Uganda's political opposition is in search of an authentic leader who can be trusted to lead a honest and formidable challenge against President Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM). Like the proverbial drowning man, it is holding onto straw – and with Professor Bukenya, it is bound to sink. This is partly because Bukenya’s record on siding with principled positions is sketchy. At almost all political junctions in Uganda’s drive to democracy – Bukenya always sided with expediency.
On, August 11, 2013, Bukenya gave an interview to Sunday Monitor’s Richard Wanambwa where he projected himself as a convener and savior of political opposition including the Democratic Party (DP), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Conservative Party (CP) – and to a certain limit the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC). Is Professor Gilbert Bukenya trying to breathe life into the defunct, moribund and scattered Inter Party Cooperation (IPC)? I am sure career opposition politicians are looking at him with suspicion.
Prof. Bukeya makes grand accusations against the government where he not so long ago served as Vice President. He seems to suggest that once he left, things went wrong! He accuses the government of constant torture, use of bullets against civilians and extra judicial killings. Really? How can a leader who rose to the second most powerful position in this land accuse his government of extra judicial killings without offering detailed evidence?
Prof.Bukenya says he is still a member of NRM- why can’t he raise his claims with the party organs responsible or compel the relevant party organ to call for a deliberate inquiry into his claims. As a person who has won and lost some cases in Uganda’s courts of law, he knows that the rule of law is present in this country. Why can’t he litigate extra judicial killings in Uganda’s courts of law? If he has grown suspicious of our Courts, why can’t he go the East African Court?
It is Prof. Bukenya’s solemn right to offer himself before the people of Uganda for any office- including that of President. But to use outright blackmail and smear tactics for political advantage instead of articulating an alternative credible and concrete agenda is trivial, hypocritical and counterproductive.
In the interview, Bukenya claimed that government has neglected the poor and it pains him! Isn’t this political hypocrisy? While he was Vice President, Bukenya crisscrossed the country, aided by tax payers’ money to spread the upland rice scheme gospel. He has also, lately, been talking about poverty eradication projects in his Busiro North Constituency. Was promoting upland rice scheme, as a Vice President in the NRM government a show of neglect for the poor? Did poverty eradication programs stop when he left the position of Vice President? Is poverty in his Busiro North constituency below the national poverty scale? Those, who know Busiro North Constituency, are aware that a lot will have to be done to contain and eliminate poverty there.
When it comes to poverty, Prof. Bukenya knows he is being economical with the truth. It is no longer a secret that poverty in Uganda is reducing at a rate faster than our sister countries in Eastern Africa. Indeed according to the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) Global Monitoring Report 2013, Kenya’s poverty head count stands at 43.37 per cent against Uganda’s 38.01 per cent using the poverty cut-off point of $1.25 per person. Tanzania stands at 67.87 per cent; Rwanda poverty stands at 63.17 per cent while in Burundi it is at 81.32 per cent. The poverty level scoring was based on the number of people living below $1.25 a day. Previous studies have used $1 daily but that has since been replaced with the higher amount.
If these statistics were published by a Ugandan agency, Bukenya would claim that they were cooked. With the foregoing numbers, we cannot at all celebrate or relax, but rather we have to work harder as a people to get everybody out of poverty. This is a herculean task but achievable.
Those countries we often talk about as developed and wealthy are also still grappling with poverty. For example, in 2012, the United States Census Bureau reported that 46.2 million people were living in poverty in the United States in 2011- the largest number of persons counted as poor in the 53 years of poverty measurements. The poverty rate in United States is at 15 percent. Things are not easier with China- where a whopping 128 million people were below the poverty line as of 2011. Although this is 13.4% of the population, this really shows that the entire world needs to create new ways of eradicating poverty, spreading wealth and deepening inclusive growth. I am waiting for Prof. Bukenya’s back pocket alternative ideas that he kept secret when he was Uganda’s vice President. Over to you Prof. Bukenya.
By Morrison Rwakakamba
Special Presidential Assistant – Research and Information