This country does not kill potential. You do.

Voting is a process, not an end, which goes beyond ticking a ballot. It begins with people like YOU who have the privilege of access to the web, books, news, libraries, etc bracing yourselves with information about what it going.

And by this I don’t mean watching bbc to regurgitate what the ‘experts’ say about Africa. I mean doing the tiny little exercise of using your brain to question why there is a world of difference from government reports and the reports of your eyes. This is just step 1 of the process and it ends when you die. There’s no end to learning.

The second step is verifying what you learn against what you know. Knowing begins in perception and perception in the senses. You can only know what your senses perceive so yes, it doesn’t matter how many books and reports you have read, if you have not ‘seen’ with your own eyes you don’t know anything at all.

(I admit this seems simplistic. Technology can of course enable you ‘see’ without being there but this is beside the point. I could try explaining it but you can’t understand if you don’t. You have to verify it for yourself)

Step 2 would be to get what you know and what you have learnt, put them through a series of tests that can be done by any person (in other words logic), share your conclusions with people you respect and help the uneducated peasant understand what is going on so that they can make an informed choice.

This all requires a few minutes of brainwork, a thing most Ugandans hate, but it could be the difference understanding and misunderstanding what is going on around you. When the smart people on television talk about understanding the issues, voting on the issues…this is what they mean. Being a citizen is an active process. SHUT UP AND GET IN LINE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO DO THE WORK.

I could go on about what else you could but then I would be doing your thinking for you. I only wanted to illustrate a point. And the point is that people like Kisule keeping getting parliament because people like YOU prefer making noise on facebook to doing the bare minimum so if you if you didn’t vote, SHUT UP AND GET IN LINE. YOU ARE GETTING THE LEADERS YOU DESERVE.

There is an election coming up soon and we all know the outcome is already decided. It is not decided by those whom we think it will benefit. It is decided by you who does not vote. Who leaves the uneducated peasant at the mercy of the opportunistic politician then cries foul when the politician says something you don’t like, so SHUT UP AND ROLL OVER IF YOU HAVE NO INTENTIONS OF PLACING YOUR VOTE IN THE NEXT ELECTION.

I know this letter is not going to change your mind. In fact the only people who will read it to this point will be those who agree with it…the barely above 40% who vote. But if it manages to slip through the cracks and into the hands of just one person who did not vote but was angered enough to spend an entire day spuing hate speech against MP Kisule, then you reader dear are the one to whom I write this letter. This is my humble message to you:

Whatever your reasons for not voting, no person should ever be forced to do anything they do not believe in so I won’t ask you to change your beliefs….but I will ask you to consider the barely over 40% of us who care enough to make an effort and spare us your sanctimony.

SHUT THE HELL UP…because every time we try to prevent leaders like Kisule from getting into power, you frustrate our efforts through you inaction. YOU ARE OUR PROBLEM AND YOUR SANCTIMONY OFFENDS US SO DO US A FAVOUR AND SHUT UP. But when you have gotten angry enough to get off your assess and do something concrete, however little….we will join in your fists of fury, but only when you stand up to be counted.

How to end Makerere’s woes


English: Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda....

English: Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. Main building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may not have heard about it yet. It’s a developing story bumped to the fringes by the corruption and coup buzz blitzing Ugandan media, but Makerere is on strike…again. This in itself is not news. In fact we’ve come to expect a strike from Makerere every so often that when a semester passes without one that is news. As usual, the subject of the strike is yet another inspired idea to end the university’s problems by hiking tuition, this time by 60%. You can imagine my surprise at the student’s negative reaction!

It is simply impossible to think about Makerere’s woes without a tear sneaking down your cheek undetected. To think that this dilapidated relic was once a proud regional jewel thought to be the ‘Harvard of Africa’ is enough to drive the toughest commando mad with anguish. Stories like this inspire long movies with wailing soundtracks and endless gruelling scenes in which the pain never relents. But these are things of the past. Even the prettiest face must give way to wrinkles at some point. Alas Makerere’s wrinkles do not have even the lustre of wisdom; age’s barter for youth.

