The word peace as contextually applied in Uganda is not only fallacious but also ingenuine, here is why.

A bout a week ago, a friend of mine who works for the NRM government indicated during a one to one discussion that in principle, he does not support the removal of the presidential age limit from the constitution of the Republic of Uganda. He however suggested that he would like the limits to be removed for the sake of peace and stability of the country. According to him, president Museveni who has been at the helm of Uganda’s leadership for more than 30 years is the “only one” who can maintain “the peace” that the country “enjoys” today. I find this kind of reasoning not only absurd but also infantile especially in the country’s context, here is why.

This term, peace, has oftentimes been used by the president and the Ugandan political elite like my friend to imply the ‘absence of war’. But is this all that is to the term? I think that to look at peace not in its own right but rather in relation to its opposite is not only inexhaustive but also fallacious.

At its core, the term represents much more than this narrow application. For example: for a starving young boy in Karamoja, Kigezi or Teso regions, peace could easily mean availability of food; for university graduates vainly walking the streets of Kampala each day in search of employment opportunities, peace could as well imply getting a job; and as for the country’s [s]heroes (our mothers), peace could be the hope that when time is due, they will find a decent and affordable health care system from which to receive antenatal care; whereas for a civically conscious Ugandan, it is the freedom to organise and protest the injustices they daily face without facing criminal sanctions from an overzealous security force.

Peace is an end in itself, the mental and emotional state of harmony, one that is free of stress, the clarity of one’s mind that he or she can exercise their talents and reach their goals and aspirations, and an immediate environment that facilitates and enables freedom – where social, political and economic opportunities are accessible to all, regardless of the ‘accident of birth’.

Museveni’s government has failed to create this environment. In the past half a decade alone, various media outlets have reported hundreds of people who have died due to starvation across the country. Moreover, the National Food Security Assessment Report for January 2017 which is compiled by a government inter-ministerial team warned that 11.4 Million Ugandans could face starvation by the end of the year 2017. More so, 83% of the young people in the country still cannot find gainful employment while 16 women die every day from pregnancy related complications at the hands of a dysfunctional health care system.

But even when you look at the application of the term from the narrow lenses of regime apologists, the results are appalling. Museveni’s government has failed to provide security for property and lives of Ugandans to warrant his stay at the helm of Uganda’s leadership. A closer look at the last one year months alone  reveals miserable failures; from May 2017 for example, more than 23 women have been murdered by unknown criminals in one of the supposedly “most secure” parts of the country-Entebbe. While, according to the 2016 Human Rights reports and various Media reports, in November 2016 alone, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Force (UPF) killed between 60 and 250 people in the Rwenzori Region including women and children. Peace can therefore not be used as a get way card for Museveni’s overstay in power.

Lastly, it is imperative to note that Uganda’s polity has been characterised by suppression of dissent and violations of the fundamental human freedoms of association and assembly. The recent events including the military invasion of the Parliament of Uganda, sieges on various civil society organisations and freezing of their bank accounts are precursors to a deteriorating political situation.  What the Age Limit Provision in the constitution is a safe guard to guarantee a peaceful transition of power and an assurance of new political settlement. This is what is at stake.

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DEAR GRANDPA MUSEVENI, GIVE ME ANITE AND LEAVE KYAGULANYI ALONE!

My good friend Andrew Karamagi has penned a comprehensive piece following President Museveni’s statement in response to Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi’s recent activities. Owing to its relevance, coherence and intelligibility, I have re-published it here for my readers.

Karamagi makes a distinctive point when he reminds us  of what is at stake and explicates the exchanges between President Museveni and Hon. Kyagulanyi not as a two-man debate but rather a contest between the future and the past. This distinction should be particularly instructive for Museveni apologists who look at the issues that Hon. Kyagulanyi raises through the narrow and trivial lenses of his “ambition” and their self-serving life presidency project.  In a typical Karamagi style, he explores the contextual challenges the country faces, develops a coherent rebuttal against Museveni’s rather stale and tired “ideology” narrative and delineates the importance of the kind of transition that the country longs for .

Take a read:

DEAR GRANDPA MUSEVENI, GIVE ME ANITE AND LEAVE KYAGULANYI ALONE!

By Karamagi Andrew

Dear Jajja Museveni, I have just completed the unenviable and painful task of labouring through the statement that was purportedly written by you in response to my brother Robert Kyagulanyi, a youthful legislator, musical genius and leader who commands a national following. Given the generational nature of this debate, I find it important, in my own right as a youthful citizen, and indeed as several other young leaders and citizens have done, to respond.

