A woman about town buttonholed me on where I had been because she had been looking for me to write a story about the East African Legislative Assembly Elections (EALA), that have just taken place. Her point was that she wanted me to feature her son who was running for the EALA seat on an Independent ticket.
I asked her if her son was a Member of Parliament. “No,” she said, “I just want him to get a job in Arusha as one of Uganda’s EALA MPs. You know, there are no jobs in Uganda.”
I reminded her that President Yoweri Museveni had advised the MPs and other contestants that they should not look at the EALA MPship as a job, but as something they would seek to go to Arusha to promote the East African integration. She scoffed at this notion noting that since graduating two years previously, her son had been “grassing” without employment.
I told her that it would still take her some money down her pocket to get her son into newspaper advertorials for her to get him noticed for a job in Arusha by the Parliamentarians who formed the electorate. So, whichever way she looked at it she would still spend money, which her son was seeking for. Besides, I saw that her son was carrying a batch of campaign posters, which must have cost money, so her son was not looking for a mere job, but a certain standard of job.
The conversation moved on to the utterances of the President about not merely looking for jobs. There was a perception that Museveni was being uncharitable to refer to contestants merely looking for jobs instead of the loftier principle of integration. But on reference to this particular young man, there was a feeling that this fellow was one of the millions of young people coming out of the score of Uganda’s universities who were jobless. Most of them were all gambling in the manner in which this young man was doing.
The argument was that instead of denigrating the aspect of job-seeking, it is the President’s role as the leader of the country to provide situations that are conducive for people to get jobs, especially as they have undergone expensive education to get to where they are. Museveni should therefore not have been rooting for some MPs to get the EALA posting but should have left them to their own devises. After all, even some of these contestants are concerned about the direction of the East African Community on the issues of Burundi and South Sudan.
If these two countries are to come into to the fold properly, they must abandon violence and embrace democracy in the manner that the other East African partners are firmly – or appear to be – firmly embedded.
The way some of the contestants were campaigning was not commensurate with the level of the integrity of the partners. One of the contestants was heard campaigning un intelligibly in quasi-English expressions that merely made people laugh.
Some of the faces campaigning have never been seen before on the political scene of Uganda making me believe that they were actually looking for a job to represent Uganda at such a high level even though they are not known by Ugandans.
But if at all such an MP managed to weave his way through, would Ugandans expect any thing from him?
Not much, the young man might say. And his mother would have been in agreement with him.