Why be bothered about another fees strike in a forgotten university, you might ask. Don’t we have enough distractions in the peppery intrigue stewing between the President and Parliament, or the Minister convinced that presiding over the biggest corruption scandal in national history is not justifiable grounds for resignation? But you would need to be a sadist not to feel bad about Makerere’s decay if you can read and write. This used to be the factory where the region manufactured its biggest brains! We should be ashamed to have let it reach this undignified state on our watch.

Forget the intellectual dumbing down and turf wars over the vice chancellery, the numbers there defy all collegiate pedagogical logic. Halls of residence and other iconic buildings have been decaying for decades, and we can drop all hope of anything being done; our people care nothing for history and hostel shanties are a more elegant solution. Of course it would be natural to blame the administration but that boat has sailed. The real crisis is funding. Education funding everywhere is struggling. In fact it is easier crushing coconuts with one’s head than competing with security budgets for funding- something about fighting ‘terrorists’ being more valuable improving quality of minds.

Some institutions like the ‘Harvard of America’ have found ways of working round this problem. They maintain strong relations with alumni that keep donations flowing in to supplement other sources so I wondered what would happen if Makerere did a little crowd sourcing of its own. The last alumni event the university organised with similar intentions pooled more speeches than funds, but what if they got creative.

If one million alumni donated just one thousand shillings every month, it would rake in a billion a month for Makerere. This is peanuts naturally but surely one would expect a former ‘Harvard of Africa’ to have enough alumni to fill a country after ninety years in the game. Alas ideas like these are not practicable. The logistics are simply too befuddling and Makerere’s bureaucracy alone would make a civil servant cry. It would take years, if not decades, agreeing how to start. Crowd sourcing in such hands would be as useful a bus to a bodaboda cyclist. It’s a catch-22 situation.

So while we wait for the petrol dollars to cash away our problems, we could borrow notes from our friends in government eyeing the national museum. Makerere’s halls of residence are in a state beyond redemption. In financial speak, assets like these which take money out of your pocket are called liabilities. Liabilities are bad things, especially in an economy crawling on its belly. The more rational thing is to auction them to investors for redevelopment. And I figure the lifestyle sector be just the perfect place to pitch.

There is good evidence to support this alternative. Having fun seems to be the fabric of our country, why not mine it. Everyone knows Makerere houses our biggest and steadiest market for lifestyle consumption. The bulk of its population is itinerant and no perceivable complications have been detected yet. I see no reason why shopping malls and entertainment centres wouldn’t do well in the place of the halls. To maximise earnings we could also lease lodging space and reap big on the booming ‘lunch hour’ traffic.

And we needn’t worry about this model affecting academic quality. It can’t possibly get any worse than it already is. Between the private sector’s kiosk schools and the regime’s bonabasome, students’ brains have been devalued enough by the time they get to university. I don’t see Makerere getting the funding it desperately needs to keep running. Selling it off in chunks would be more graceful than closing it so suddenly.

On Activist Bishops and Riveting Police


You have to applaud Uganda Police. They certainly know how to take their job seriously, especially when it comes to preserving public order. Last Monday, twitter was ablaze with news of Bishop Zak Niringiye’s arrest for allegedly distributing inflammatory material at Makerere University, along with activists Nuwagaba Vincent, Kanyonyi, Isa, Angyagasha John, Brian Atuhaire and Asan Kyegula among others.

It’s not every day that a widely admired retired Bishop is arrested for inciting violence. I happen to know Bishop Zak a little myself, and dare say there’s hardly a more peace-loving man than this magnetic man of the cloth. I was rather intrigued by this curious turn of events and did a little digging of my own.

It turns out the good Bishop had been distributing an incendiary newsletter titled Black Monday after the anti-corrupt campaign which publishes it. It was deemed so inflammatory by the arresting officers who, sniffing a link to last year’s notorious walk2work campaign, acted swiftly to snip it in the bud.