Reading your statement was painful and labourious because besides the glaring factual inaccuracies, acute deficiencies in substance and depth and undisguised dishonesty, it falls woefully short of the abilities of the Museveni who wrote the excellent books that contributed to my own political consciousness: Sowing the Mustard Seed, what is Africa’s Problem and the daring Dar es Salaam undergraduate thesis on violence and Franz Fanon’s political theories. In Primary Seven, I also read Ondoga ori Amaza’s thriller: Museveni’s Long March: From Guerilla to Statesman. I re-read that book in Senior Four and only then did I appreciate its depth.

 This is why I think that it is possible that you did not author that piece. If it is you, Gen. Museveni who actually authored it, this is more reason for you to realize that your best days are behind you and you need to pass the baton in preparation for a peaceful retirement during which the country will continue to consult you.

On the other hand, if the statement was prepared by your Press Pool, then it is equally worrisome that you have chosen to staff the highest office in our land with people who cannot write coherently, with facts and basic argumentation.

Worryingly, these are the same people proofreading loan requests, (petroleum) production sharing agreements, draft legislation, sit-reps and other sensitive documents on your behalf! Any wonder why State House and the Office of the President perennially perform so dismally insofar as budget compliance, efficiency and executive policy direction are concerned? If your staff cannot write a mere statement-in-rebuttal, how can we taxpayers trust whatever else they disseminate into the public domain?

Whichever of the two possibilities as to whom wrote that piece is true, it is self-evident that our country is in need of a serious leadership overhaul, right from your closet which is laden with ill-fitting and badly-tailored suits, shirts and shapeless shoes, through to portfolio holders at the Ministerial, Ambassadorial and other appointive offices. This urgent makeover cannot be steered by you the incumbent Museveni, less so by your acolytes. I need not explain the gravity of this matter, lest I digress.

Suffice it to note from the outset that the points of contention in this discussion should not be interpreted as a two-man debate between you (Museveni) and Kyagulanyi. This is a contest between the past and the future. It is a crossroads between repression and liberty. The dividing line between the setting sun of Uganda’s fifty-four-year-old mixed record of progress, broken promises and unfulfilled promises and the rising dawn of a new chapter in the lifetime of our country that focuses on harnessing our diversity so as to lead us to a common peace, justice and sustainable development agenda.

It is a race towards deliberate and conscious transition from transactional politics to transformational politics; it’s a debate between you the ageing men and women who account for 2% of our population and have squandered the longest uninterrupted period that a post-independence government has been in power (thirty-one years—way longer than many of us have been alive).

Should it not be shameful enough that we who, in 1986, were either unborn (such as myself), or others who were frolicking infants or crawling toddlers barely able to construct a comprehensible sentence are today engaging with you on radio, television, in the newspapers and debating with you at campaign rallies?! Erias Lukwago was in Primary 4 when you captured power. Constitutional Law Don Dr. Busingye Kabumba, parliamentarians Gerald Gerald K Karuhanga and Robert Kyagulanyi were all 4-year-old babies in 1986. Don Wanyama Don Innocent who abuses elders and distinguished citizens on your behalf was just eight. Evelyn Anite was a naked two-year-old imp, licking mucus as it flowed off her nostrils; today you shamelessly chair the same Cabinet in which she sits.

What is it that you haven’t done in three decades (and counting) that you magically want to deliver upon in the next five or ten years? When will you write a biography among other books? How about play with your grandchildren and regal them with stories? Do you not wish to wake up to what I imagine should be the serene silence of your countryside home and not have to worry about thirty-five million Ugandans? …or even have time to take Janet out to candlelit dinners behind the setting sun in the evenings and stay up late without worrying about early morning meetings, security briefings and long flights?

But instead of answering these existential questions we have posed, you have not only gone full throttle towards overthrowing the constitutional order, but like a man possessed, you have resorted to insulting us, locking us up on fabricated and flimsy charges, brutalized us with the tools of violence and labelled us as outlaws and misfits.

In your purported response, you repeatedly make mention of “ideology” and “action” but have never been able to articulate what ideology is, much less transform the National Resistance Movement (NRM) into a functional and durable institution so as to ensure that it will survive ending up on the garbage heap of history like Daniel Arap Moi’s Kenya African National Union (KANU) which was run in similar fashion to your NRM.

At best, the NRM is a one-seater vehicle (not a bus!)—a personality cult—designed to propagate your individual—and a few of your henchmen’s—narrow interests.

At worst, the NRM is a consortium of majorly illicit business and ethnic interests anchored by the barrel of the gun.

There is no ideological standpoint that distinguishes you from the Left, Right or Centre. Indeed, you have previously claimed to be multi-ideological and aspired to run a mixed economy—both of which are impossibilities. An ideology cannot be multifaceted.

