Passing through the middle of rain-drenched and forested Hoima District, we came across a convoy of military vehicles stuck somewhere in a muddy-soaked road along villages that clearly were still seriously backward. President Yoweri Museveni was visiting the district on one of his exploits of getting every Ugandan into the middle-income bracket within score years. The stuck vehicles were part of his advance protection team; himself having traversed overhead in a helicopter.
Fast forward to Alebtong District last week. Museveni was on a similar assignment, next year. Again, the roads he was passing through were rain, muddy-drenched and nearly impassable for the vehicles, including his. As usual now, his chatter is that the NRM regime is/will give Uganda good asphalted roads, by when? In the next 20 years!
After 30 years in power he wants another 20 years to give Ugandans a middle-income status! Can you believe that?
A little over 20 years ago, China’s leaders had embarked on a similar crusade; and by now they have lifted their country to the Number Two world power. This is a similar story of the Asian Tigers, beginning with Singapore, which has left the many African countries it was at par with in a similar colonial dilemma, way behind. Africa’s problem simply put is: leadership!
In the heat of the campaign, not just Museveni, but his other erstwhile opponents; Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi, have gone on a comparable promises spree. These three “leaders” have previously been together for a considerable time; and with Mbabazi and Museveni, until a few months’ ago disagreement over swapping power inside their NRM apparatus, split them into opposing camps.
Mbabazi now argues that he was merely implementing orders; are we to assume that he merely implementing orders when he used the NURP money meant for Northern Uganda for buying luxury vehicles, instead of spending it for the needs of the progamme? Let him challenge his former boss on this largesse. This issue alone shows how these “leaders” ignored the needs of the people using donor money which our children and grandchildren will have to pay with interest.
Besigye is no better. Was he not the Political Commissar in the regime that supervised the burning to death of 69 people in a train wagon in Mukura in 1989? What did he do about it? Is his conscience clear while seeking votes from the relatives of those people?
Their audience is the same Ugandan population now thronging their political rallies, many of whom have participated before in the previous general elections, which were characterized by basically the same promises. If the voters are susceptible to foolery, they don’t show it; instead they have succumbed to wearing the respective party T-shirts to show support for the candidates. Also, they are being doled peanuts (if lucky, maybe a new fifty thousand-shilling note) for salt, soap and paraffin. For that they will sing and dance for these “leaders”.
(See this: the so-called crime fighters were recently stranded in Kampala for lack of money for them to return to wherever they had come from. What happened to the promises about money?)
The opposing candidates advise the voters to “eat the money” but not to vote for the people giving the money, in what has become “buying” crowds. The anomaly is that: we hear Besigye actually gets the money from the crowds. This appears incredible from a population that has been pummeled over the three decades into abject poverty, with the people in the NRM government stealing most of the money meant for their services, in what has made corruption a deliberate hallmark of the regime. There is a big song and dance act about “fighting” it, but with only front men being caught and tried in the courts. They cannot expose those from above for fear of their lives.
The campaign promises encompass the whole societal structure and economy: from roads, hospitals, schools, agriculture, obviously oil, etc, name it.
Take the one about jobs. Recently, there was a laughable promise of 280,000 jobs in a country of 35 million people with more than 300,000 graduates entering the absent job market every year. If you go back perhaps ten years, we would now have more than three million graduates unemployed. In the 30 years of the NRM incumbency, if you doubled that number it would still be a conservative figure of six million unemployed, who are now no longer youth. This is seriously absurd!
Politicians; it is people’s lives that are at stake, for Christ’s sake!