The Black Monday campaign, if you haven’t heard about it yet, is an NGO-led campaign for tougher action against corruption. What they do is meet on Mondays, all clad in black to mourn the death of our nation’s integrity and distribute newsletters. This may seem harmless on the face of it but were it not for Monday’s display of detective ingenuity on the part of our ever vigilant men in uniform, we might never have known how dangerous this publication is.

Take this illustration on Page 8 for example. It takes the 22bn lost in the OPM scandal and does this sneaky breakdown of what this money could have done in one fiscal year. First it breaks the 22bn into daily losses which comes down to 60 million per day for one year. Then it goes ahead to show how this same sum could build 1,222 schools, or provide 314,285,714,285 doses of malaria, or purchase 206 tractors to boost agribusiness in the same year.

Ugandans can’t possibly that cretinous. We know 22 billion is a large sum of money and we are just as flabbergasted by this OPM scandal as we have been with every other scandal that emerges every year. Why rub it into people’s faces in such detail if the intention is not to excite the public?

The way I see it all these anti-corruption campaigners in parliament and civil society are unjustifiably trying to make our government look incompetent. The NRM has promised to end corruption in its past three manifestos and the electorate, regardless of their civic quality, has chosen to put their faith in them. Is it too much then to ask for a little patience? Surely we all can see this government is serious about being tough on corruption.

Of the five big scandals of the decade, one person has been convicted. This was unheard of in the previous decade, and the President in such a display of magnanimity even offered to offset the poor chap’s legal fees. Isn’t this evidence enough that serious effort is being made to stop corruption?

I happen to a have different view of this topic from our #BlackMonday activists. Where they see losses, I see benefits. I see an expanding middle class with more liquid to oil the economy. I see luxury cars, global food franchises, bigger supermarkets with bigger global goodies, and high fashion labels making our street’s sparkle like the West’s.

Schools, drugs and tractors don’t attract investors so if leaking government funds are widening the size of the middleclass and swelling their current accounts- you have to see Kazinda’s house to know what spending looks like- then by all means arrest every Bishop who suggests otherwise.

Such nefarious publication are not only likely to excite the public into renewed (possibly walk2work-style) protests over a situation already under control, the alternatives they propose, and the unrest they may ignite, are repulsive to investors. This is devastating for the economy. These activists need to give us break. We need investors. Not schools, drugs, or tractors. Let those be sorted out by the aid the investment will generate from profits repatriated to their home governments.

 

 

Why a military take over wouldn’t be such a terrible thing


It appears the people of Uganda may soon get new representatives to replace the raucous rubble rousing lot that has rendered proper conduct of parliamentary business impossible. According to last week’s papers, senior officials in the military are growing concerned about what increasingly looks like a coup attempt on the parliament of Uganda, and is considering stepping in to restore order in the house as an option.

The move has generated a lot of excitement and debate. Some commentators have even gone so far as to accuse the army of threatening to overthrow the constitution but I for one think all this is hubbub. These men and women put their lives on the line for our country each day so if they think our elected representatives are up to something we should take their word for it. Isn’t it obvious that all this commotion that has caused parliament and the executive to come to a precipice is just a plot to overthrow the house?

What keeps bothering me is why these lawmakers can’t do as they are told and follow orders like the 10th and 9th Parliament did? It’s a good thing we didn’t have such troublesome conspirators in our 9th parliament otherwise we’d never have changed our constitution to lift term limits with such insolent insubordination. I’d in fact recommend the caucus fires Kadaga and returns Sekandi the next time they go to Kyankwanzi for reorientation. There’s a speaker who really knows how to keep a house in order!

This is the sort of situation that makes one sympathise with the commander-in-chief’s predicament. You spend five years in the bush fighting while others are hiding under their beds. You, not they, take power, and you give them the gift of electing their own officials from who you can select a handful with whom to share the spoils of power. And still they want more.