In my estimation, an ideology is both a statement of intent and set practice of conducting the political, economic and social affairs of a given community or society. For example, a look at Milton Obote’s National Development Plan which was titled Work for Progress shows that the Uganda People’s Congress—a socialist democratic party—wanted to establish a developmental state anchored on public amenities with an economy that was rooted in agricultural cooperatives. Julius Nyerere’s Common Man’s Charter was an unequivocal move towards running a socialist republic in Tanzania. The African National Congress of South Africa is also a social democratic party, whose aspirations were born out of the anti-apartheid struggle and quest for racial equality and voting rights.

It is not clear to me whether the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is a political party to begin with and if it is a political party, what, if any, its ideological underpinning is. Your writings are heavily Marxist, yet you run our economy in such a recklessly liberal fashion that would startle Milton Friedman, the father of neo-liberal economics. You posture as a pan-African but the Great Lakes Region is bursting at the seams with refugees as a result of your military adventurism and hobnobbing with insurgents like M23 and Salva Kiir’s armed bandits, which you have veiled with American tax dollars as peace-keeping and/or peace-support operations.

You have sung the song of value addition in agricultural produce for as long as I can remember yet no tangible interventions (besides gimmicks like NAADS, PMA and the latest Operation Wealth Creation) have been made in terms of budgetary allocation, price floors/ceilings, extension services and cost of production for farmers is concerned. On the question of social amenities, it is also unclear where you stand. Our hospitals have become death traps and none of you ruling this country can step into Mulago for treatment—yet you want our mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters to give birth there! In education, we are trailing the region in terms of literacy and comprehension. The same could be said of our country’s nutrition and dietetics.

What is the NRM’s ideology, if any?

Respectfully, you, Yoweri Museveni and your hatchet men represent the past and the longer you overstay your welcome into that office, the more you erase the contributions you have made over the past three decades. And while we do not purport to have silver bullets to resolve our current healthcare, education, foreign policy and economic challenges, we young leaders are conscious of the fact that the same thinking that created today’s problem cannot correct them.

For example, no other President or leader except you, anywhere on the planet today (even in the developing world), has launched drip irrigation by plastic water bottles as a solution to abysmal performance in agribusiness and value chain deficits. Plastic bottles, particularly when exposed to direct sunlight, are a medically proven source of carcinogens, toxic compounds that cause cancers! No other President anywhere in the world today has spent their time launching boreholes, water taps, clinics, restaurants, school blocks and roads except you! What should Local Council chairpersons do if you have reduced your office to launching every other small project? This is 2017!

If you were running a functional government, you need not have stopped by the roadside to “conduct” investigations into the spate of murders in Entebbe. Does your job description also make you Detective-in-Chief? So much for the gargantuan budget that Kale Kayihura’s Praetorian Guard receives every other financial year—only to squander it by, as retired Police Commissioner Herbert Rheno Karugaba rightly observed, “…turning the Police from the law enforcement institution it is supposed to be into a highly militarized squad specifically aimed at controlling the grey area between crime and politics.”

Meanwhile, for all their indiscretions, your “sons” Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame of Kenya and Rwanda respectively have launched large scale investments like high-speed train terminals and air ambulance services, respectively. Both investments are aimed at improving commerce, mass transportation and the welfare of citizens in those our neighbours to the East and South West.

One would expect that at this point in the lifetime of our country (and indeed region), you Mr. Museveni would be orbiting the same galaxy with your respected colleagues Mwai Kibaki, Benjamin Mkapa, Hassan Mwinyi, John Kuffuour, Thabo Mbeki, John Rawlings, John Mrisho Kikwete among others who served their respective countries and passed the baton to new leaders—but are nonetheless still consulted on matters of national, regional and continental (even global importance).

In equal measure, your departed colleagues like the venerable Julius Nyerere, iconoclasts like John Garang, Jomo Kenyatta, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Wangari Mathaai and Nelson Mandela, would look down on you and smile about a continent and people who are moving forward on the path to equitable development and progress.

Unfortunately, they must be turning in their graves because you have instead chosen the doomed path of disgraced tyrants and despots like Jean Bodel Bokassa, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Blaise Compaore, Hosni Mubarak and Abidine Ben Ali. Embarrasingly, for a man who was hailed as one among a new breed of African leaders, you now strikingly resemble the very tyrants you ousted and vehemently criticized, not least the semi-illiterate but fiercely patriotic Idi Amin and your arch-nemesis, founding father and two-time President, Milton Obote. It is an embarrassing spectacle to see you, grandpa Museveni, emulate with mathematical precision and tyrannical ferocity, the people you called swine, murderous and corrupt.

