I was intrigued by press reports that president Museveni of Uganda has given former legislators U Shs 1 billion to buy buses. The story reported that the money was part of UShs 2 billion pledge he made to their Sacco to improve their welfare.
While it is alright to get concerned about the former MPs’ welfare, we need to ask a number of questions: did the President draw that money from his personal account or it was drawn from state coffers? If he drew it from his personal account, how does he intend to recoup it? Is it only the former legislators whose welfare needs to be improved or the other citizens also? The president and his lieutenants have vowed to crush corruption; is it possible when he is busy dishing out patronage to his clients?
Our country has suffered a great haemorrhage of funds. Only a few days ago, the state owned newspaper The New Vision reported that U Shs 370 billion was spent on CHOGM. Prior to the summit, I questioned on air what an ordinary Ugandan would benefit from CHOGM. The skeptics are now being vindicated. It is coming to light that CHOGM cost us more money than we were told.
Ugandans are dying of famine; higher education has been reduced to a preserve of a few as fees in public institutions have been over-hiked and our country is being turned into a man-eat-man society. It is ironical that those who were preaching Marxism before capturing power have now turned into far rightists hell bent on promoting individual welfare instead of the common good.
Ugandans must stop complacency and begin asking tough questions such as: do we benefit from our taxes? Why have leaders who preached frugality become wanton big spenders? Ugandan elites must keep reminding our dear president of his 1986 inaugural speech and his book, “What is Africa’s Problem?” As my area MP Honourable Otafiire has always said, ebibagamba nibanyuka tibyo bagamba nibataha (what they say while making local brew is different from what they do while drawing it), but our leaders need to be told that not all Ugandans are too daft.
Uganda has a miniscule number of university graduates yet most of them have no jobs. The government is always telling them to create their own jobs. Why couldn’t former MPs who were earning huge sums of money fail to create their own jobs - that they have to continue sucking the state coffers?
Could the money dished to former MPs be a reward for having struck out the constitutional provision which limited the president to two five year terms hence giving Museveni green light to rule the country ad infinitum? Assuming, many lost because of no-performance, should the president continue rewarding non-performers?
I know of many first class and second upper graduates who fail to get jobs because jobs are given on patronage and the unfortunate graduates have no godparents. These people have chosen to write course works for others in order to make ends meet. Others have chosen to do printing business and are busy forging O level, A level and university documents. The NRM government on the other hand deludes itself that it is fighting corruption!
On 6th April 2008, when I was hosted on UBC TV with Hon Charles Bakabulindi, I said that the government was seated on a time bomb because of graduate unemployment. Now the government, which always learns the hard way, has seen it. I doubt whether they would have deciphered that had it not been the events of 10th to 12th September 2009 which claimed the lives of more than 20 people. The government now knows that unemployment can push people into frustration, hopelessness and wave of criminality.
We have a minute number of genuine university graduates but we have too many people with academic papers. I have advised the NRM government to verify all employee documents; the government has chosen to keep a deaf ear. Could it be behind the forgery?
Uganda's opposition parties must shape up and address critical issues. I wish they had think tanks and research desks to help them address critical national issues. Only then shall we look at them as viable alternatives.
Uganda has a new generation of voters who shall not be fed on deception and manipulation.This generation wants assurance that the country belongs to them.
By Vincent Nuwagaba.
Mr. Vincent Nuwagaba is a political scientist cum human rights defender and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org