In such times Ugandans remind me of the English literary character Oliver Twist. Oliver is an orphan whose mother dies when he is born. No one knows where he is from so the parish takes him and raises him at its own cost. But Oliver Twist is such an ungrateful child. No amount of food will satisfy his black hole of a stomach and instead of taking what he is given and shutting his beak, he shouts for more against the wishes of his benefactors. Needless to say he ends up on the streets.

The venerable Ssabalwanyi, at great risk to his own life, purchased peace and prosperity for this territory with his gun. Now we can sleep and drink anytime we want without anyone disturbing us. And we even have many hang outs and shopping malls in Kampala, and some roads here and there upcountry.

Is he not justified therefore to invoke the gun that won all this for us if some naughty MPs threaten to take it all away by poking their noses in matters that do not concern them; causing commotion over perfectly sound oil contracts and slandering ministers universally acknowledged as hardworking men who wouldn’t steal a dime? Is this the sort of indiscipline is he fought for? Surely the army should save us from these plotting MPs!

I would like to make my own modest proposal on how we can deal with this situation so we can get back to talking about the premiership and the soap opera of the hour. Let’s face it. This liberalism thing is not working for us. We were much happier under the movement system when the bus had only one driver. Nobody wanted to take his seat because he drove with olubengo on his head so there was no confusing of the masses. I suggest we go back to those simpler times.

We could replace parliament with resistance councils under military supervision – in the army they know how to follow orders- and return chakamchaka to keep wanainchi reminded of who butters their bread. We could also reward our gallant commander-in-chief for services rendered to country with life presidency and throw away this petty constitution which undermines his authority in the incinerator, where it belongs along with such things that have lost value as sanitary towels and old bank notes. This way we would put an end all this opposition nonsense that is turning our city into a Bosnia, and go back to what we’re famous for doing best; being happy.

If you can’t stop the ‘ghosts’, make a deal with them


A certain scientist believed to have been the smartest man on this planet yet is said to have defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If we are to take this man’s word for it, it doesn’t look good for us Ugandans. Since Byakutaga’s Ushs 1 billion stunner in the mid or late 1990s, graft scandals have followed each other like goats at the Munyonyo races.

When the Byakutaga incident came up, the ghost joke was first on the army. Then it went to police, and then URA, then valley dams, then the Ministry of Works, Health, NSSF, and on and on till it stopped being funny. Every time a graft scandal breaks in the media, the response is always the same; there will be hot talk shows on radio and TV, NGOs will release strong statements in the papers, a commission of Inquiry may be set up (usually to exonerate the implicated). A few weeks later another big story will break. The media will run after it like hounds after a prized bone, and here is where the circus usually ends. The only thing different is that now we have facebook and twitter to drum up the furore.

I’ve been giving it some thought. You have to be amazed at the number ghosts we have in this country. I’m starting to believe there is perhaps an alternate universe adjoined to Uganda, with ghost soldiers who fight ghost wars, ghost policemen who stop ghost crimes, ghost teachers who teach ghost students, and ghost citizens who vote in ghost elections. Once in a while, when they get bored with their ghost world, they slip over into our terrain and make billions vanish. How else would you account for the high population of ghosts in this country?

There is some wisdom in platitudes, and here I invoke a tested and tried one; if you can’t beat them, join them. Let’s face it. The ghosts are not going anywhere. The party in power won’t do anything about them because they seem to have some sort of symbiotic relationship. The opposition and organised civil society seem to be too preoccupied with ghost causes of their own to mount any effective challenge. Thus the everyday man on the street is left hapless at the mercy of a cruel world made all the harsher by having to compete with ghosts and people to scrap for his survival.

The last time NSSF was in the news, it was for the Ushs 11 billion large Temangalo scandal. One of the people implicated then was a valorous citizen who has since been rewarded for his unrelenting labour amid trials and tribulations with the stewardship of our hardworking cabinet. He went on to be named in series of subsequent scandals, but equity aids the vigilant, and soon it became obvious that certain naughty sections of political society were hatching plots discredit the good standing of some individuals in the service of this nation.