Yet it is very possible to appreciate how and why you have ended up where you are today. In the absence of Ugandan luminaries like James Wapakhabulo, Miria Matembe, Eriya Kategaya, Dani Nabudere and Bidandi Ssali whom you parted ways with following principled disagreements, the vacuum around you has now been occupied by felons, fraudsters, lackeys, fortune hunters, sorcerers, sycophants and hangers-on of the unhinged Evelyne Anite and the shameless Ibrahim Abiriga breed! Misery indeed loves company.

The foregoing matters and questions form the basis that we, your great- and grandchildren, have premised our principled disagreement with you upon. Attacking our leader and colleague Robert Kyagulanyi was as uncalled for as it was unfortunate…and it will not resolve the pressing questions of unemployment, healthcare, education and social security that bedevil us every day. His propositions are representative of the aspirations and dreams that we have for our country…which we intend to pursue to a logical conclusion.

Our views as a generation cannot be washed away by throwing money at us; they cannot be erased by intimidation, nor can they be vapourised by torture or forgotten at the snap of your fingers.

karamagiandrew@gmail.com

Uganda at cross roads, prospects for peaceful transition slowly blur, we must come together now!

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-12 at 1.59.13 PM
NRM MPs attending the NRM Parliamentary Caucus Meeting

I have watched with detestation a You Tube video showing National Resistance Movement (NRM) Members of Parliament (MPs) resolve to lift the ‘Age Limit’ provision in the Constitution of the Republic of Ugandan to allow President Museveni run for the country’s presidency (an office he has held for the past 31 years) in 2021. It is indeed indubitable that at this point in our history, (borrowing Maurice de Talleyrand’s words) these MPs have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

You see, Uganda’s history is littered with frightful episodes of political turmoil and suffering, most of which is attributed to violent transfers of power as selfish and greedy political leaders sought to attain and maintain political control. Such a resolution at a time when the country is faced with repressive state agencies and subtle suppression of dissent is not only scary and frightening but also indeed is a precursor to a turbulent future.

Proponents of this proposal cynically indicate that it is not about Museveni as an individual. Sadly, however, the timing and ‘vibes’ surrounding this debate gives them away. The NRM dominated parliament has a reputation for legislation for [and] in the interest of Museveni – the person. In 2005, for example, Parliament voted to remove presidential term limits from the constitution to allow Museveni run for a 3rd term, a decision that set the country to its dark path to despotism.

For those wrought with hankering for democratic and progressive appearances however, have gone further to posit that president Museveni has been democratically elected by the citizens and that the amendment is an attempt to allow him his ‘democratic’ opportunity come 2021. Well, it is indubitable that since the cold war, elections have become a universal means of determining who takes on leadership in most countries in the world. In Uganda, however, it is neither contestable nor unclear that electoral processes have consistently been flawed and short of the minimum democratic principles. At the very best, they serve to give Museveni ounces of legitimacy in the ‘eyes’ of the international community. Whereas, as the events in 2006, 2011 and 2016 have revealed to us, they have at worst become flashpoints of political violence, intimidation and economic instability.

President Museveni’s actions and politics have made our polity a fragile one and encouraged disgruntled groups to find other, less peaceful means for expressing dissent and dissatisfaction. What the age limit provision guarantees at the very least, is that he would hand over the presidency peacefully to another person – a quest that has been unquenched since Uganda’s birth as an independent country in 1962.

For me, this is nonetheless more about the love for the future of our children and great grandchildren than it is about Museveni. It should be recalled that at the height of the 1980-86 ‘liberation’ war, Museveni proclaimed words of a fundamental change, words of hope, and of freedom and of restoration, it is sad that decades later, we find ourselves at the same point we were 40 years ago. The main inference at the heart of Talleyrand’s quote is lunacy or insanity. By endorsing such a proposal, NRM MPs are exhibiting nothing more than psychopathy, lunacy and insanity fuelled by some common impulse of greed, or self-interest, adverse to the future of the country and to the aggregate interests of Ugandans.

What the next stage in our country’s history requires is uniform vigilance to prevent this lunacy from taking over, lest, instead a crisis is before us. To some of us and for most Ugandans, even when it is a commonplace occurrence in the history of our nation, it is still our solemn and most momentous occasion to unify against this treachery. Certainly, in spite of the numerous economic and political challenges we face, I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the resilience and hope of the people of Uganda. We shall overcome! A luta continua, vitória é certa!

chrodexter@gmail.com

The ‘KALOC’ campaign is deceitful and squalid, it should be treated with the contempt it deserves

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A section of Ugandan youth leaders are mobilising citizens to support the efforts to remove age limits from the constitution of the republic of Uganda under the campaign dubbed ‘KALOC’ (kick Age Limits Out of the Constitution). They have variously indicated their concern as the lower age limit which discriminates against citizens below the age of 35 years from running for president. I am convinced that their reasons are ingeniune and deceitful and that the campaign is a conduit for President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s life presidency project which is being run subtlety in an attempt to remove the upper age limit from the constitution (I will return to this later).

