It was meant to be a happy moment but it ended up sparking fear and doubt.
This week as the government of Korea was handing over the management of the magnificent multi-million dollar National Farmers Leadership Centre (NFLC) at Kampiringisa in Mpigi district to the Ministry of Agriculture, most people, starting from the community around it, to the area Member of Parliament and the RDC, were pessimistic about the future of the facility.
The apprehension originated from a sense of admission among many of the those who witnessed the handover, of the pervasive culture of mismanagement of public institutions that has infected Uganda’s society and blocked its development.
“Many people are concerned that when the facility gets into the hands of Ugandans, it will be run down,” said Hajj Lubega Wagwa, the Resident District Commissioner of Mpigi District. He was echoed by the area MP and Minister of Trade and Industry Amelia Kyambadde, who expressed fear that the centre’s future is doomed.
Although the Minister of Agriculture Vincent Ssempijja admitted failure in managing public facilities, he used the same event to reassure sceptical witnesses that the facility will not only be better managed but shall also be made bigger.
Ssempijja said: “We should accept this criticism that when things are handed to us, we mismanage them. But I would like to see the centre expand and perform better.”
Perhaps realising the sense of high expectations from across the different stakeholders regarding the NFLC, the Agriculture Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Pius Wakabi, who was also inaugurated as the chairman of the new steering committee that will oversee operations of the centre, pledged to properly maintain the centre and bring about visible positive change in one year.
“Give us one year and come back here to celebrate successes,” Wakabi, while at the same time issuing a stern warning to the newly installed principle of the centre Zackary Muyaka that he will not tolerate mediocrity.
In the end however, the combination of high expectations coupled with an admission of failure, helped to inspire hope among Korean officials and weary Ugandans that things may be different this time and perhaps for other projects in the future.
As Ambassador Park Jong Dae, who had himself diplomatically expressed fear of mismanagement, sounded hopeful that pressure and vigilance will bring about positive results.
He said: “The more you worry about a challenge, the less trouble you face. I now feel more comfortable that things will move smoothly.”
The challenge though is that Uganda’s problem has not been the shortage of commitments and grandeur plans but the ease with which the same promises have been broken. The only difference with this perhaps, is that if NFLC is allowed to go down the drain, it will be more painful.
Many people, including Ambassador Park, still have a lot of goodwill and hope that change can come sooner rather than later.
The Korean envoy who helped his country re-establish the diplomatic ties with Uganda after more than three decades, has earned praise from different high-ranking government officials for introducing numerous assistance programmes aimed at transforming Uganda into a developed country.
Ambassador Park is expected to leave soon after a six-year tour of duty that saw him start the embassy as a lone worker to making it a fully-fledged embassy and one of the most visible.
About the NFLC
Constructed by the government of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and inaugurated in May last year by both Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Park Geun-hye of Korea, the NFLC is cherished as a centre of hope for Uganda’s transformation using the mind-set change ideology to spark the ‘I can do it spirit’ and community cooperation as the driving forces for development.
Built at a cost of US$4.4m on a 50acre piece of land donated by government, the centre acts as both a demonstration facility for various farming enterprises, but also as a school for instilling an ‘I can do it spirit’ borrowed from Korea’s ‘small village movement’ (Saemaul Undong) that made the Asian country one of the fastest economically transformed countries in the world.
The outgoing director of the NFLC Dr. Jee Hyeong-Jin, warned the management of the centre to begin working on changing the mindset of the staff.
Minister Ssempijja also pledged to start the mindset change revolution with cabinet and Members of Parliament as key agents of change that can spark a nation-wide campaign that can put Uganda on a path of rapid development.