Talking Politics: Way forward for Uganda

I’m sitting here, as I type this article, thinking about Uganda and its people, and how there are so many things that are good about this country which we never acknowledge. I’m a big critic of our government and of the very construct of this thing called Uganda, which is a capitalist construct in the true sense of the word that believes in trickledown economics. Someone recently quoted the opening lines of Anna Karenina one of the masterpieces of Tolstoy and here it goes, “all happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”; thence I ask, are we an unhappy family compared to our neighbors in the region? What are the indicators of happiness? Why the negative energies towards Uganda, our family? Is it fashionable to vent anger?

I don’t make this comparison to undermine any country, nor do I seek to give legitimacy to the regressive idea of Ugandan ‘exceptionalism’. I abhor that construct with every fibre of my being. I make this argument solely for the purpose of articulating how sometimes, because we are so absorbed in our problems; we don’t even recognize things we must pause to see as progress.

And it is little things like press freedom, which we don’t understand the significance of, precisely because a few of us have visited countries where such freedom does not exist. There are countries out there, some not too far from home, where censorship of the press is so severe that any media that is not state owned is subjected to the worst forms of harassment and abuse; from the vandalism of its property to the senseless arrests of journalists who simply report on state inadequacies. In Uganda, our press/ social media can even allow expression of hatred and insults directed at the very first citizen of the country, constructive or otherwise.

It is things like freedom of association.

You would be shocked at how many countries in Africa don’t have tolerance of dissent, to a point of banning political organizations completely or simply punishing opposition, even physically. I am not saying that we are there yet but at least no political party has been banned or deregistered in Uganda. One may say that there was a period of one party state in Uganda but that should be reconciled with the opening of political party spaces and the 2000 referendum. Of course someone would say that I am being complacent and have gotten used to mediocrity, but I don’t measure our success basing on where we have come from. I am merely being comparative, looking at the continent. Perhaps what drives our blindness in appreciating the little that we have is, we know we deserve better and we can be better than where and what we are in this country.

The biggest monster though is unemployment.

We can praise the beauty and exceptional state of our infrastructure; however, if that infrastructure gives access to only a quarter of our citizens, then we need to work much harder. Solutions to unemployment will make us a remarkable and a competitive economy to our peers. 4-6million young people of my age, dear reader, are hoping the infrastructure and the ‘good’ our country possess will filter down in benefiting them. Once we build things that have no positive multiplier effect to help bringing in those in periphery to mainstream economy then we will be no different from those who build mansions with Gold plantings, deep in rural areas that are annihilated by poverty, where people only delight in seeing development but not ever living it.

Am I saying we must be happy and sit there wallowing in gratitude? No. We deserve better. We should not have to feel privileged to have good things. We are worthy of them. We are worthy of an accountable government, good infrastructure, social security in every sense of the word, a free press and so on and so forth. What I’m saying is that we must never be self -absorbed and so cynical that we fail to see even those things we take for granted as advances and progress.

On social media, it is bashing for His Excellency, and others fail to acknowledge his legitimacy. Here is a popular sentiment that seeks to suggest that the root of the problem is a 73 year old man. Well I refuse to accept such a simplistic argument. To argue that the main problem in Uganda is an individual, no matter how problematic the individual maybe, is to give in to temptation of lazy thinking. At some point, this substitution of reasoning for sensationalism will have to be annihilated so that sensibility can be born.

The reality of the situation is that Uganda’s problem is much bigger than President Museveni. And for as long as sensationalism and lazy thinking continue to cloud our reasoning, we are not making progress in terms of defining the problem. And because we choose to ignore reason, our situation will not change. – It is like when a car breaks down and you insist on changing the driver, it does not matter whether the best driver takes charge of the car. The car will not move. Diagnosing the driver as wrong without examining the car is simplistic. We need to detach sentiments from reason. We need to observe the nature of institutions through which the leaders operate.


 This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 6, Issue 5 of September 30th 2016 under the title, “Lazy thinking and cynicism will not take us to the promised land, we need to re-channel our negative energies”.

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