Nevertheless, while I find their motives repugnant, I would like to engage with the reasons advanced variously on different social media platforms. Their main argument for the campaign is that full political participation rights include the right to become a candidate, as well as the right to vote. This is against a back drop of Uganda’s demographic reality characterised by majority young population. They essentially argue that this reality should be reflected on the ballot paper.

This argument is devoid of the contextual realities of Uganda’s body politic and polity. It does not consider key structural impediments to young people’s engagement in politics beyond the lower threshold on one position of the presidency. For example, despite having the lower threshold for participation in parliamentary election at 18 years, the number of young people contesting in this position has remained unsurprisingly low at less than 50%. Is this statistic a reflection of this demographic reality? I think to argue that lowering the minimum age threshold for presidency will reflect the youth demographic on the ballot paper is simply ‘argumentum ad absurdum’.

The other argument is that this provision is discriminatory. I do agree here that it is. But let’s face it, why do we require the right to vote apply only at 18 years of age or 16 years in some other countries? I believe the logic is simple – to make certain decisions such as who should be a president, one needs a certain level of cognitive abilities. By extension, the office of the president requires exercise of wise discretion and cognition. We trust our president to sometimes make life and death decisions, including starting wars. I deliberately use term ‘cognition’ here due to its richness, to encompass the interaction of mental processes that produce human thought. Under its rubric come such faculties as concentration, attention, inventiveness, intuition, foresight, abstract and logical thought. These are all applicable to meaningful and wise decision-making which come with experience and longer observations of the workings of the world. Aren’t these a relevant condition to consider? Can we convincingly posit that 18-year-olds exercise “wise discretion”? If that decision is not palatable, then the suggestion that an 18 year old can be president is not.

In response to this logic, the proponents of this campaign (however ingenuine) argue that village youth councils, student councils provide sufficient training and experience for someone to become president. I find this laughable because I believe different political offices require different levels of maturity and experience. They further argue that the choice of who becomes president is made through an election and thus citizens would be able to choose who they believe is ‘right for the job’. Though logical, this argument is selective in principle. Without going into the debate about the flawed nature of our electoral processes and the character of our polity, isn’t the constitution supposed to guide us? Can this argument be extended to suggest removal of all other qualifications including academic and leave the decision ‘entirely’ to the ‘ballot box’? I hope not.

Let’s turn to other jurisdictions in and outside of Africa. There are a large number of countries which have even higher ‘lower age limits’ for the presidency. Just like Uganda, countries like Ireland and Austria have their presidential candidacy age threshold at 35. Others such as Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Germany and Romania on the other hand set their limits higher at 40 years whereas Italy’s is one of the worlds’ highest at 50 years. One can argue that these lower thresholds are rather arbitrary without conclusive scientific research that distinguishes the cognitive abilities of an 18 year old from let’s say  that of a 25 year old or a 35 year old from a 40 year old and as such the choice of a higher age requirement is very subjective. For example, why did the framers of the Ugandan constitution put the lower limit at 35 years of age? Why not 30? 33? Or 36? or 38? There is no scientific evidence to suggest someone is more emotionally mature at 35 years of age than at 33. In my opinion this would make for an interesting debate, but alas, the ‘KALOC’ team does not make this argument, they want the limits to be removed.

Even then, one needs a minimum threshold to qualify for the highest office in the land. In 2011, the US National Institute of Mental Health, the largest scientific organisation in the world specialising in mental health, highlighted  that in many ways, the brain doesn’t look like that of an adult until one reaches their mid-20s, for some people the scale may be higher. This, in a sense should be sufficient reason to dismiss KALOC’s ‘remove limits’ campaign which brings into repute their motive.

Young people in Uganda need jobs, support to their entrepreneurial ventures, skills and talent development, decent health care system, access to proper education, among others. These are the issues that youth leaders in Uganda should be concerned with. Running around the country and ‘confusing’ unsuspecting Ugandans in an attempt to foster a hidden or blurred agenda is not only insulting to the young people with whom I associate but also disgusting.

Lastly, the quest for a peaceful transition of political power in Uganda is palpable and of paramount importance, President Museveni, who has been at the helm of the country’s leadership for more than 30 years now albeit through manipulation, coercion and intimidation will not be legible to contest for the presidency in 2021. This is a chance for Ugandans to see him hand over power to another person peacefully. The timing of these twin campaigns, (KOMUKWATAKO and KALOC) led diversely by Hon. Ibrahim Abiriga, Hon. Evelyn Anite, Mr. David Mafabi, Herbert Anderson among others is rather cynical. They should be rejected and treated with the contempt they arguably deserve.

nkwchroo1@myuct.ac.za

Museveni’s letter exciting but it’s all old rhetoric: haven’t we learnt nothing and forgotten nothing!

