Uganda: Tribal Time Bomb Yet to Explode

Published on 5th February 2008

Since the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki on December 27th, 2007, the world has been shocked by scenes of violence and death in Kenya as gangs unleash mayhem on their fellow countrymen.

Barely a week ago in Uganda, the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authority and State Enterprises demanded a list of all employees of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) from the Commissioner General, Ms. Allen Kagina. This issue is a subject of public contention after allegations that the tax body mainly employed personel from western Uganda. To the amazement of many Ugandans, the allegation was not only confirmed to be true, but it was  revealed  that two of Uganda’s giant tribes from the central and western parts (the Baganda and Banyankole) occupy executive positions. Going by the tribe overall, the list showed that the Baganda formed the majority of employees followed by Banyankole, while some tribes miserably fell short of a single representative. 

It is hypocritical for Ugandans to fake horror and concern make faces when Uganda itself is sitting on a time bomb of the very same kind. Tribalistic tendencies in Uganda are loose cannons ready to explode. Hiring and firing is done on 'who knows who.' Job advertisements are made to feign transparency and avoid public queries. In most cases, the advertised positions are already given out.

Eligible job seekers are duped into believing they stand a chance, but fall short of the position. Qualified job seekers present countless applications to potential employers but fall flat after doing interviews as they are not 'properly connected' to warrant employment. Those with “tall uncles” sail through smoothly.

Juicy jobs in Uganda are mostly occupied by  members of the ruling tribe. This is evident in the National Social Security Fund, Global Fund, Uganda Revenue Authority, UMEME, immigration department and other institutions. Has someone out there looked critically at the composition of the army in Uganda? The bulk of the Uganda Peoples' Defense Forces (UPDF) are recruited from the west while institutions like the police and prisons are left to the rest of the country.

The manner in which tenders are awarded is questionable. Advertisement and proper biding is becoming a myth. Tribesmates inform each other of these opportunities and before you know it, the tender is taken. An investigation of ownership of all the posh buildings, institutions, businesses and  land in Uganda would shock anyone! It’s interesting that even a remote, arid region like Karamoja has already been sold to imaginary investors. Has someone heard the public outcry on the land bill? How about controversies surrounding the Buganda land, Acholi land and now Karamoja land?

How many parents have had their children turned away from prestigious schools because they cannot convince the head teacher in his own mother language? I went to get a place for a sibling in one of the  Islamic founded schools. I had been told that since I was from the North and a Christian; I probably wouldn’t measure up. The 'rumours' were confirmed  when my sibling was denied a chance  while a friend’s daughter, who is a muganda, got a place yet she had not performed well. How is a red blooded Ugandan supposed to understand this?

Mr. John Odit, Chairman Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authority and State Enterprises advices that it is questionable for institutions to over-recruit and present wealth creating opportunities to members from the same regions while totally neglecting others. Company Executives and institutional leaders should look at the national level when giving out jobs and other opportunities because these institutions are for all Ugandans. Unless nationwide balance is considered, Uganda is just a tribal time bomb waiting to explode.  

To my Kenyan Brethren, Vash Young once said that “any experience can be transformed into something of value”. The future depends on the present and not the past. We should stop the violence and develop the determination of a mirror which never loses its ability to reflect, even if it’s broken into a thousand pieces.  

There is a timeless adage that says “Nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” President Mwai Kibaki, Your determination to hold onto power is not admirable because courage without conscience is a wild beast.  Good leaders bring out the best in those they have stewardship over. If all that has been reported is anything to go by, it’s high time you comprehend the value of falling with pride because scars are just physical proof of a memory filled with guts and glory.  Positive footprints in the sands of time are only made by valuing, respecting and upholding human life.

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