Instead of expending valuable resources waving pitch-folks at innocent Ugandans, I propose we channel our energies towards the real perpetrators. Let’s invite the ghosts to the table and negotiate a peace deal. Perhaps if we discover what the ghosts really want, we can find a way to placate them and put a stop to this haemorrhage. If Kenyans could make peace with their bitter rivals and form a government of national unity, why can’t we make peace with our ghosts, hasn’t it worked out fine for them?

The Sunny Side of 2012


It is custom for social commentators, at the beginning of a new year, to pontificate on the year gone by and feign clairvoyance on the incoming one. Depending on how full their glass is, tradition dictates that the new year pretty much always represents hope, and the old one everything that could be wrong. Permit me to break with tradition. 2012 was a non-stop thriller in my corner. I haven’t the heart to shoot it down.

2012 was the year the world was supposed to end, so one of my resolutions was to spend more time with family, just in case. I’ve got a football team of nephews. They are at that age where children are tyrants, but I took my chances. Invariably when I’d drop in on any one of their homes, I’d be subjected to the horror of reading them a story. For some unfathomable reason they wouldn’t get enough of The Three Little Pigs. That would not have been a problem if they weren’t more interested in the pictures than the story.

It was beginning to become excruciating- enduring these ever changing versions of a story I don’t care much for, then one day, without warning, something happened that literally blew the hair off my scalp. I was doing the picture-rendition with one nephew who, when we got to the part where the wolf blows down the house of sticks, jumped in, seizing the initiative, and proudly declared, ”the big bad wolf poured tear gas on the piggies…“ I was astounded. Kampala was in its third running week of the famous walk2work campaign, and it was the talk of town, but three year olds were not supposed to know about tear gas. I was too shocked to continue.

Without a doubt, the walk2work campaign was the most exhilarating period in Ugandan history since Idi Amin. I say this strictly as a film enthusiast; the visuals that would rock our worlds at 9 pm every Monday and Thursday made the news feel more like cinema than television. But I didn’t blame the first rapper for his rash response. Put yourself in his shoes and imagine winning an election by 65% only for the very people who voted you in to take to the streets a month into office, demanding that you turn water into wine. Never mind the estimated $300 million spent on the campaign. The crisis was a global problem. I too would have sprayed them with tear gas and pink water for such insolence.

In other news, we made international news. We won GOLD. Never mind that our hero was trained in Kenya, and existed pretty much in oblivion until he miraculously broke past the Kenyan favourite. His lifelong dream to sip a bottle of cold Sipi water (made in Uganda) kept him going, so we played a part in motivating him. We were so generous with our gratitude we brandished his family on glossy magazine covers and raced to take his picture next to every brand that thinks it matters. We look after our own.

We also had another milestone with far-reaching global implications; after fruitless decades, churning out mechanical engineers and professors who build nothing, Makerere University finally assembled a car. It is electric so we made our first contribution to carbon reduction. That’s huge.

There are other things I’d get into if I had the space. There’s that thing where we finally observed the letter in our zero tolerance to corruption. A nifty accountant who had proved too creative with the Prime Minister’s accounts was nabbed. So sleek was this devious fellow that he nicked billions of shillings from right under his highly competent boss’ nose. We also found out that certain famous people had been wrongly accused of stealing CHOGM funds. Never mind that we don’t know who took the money, at least the truth is out. It wasn’t them.

So while some people were shaking in their boots over the looming stand-off between parliament and the executive over the death of an MP, I was celebrating a year of records. We produced the youngest parliament in the world, our first female speaker, and almost got our oil back. 2012 tested our young democracy to the core, and it survived. For all the running battles that dominated the political scene, there was barely any rhetoric about going to the bush (except from the ‘chief-fighter’). This for me foreshadows that perhaps the days of expressing our grievances with guns are done.