Chris Nkwatsibwe 

The quote, “they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing” is ascribed to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand who was a laicised French Bishop, politician and Diplomat. He was referring to the restored Bourbon dynasty after the abdication of Napoleon, and subsequently used against the French socialists. Reflecting on the recent media reports in about the episodes of torture of suspects in police custody and subsequently reading the president Museveni’s public letter to the Inspector General of Police and the security forces about the use of torture. I couldn’t help but ask, how perfidious and amoral can our rulers be? Have we not learnt anything from our country’s past?

Uganda’s history is littered with frightful episodes of political turmoil, poverty and suffering. Historians have attributed all this to a selfish and greedy leadership. No wonder, the country has not witnessed peaceful transition of power from one political head to another. It is this turmoil that somehow steered President Museveni off the peaceful path to launch a five year guerrilla war against an ‘elected’ government. Following massive loss of lives and destruction of property, the war ushered in the current breed of leaders (read dictators).

At the height of the war, this new breed of leaders spoke words of a fundamental change, words of hope, and proclaimed freedom and restoration. To some of our parents and grandparents this was the kind of change they needed. It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a men’s character, give him power”. And so, it was hardly 15 years at the helm of Uganda’s leadership that the rhythm changed and the true character of President Museveni and his cronies started unveiling.

Plans to amend our new constitution were hatched and a new era of repression and political tyranny began. So, to some of us, the recent reports about torture did not come as a surprise; not because we are old enough to have lived in the dark days of Idi Amin but because we have lived all our lives in an era of a modern ‘good and five-times selected dictator’ –  Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

We have witnessed episodes of journalists being brutally flogged by uniformed police officers in an incomprehensible way. The manner in which Dr. Kiiza Besigye and other activists including Bishops have been numerously arrested for challenging the excesses of the system have been both traumatising and degrading. They have recurrently left bitter tastes in our mouths and hearts. The many stories of young men and women incarcerated for holding views that contrary to the regime are not only heart-rending but also brazenly disgusting.

We have witnessed extra judicial killings, the recent ones in the Rwenzori region, suppression of dissent and the wanton theft of public resources. Our misleaders have condemned millions of Ugandans to die at the hands of famine and poverty while they use taxpayers’ money to fly themselves and their cronies to Europe and India for treatment of diseases they acquired eating excess food. So, the truth is Uganda is not returning the dark days of the late president Idi Amin, the days have been with us and we are slowly surpassing the limit.

Talleyrand’s quote intrinsically infers lunacy or insanity which Einstein defines as doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. We simply need to change our ways. It is morally impulsive for us to maintain indifference to this state of affairs. Torture is not only degrading and inhuman, it is also ancient and barbaric. Art. 24 of our constitution states that, “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.” If the president is really serious about condemning and putting an end to torture, He should do more that issue public letters advising ‘his men’ to stop torturing suspects. He should instruct his security and intelligence forces to investigate and bring to conclusion all cases of torture that have been reported and implement recommendations of human rights bodies.

Should Campaign Promises be Legally Binding?

Chris Nkwatsibwe

The last two months have seen massive public condemnation of the arrest and incarceration of social media activist and Makerere University researcher Dr. Stella Nyanzi for calling President Museveni a ‘Pair of Buttocks’. Her arrest was widely referred to as an attempt to suppress free speech expression? Luckily or rather tactically, Dr. Nyanzi has now been granted bail and re-united with her family. I do hope that the hearing and conclusion of this case will set legal precedence and scotch this kind of repressive behavior by the state and its agents.

While the act and idea of Dr. Nyanzi’s arrest is very baffling especially in a country whose rulers profess democracy, what is more bewildering is what led to her campaign on social media in the first place. You see, President Museveni in his 2016 election campaign promised to provide sanitary pads to all school going girls to keep them in school, but hardly a year after what turned out to be an election short of minimum democratic benchmarks, Mr. Museveni apostatized on this promise. The Minister of Education and wife to the President, Janet Kataaha Museveni, while appearing before a parliamentary committee of education revealed that government had no money to honor this pledge.

For analysis who have been following Ugandan politics long enough, that was not surprising. Yet I can’t help but ask, how did we come to this point? How did it come to be accepted that our politicians promise what they cannot fulfill? How did it become socially bearable to end a relationship with your partner for deception but still be indifferent when an elected official makes empty promises? Aren’t issues of health care and sanitation, the economy, or regional security much bigger than romantic deception?

