Uganda At 50: How Can We Even Be Celebrating?

Patrick Mugumya

Next week, Uganda the country will be 50 years old and the country has been whipped into a frenzy to mark the day in a big way, to celebrate.

But let me ask, what is so special about one turning 50 years?

And why should I feel more Ugandan today than I have ever felt in my entire life? Why should I be more proud?

The government is pulling all stops to encourage us to party and party hard.

There is a street carnival, there is a food festival and then there is a mega bash at Kololo. What used to be an airstrip has, with over Shs20billion, been turned into something else with a stadium and monuments and statues and statuettes. More work is still on going in readiness for what will be the biggest party the government has ever thrown in our 50-year history. Billboards have been erected, beer companies are bottling special beer and Bank of Uganda has released new money, a commemorative coin.

I don’t want to  kill the mood of Ugandans who love to party but lets be honest. Why should we be celebrating? Why should we be throwing a massive party?

Just last week while addressing  the press at Rwakitura, President Museveni berated youths who borrow money to throw parties to celebrate graduation when they don’t even have a job yet. The president gave the country a lecture on frugality.

These unemployed youths can now ask the president the same question. Why they party?

According to Uganda Debt Network, Uganda’s foreign debt has almost doubled from USD2.9billion 10 years ago to the current USD4.5billion. Youth unemployment is at a record 80%. Why are we throwing a party?

Government extravagance is also alarming. For the month of August alone we recorded a deficit (including grants) of Shs211.2 billion, which was Shs123.6 billion or 141% above the programmed level.

This is according to figures from the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development.

The main reason for the deficit? ‘Government financial operations were more expansionary than planned during August.’ And we are throwing a party in October?

Well, I don’t think we should be mourning, but I genuinely don’t think we should celebrate 50 years any more that we usually celebrate October 9th the day of our independence.

I think we should use the day we mark 50 years as an opportunity to reflect of what has been and what could have been.

I think the government shouldn’t be creating a festive mood like its Christmas, but should encourage Ugandans to refocus on the difficult road ahead. Here is why:

This week the president reemphasized government’s plan to double the salaries of doctors. After all these years, the government suddenly realizes that brain drain was real and doctors were fleeing the country for greener pastures in other countries.

But for me doubling doctors salaries is only cosmetic. More like lipstick on a pig. The problem is far more complex and needs far bigger solutions than doubling the salaries of a few hundred guys.

How can we be proud to double the salaries of doctors while keeping the men and women who educate the doctors, the teachers, on a pittance?

Every country around the world is building better cities, except in Uganda. Countries are constructing from scratch or modifying old towns to make them more livable, lovable and sustainable.

Some have been dubbed future cities others call them green cities, all aim at guaranteeing residents, businesses and visitors the best city experience. Living in the city shouldn’t be a pain, unless you are talking about Kampala.

Formerly built on seven hills, Kampala has sprawled out of control. The Executive Director of KCCA Jennifer Musisi calls it a ‘dump’.

Only 8% of the city is connected to a sewer system and only a small section of that sewerage line works, the rest it clogged and blocked.

New residential areas spring up around Kampala and within a few years they are messed up neighborhoods. The commonest feature of Kampala is garbage, shantytowns, dirty kiosks, hovels, rat holes and the occasional painted mansion sitting beside an open sewer. Living in a city is supposed to be something beautiful; living in Kampala is simply depressing.

How can we be proud to celebrate 50 years of independence while building the biggest slum on the continent?

How can we be proud to celebrate when the transport minister thinks having bumper-to-bumper traffic jam is development?

How can we celebrate when instead of establishing functioning public transport systems, we’ve outsourced that to Boda Boda cyclists to transport the city into the future?

How can we celebrate 50 years with such roads and potholes and gaping manholes in the city?

How can we celebrate when we teach our kids to be clean when on the way to and from school they see foodstuffs on sale in the dirt by the roadside?

How can we celebrate 50 years when our markets are bustling with filth, rot and squalor?

How can we be proud of 50 years of independence when jiggers still ravage whole communities?

How can we celebrate when we import toothpicks in a country where youth unemployment is over 80%?

How can we celebrate 50 years of independence when policemen, the men and women who keep us safe from criminals sleep in grimy tin houses and dog kernels built by the colonial regime?