Statistics released by UBOS mid last year estimate that 73% of Ugandans are below the age of 35, making us the youngest population in the world. 68% of this demographic is below 24, indicating that more than half of Ugandans are of school going age. We can see these numbers already spurring transformation in local politics. The stars of 2012’s political drama, who pulled off unthinkable stunts that struck our imagination, like making 180 splits daring menacing mambas armed for battle to fire at them, the very notion of civil disobedience (albeit aborted) that inspired the walk2work campaign, or the brazen personas in the Gerald Karuhangas and Muhammed Nserekos who faced off with hitherto untouchable cabal, were mostly below 35.

I have a hunch that the landslides that rocked Mount Government last year were only the beginning; a herald of bigger tremors to come. Judging by the intrigue Nebanda’s death mysterious death generated as 2012 gave way for 2013, a fully-blown earthquake may be coming just yet. Only time will tell if 2013 will be the year it hits, or the scale of its impact. One thing we can be certain of though is that the tectonic plates beneath Uganda’s power structure will keep on shifting.

THE GARUGA DECLARATION


Earlier this year, we took about 30 young activists from MUBS, UCU, Makerere, Kyambogo and Gulu Universities for a retreat in Garuga. The camp, convened by Centre for Constitutional Governance, was under an initiative aptly named the Hope Initiative.

For three days and four nights, we sat around a campfire, by the lake, and in a cramped humid hut, reflecting on the challenges facing this country, debating its future, and sharing thoughts and ideas on sustainable solutions that would bring our country out of the vicious cycle it has descended into.

The discussions were profound and affecting and the document below is a distillation of them. For months I have reflected on the contents of this declaration, and I’m convinced beyond doubt any efforts towards building this country are wasted if they do not resonate with its simple philosophy.  I hope it transforms your world as it has mine.

THE GARUGA DECLARATION

MADE BY YOUNG LEADERS AT A YOUTH CAMP ON LEADERSHIP HELD AT FOCUS FELLOWSHP CENTRE, GARUGA, ENTEBBE

From 23TH- 26th February, 2012

PREAMBLE

We, the young citizens of Uganda today, on this day of 26th February 2012, do hereby identify love for our nation and humanity as the cornerstone of all responsibility towards the transformation of our country through citizens’ agency.

We equally recognize that in essence- love understands our human abilities, capabilities and limitations while observing the need for common decency through incorruptible leadership and citizens’ obligation to hold our leaders accountable.

We similarly note, that love is the knowledge and consideration, that every decision we make, wherever or whenever, potentially affects many people beyond thy self and correspondingly leverage the love for our nation and humanity as a conscientious and positive choice open to us all.

As a result, we do hereby declare that;

The GARUGA Declaration is a young people’s affirmation and commitment to love, as the guiding principle in our relations with all peoples everywhere and Uganda in particular.

This declaration of love for our nation and humanity is inspired by our humble sense of duty and responsibility to guide our perceptions and actions, in the use of our land: – all minerals and mines; our law: – by being accessible and just; our lore: – by being motivational and true; our lineages: – be they humble or great; our labor: – as diversely gifted and most of all to our liberty: – the verity of our being.

That through this love for our nation and humanity, and in pursuit of national transformation, we aver to alter our attitudes, to elevate our character- accountably and transparently, in pursuit of immutable human dignities and socio-economic and political justice.

That through this love, we shall collectively and individually renew our sense of nationhood by embracing ethics that reinforce our national unity; that fortify our families; that strengthen our economy; that uplift our education standards; that hallows our religions; that respects our arts and culture; through a responsive media and state that promote these values.

And that this love for our nation and humanity shall brace our faith; restore our values and spirituality through integral vision and ambition and in so doing, identify and fulfill our each and every generational challenge today and forever.

Finally that this, the GARUGA Declaration is motivated by the spirit embodied in our national motto; “For God and My Country