One would expect that a clear and specific promise such as providing sanitary pads would not be conceived if it were difficult to fulfill. It is however not the first time President Museveni has made ‘empty’ promises to the Ugandan electorate. He is ill-famed for having ‘changed his mind’ to run for office a couple more times after 20 years in power. Moreover those who have come to know him closely have been bountiful enough to describe him as a pathological liar, one that only tells the truth by mistake.

Now that we are in a political system where neither honor nor reputation makes sense and run an electoral system where citizen’s votes are only counted but rarely count, making political and electoral promises legally binding may be the only remedy we have. I know such a proposal may sound as ludicrous as it is impractical, but what hope have we left? Don’t desperate times call for desperate measures?

Chris.

Dear Mum, I do Celebrate You Today!

Dear mum,

I do celebrate you today!

Thank you and daddy for working so hard to make me the man that I am today.

Thank you for introducing me to the importance of hard work and resilience. With barely enough to feed us, you and daddy worked so hard to give us a life that only you could. You raised us to be content in a society where greed overshadows altruism.

You taught us to differentiate between right and wrong and to act virtuously no matter the circumstance. In a country that glorifies evil and vilifies good, there couldn’t have been a better lesson. I do know that sometimes I fail you, I am sorry! But you also taught us to keep trying to better ourselves every day, and I will do just that.

I am still fascinated at your level of discernment and wisdom, how you could tell when I had faked illness to dodge work or school; tell when I lied and rebuked me for it; taught me honor in a country deficient of honorable men. You see, our president who should be a fountain of honor makes promises that he knows not how to fulfill, yet, as citizens, we are too inept to tell. So we let him and his cronies rob us of our dignity and rights. Well, you also taught us to be hopeful and I know that soon, very soon, we shall reclaim and restore our country.

You did spank me, sometimes for nothing. Am sure you know that i resented it, but as I grow older and certainly more knowledgeable in the ways of the earth, I realize you were preparing me for a world that hates you for being who and what you are, and sometimes for doing right, thank you.

Well, every day is your day mum, but today I just put words to what I feel every single day.

And to the mothers of this world, you are our true heroes, we do celebrate you!

Chris.

Why Uganda Needs a Minimum Wage to Achieve Middle Income Status by 2020

Chris Nkwatsibwe

For a very long time now, Ugandan workers across the different geographic and sector divides have been working under intensely unfair conditions. Reports of abuse, working without protective gear with limited access to health insurance and in some cases work without or delayed pay especially for the lowest paying, most unstable jobs have been widely reported and quite often hardly investigated.

While this could be a case of laxity in implementation of the law, the existing legal framework is also too weak to protect the ordinary Ugandan worker.  Absence of a viable and decent minimum wage is one of the many deficiencies in Uganda’s employment and social protection systems. According to Wikipedia, a minimum wage is the lowest remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers.

The story of the minimum wage in Uganda is one that has been extensively written about and explored. According to the DRT Policy Brief No. 4 October 2013, the minimum wage has been frozen since 1984 at 6,000 shillings per month. After devaluation and conversion of the shillings, this wage stood at 60 shillings as of 1999. Given the changes in the economy and the rising cost of living, this wage is too low and has left millions of Ugandan workers susceptible to exploitation especially where the high levels of unemployment and desperation force workers to accept any pay.

Presently, Uganda still grapples with the realities that come with a free market economy and the views that have been advanced against a higher minimum wage, while genuine; they are irrelevant to the economic conditions that the country faces today. According to the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE), a higher minimum wage would make Ugandan exports uncompetitive, reduce investments and put jobs at risk. This, they believe would translate into negative growth.

This assertion is only true to a lesser extent, statistics, research and trends from key case studies and economies that have relatively higher minimum wages contradict its logic. What is indisputable is that increased wages would guarantee a fair increase in the consumption demand of the population which would potentially stimulate production. Keynesian economics also augments this reasoning by stating that in the short-run, economic output is substantially influenced by aggregate demand.

Secondly, in a free market economy, the main determinants of prices are not only cost of production but also other subtle and convoluted factors. For example, the demand and supply model surmises that the intersection of the demand and supply provides the market price; this is assuming other factors constant. Taking these scenarios into consideration, following from increased wages to increased aggregate demand and higher prices would enhance production and spur economic growth.

Key government officials in Uganda including President Yoweri Museveni have also openly expressed a negative view towards instituting a higher minimum wage, constantly asserting that the governments focus was on attracting investors to create more job opportunities. They do argue that a minimum wage would discourage investors and lead to unemployment. This casual thinking is fallacious and could be inspired by the worrying levels of unemployment in the country. On its merits however, the thinking is inconsiderate of the majority working poor Ugandans whose earning is insufficient to lift them out of poverty. This coupled with the current economic context characterized by high dependency ratios and widening income inequality make the need for a minimum wage an economic imperative.