How can we celebrate 50 years of independence when only 18% of Ugandans survive on more than USD2 a day and when 74% of the citizens are classified as living in abject poverty according to the Africa Development Bank?

How can we be celebrating 50 years of independence with an infant mortality rate so high we are ranked 192 out of 220 countries, the last being Afghanistan?

How can we celebrate when our hospitals are in a squalid state, when watchmen and clerks are treating patients in government health facilities, when quack medical workers give soft drinks as blood transfusion?

When medicines are stolen and expired ones administered to patients?

How can we celebrate 50 years when MPs agree with the president that in our country right now, health matters are not a priority? How can we be proud of this?

How can we be proud of clocking 50 years when the president and his entire government can’t feel confident enough to seek treatment in a local hospital and have to take the plane to treat a headache?

How can we be celebrating, when after 50 years our country Uganda cannot not avail (even at a fee) decent medical care to its citizens?

How can we celebrate 50 years of independence when 50 years down the road, a child is still required to write down their tribe and religion on a school admission form? When we haven’t moved an inch in bridging the tribal divide and we have districts curved along tribal lines?

How can we celebrate 50 years of independence when our football team last played at the Africa Cup of Nations 35 years ago? When we’ve managed just two Olympic gold medals the last one coming (against all odds) this year?

How can we celebrate 50 years of self-rule when at sports we support foreign teams like we don’t have our own?

When PE has been virtually scrapped off the timetables of primary schools and sports grounds have been given out to investors without replacement?

How can we be proud in sporting mediocrity and under achievement?

The Chinese teach their kids about hard work making profits, the Indians teach childred frugality and business acumen, the Americans teach their kids about innovation and chasing dreams and aiming for the stars.

What do we teach our kids in school? How can we celebrate when as a country we do not know one single tenet that our education system imparts on our children?

How can we be proud to celebrate as a country when corruption, theft, skimming off the top and not hard work is now acknowledged as the only sure way and fastest way to wealth in Uganda?

How can we celebrate and thump our chests when those who steal public funds aren’t caught and those that are suspected aren’t put to trial and the few that are put on trial rarely get convicted and punished?

How can we be proud having ministers so past their prime they dose off even while their boss, the president delivers the most important speech in the country?

What message do they teach to the young ones? That being minister isn’t about serving your country but dosing your way through the meeting and waking up to amass illicit wealth?

How can we be proud when not one single five star hotel in Kampala has traditional Ugandan food on its menu?

I can go on and on but most importantly why should we throw parties because we have clocked 50 years when most of us can’t even sing the national anthem?

To sum up the embarrassment the ministry of Information and National Guidance this week sent a request to radio stations to popularize the anthem by playing all the three stanzas. This is a welcome move by the minister but it comes not months but days before the big day.

You can’t help but imagine that maybe the ministry has only just remembered that we have an anthem with three stanzas and that most Ugandans can’t even sing the first stanza.

But how can Ugandans sing the anthem when its not taught in school? Civics used to be a subject in primary school; it was dropped, last time I asked, I was told it was scrapped because it was politicizing kids at a young age.

We used to sing the anthem (one stanza not three) during assembly time, but these days there is rarely time for assembly leave alone the one stanza of the anthem.

And we think because the country if now 50 years old, we should celebrate? How can we, when the majority of Ugandans just live without feeling alive?

The author is a social critic 

Source : Here

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  • http://www.redpepper.oc.ug charles

    Thanks Patrick….Real Brain for the Nation. “For God and My Country”

  • http://www.google.com alex

    As an economist with knowledge of the global economy – Uganda is a trush bin and I believe the country is trapped in the past. Truth is bitter but Uganda’s current management can not take Uganda to any better step economically. These chaps do not understand macro economics and they are willing to kill off the country for personal political advantages. Also there seems to be no meaningful plan to integrate the young generations into the matters of their country – this is so dangerous! Unless there is a sharp change in events – soon Uganda will go through another violent revolution; this time we pray it will be fruitful!

  • http://yahoo Albert

    Patrick, You are just spot on. no reason to celebrate.

  • http://www.rugaba-agaba.blogspot.com Agaba Rugaba

    Despite all the challenges, i think we also have huge opportunities at our disposal.

    Tourism and Agriculture are possible opportunities for guys with deep pockets.

    Youth should start forming partnerships and corporations.

    Thanks