There is also no doubt that in societies with a savings and entrepreneurship culture, an increase in wages would provide investment incentive through increase in the proportion of income that is saved. Needless to say that Uganda has been ranked one of the most entrepreneurial countries on the continent.  It is therefore right to assume that instituting a higher minimum wage would increase domestic savings, encourage innovation, creativity and investment as a result of the higher disposable incomes.

Increasing the lowest wage any employee can earn will go a long way in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor in Uganda. It would enhance the living standards of workers and reduce hardships faced by the working poor. This is consistent with Goal 8 of the sustainable development goals which among other things underscores the need to achieve full and productive employment, decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.

Lastly, minimum wage is simply a matter of Justice and Human Rights.  Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that “everyone has a right to work, free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and protection against unemployment. The same article goes further to prescribe that everyone has a right to equal pay for equal work.

It is also imperative to note that the free market economic model that Uganda has adopted values acquisition and exploitation beyond all other values. This paradigm fails to consider the wows of the poor and vulnerable workers and makes the need for a minimum wage very inevitable. It would guarantee a life of dignity to most working Ugandans. Instituting a minimum wage will thus go a long way in securing Uganda’s labor force and complimenting government’s efforts to achieve middle income status by 2020.

Ugandans were privy to the shortcomings in the Election Management System; it’s their unwavering hope that led them to the polls

Chris Nkwatsibwe

As Ugandans and the world recover from what can decently be more described as a coronation of a dictator than a sham and fraudulent election, one is compelled to believe that it is the resolute and hope for a peaceful transfer of power that must have led millions of Ugandans to participate in the 2016 Presidential and parliamentary Election.

Pre-ticked ballots, delayed delivery of voting materials, deliberate failure to tally results from districts believed to be opposition strongholds, intimidation and repeated arrest of Dr. Kiiza Besigye and his supporters before and after the election, failure to meet the simplest basics of additive arithmetic by the Electoral Commission – a ‘justification’ for more votes that voters from diverse polling stations are all not new phenomena occurring in Uganda’s elections. But yet as the memories of the past frizzle out, their indefatigable hope and hanker after a peaceful and democratic nation keeps Ugandans afloat.

It is now indubitable that fifty three years after independence, Uganda still stands at cross roads in the quest for a peaceful political transition. Ugandans across the country have witnessed violent transfers of power ranging from coup-d’états to guerrilla war fare which have cost nothing less than deep wounds of anguish, pain and loss of hundreds of lives.

In 1980 tens of youth led by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni waged a guerrilla war against the then government after disputing electoral results, yet barely two decades later courts of law and independent observers have oftentimes indicated how the previous elections fell short of the minimum democratic benchmarks while the hues and cries of majority of Ugandans after the February 2011 elections left a innumerable innocent lives dead and millions worth of property destroyed.

In the year 2014 Civil Society Organizations in Uganda played a pivotal role in generating nationwide consensus on the need for reforms in the Election Management System and the composition of the Electoral Commission. As such, they collected views from across the country to come up with a set of proposals if when implemented would guarantee a Free, Fair and Credible Election. These proposals were however rejected by the government of Uganda in what most believed was an antecedent for yet another fictitious election.

It is also highly imperative to note that the defiance campaign by the leading opposition candidate Dr. Col. Kizza Besigye was premised on the understanding that the Museveni Led government and the Kiggundu chaired Electoral Commission would not provide a leveled ground for a Free and Fair Election; the understanding that it was almost impossible for Mr. Kigguddu to declare any candidate president-elect other than Mr. Museveni regardless of the will of the people. It would thus be quit infantile to comply with the unfair regulations.

Heart-rending but veridical as it is, the election was contemptible to the extent that the NRM supporters were too embarrassed to celebrate – a probable justification for the countrywide somber mood. Therefore, as we do mourn this democratic massacre, one thing that perspicuously comes out resound is the distaste of Ugandans towards Mr. Museveni’s dictatorial Junta. This also arguably refutes the ‘peoples will’ rhetoric that Museveni has invariably evoked to justify his long stay at the helm of Uganda’s Misleader-ship.

With all these factors perspicuous as they seem, it is worth concluding that this optimism that led Ugandans across the country to what would later turn out to be the most fraudulent election in Uganda’s history will lead the opposition to court with a hope that maybe or maybe in the flash of a whisper to the conscience of the Supreme Court Judges, this sham would be corrected and Uganda’s democratic bacon refurbished.

And now, this same desire that led all of us to the polls with a hope to transcend beyond all limitations will surely keep us together in this era of dictatorship challenging the injustices in the most peaceful ways and seeking to restore justice wherever and whenever. For peace and justice are the only options acceptable to all!

Chris Nkwatsibwe
Youth Activist