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Uganda, now a Country of False Excuses

By Ofwono Opondo

 April 19, 17

Ugandans have turned the country into a place of petty excuses and scapegoats for failures to fulfill own obligations including feeding their families, which is very unfortunate, unhelpful and should not be accepted. It is surprising that even after the government provided free universal primary and secondary education it is common to find that many parents still cannot provide the basics like feeding, pencils, pens, exercise books, and school uniforms, let alone knowing the teachers of their children. In fact, it is not uncommon to find parents especially men who even don’t know the name of the school where their children study. And as ‘poverty’ becomes the chorus across Uganda, many of these men consume alcohol and roast meat at roadside makeshift bars with money that should be enough to take care of family needs.
Similarly, while government has expanded primary healthcare provision including immunization, basic and essential health facilities and medicines, and access to clean water, many families don’t bother to take children for immunization, or making family hygiene a priority.
Unfortunately, with electioneering politics becoming the permanent feature of Uganda’s public policy platitude, leading politicians find it convenient to blame government for every weakness, failure or mistake even in their local communities. So, watching some members of parliament from Teso sub-region threatening to strip naked, turn into roadside beggars, or public latrine washers allegedly to raise money to feed their people who are facing famine and starvation, many couldn’t help to laugh at the comedy. It was public comedy because as the MPs left the media podium each of them was grinning from ear-to-ear with oily, shiny and round faces a sign they are well-fed. The faces betrayed the real intention for the press conference which was cheap publicity.
As the country was emerging from Stella Nyanzi’s gale than we entered another of phone SIM card generated by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) which gave an ultimatum in accordance with the law enacted in 2015 that all SIM cards be up-dated using either the national identity card for citizens, or passports  for foreigners. But as usual, because Ugandans like nitpicking, they have kicked up a very un-necessary storm.  
The on-going opprobrium against the seven-day ultimatum, and Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC Executive Director, over phone SIM card registration, re-registration, and verification is surprising, but as a country of excuses we shall live with the storm until it subsides, and after all, government has now capitulated on its own timeline, giving a month’s extension. It is really a sign of mediocrity and un-principled comprises which keep holding the country back, and many still doubt that most Ugandans will comply with this extension.
Ugandans seem to have gone back to 2010 when they staged a prolonged firestorm over the registration for the national identity card where it took years just to decide the appropriate authority to conduct the registration, for what purpose and which data should be collected. And once that was done and a law enacted, than Kizza Besigye began the campaign mobilizing the public to boycott the exercise because he alleged it was meant to infiltrate ‘ghosts’ into the national voter’s register in an attempt to rig elections.
Some years ago in 2005, government launched a pilot project in Soroti district to help local people survey and obtain registered titles for their land, and again politicians there kicked-up a campaign in which surveyors were hacked to death with machetes’. And while Besigye and opposition politicians have for a while been stocking fire over alleged ‘land grabbing’ by government, looking at Uganda as a whole many Ugandans indeed enjoy security of tenure. Unfortunately there is no production and productivity on many of those pieces of land, and no leader wants to talk about it as a major problem, instead, they blame ‘government’ or often, President Yoweri Museveni personally. Without running away from government responsibility, it should frighten sound minds that in Teso today, there are young men still using cattle lost during the war, twenty-five years ago, as the excuse for the widespread poverty and lack of food. I sometimes ask myself why poverty remains so high in Bukedi and Busoga when those regions have never had destructive wars, and no leader from there is ready to provide a candid explanation.
For months now many have been using the draught as the scapegoat for the ‘famine’ and starvation across the country, but it is surprising that with only one week of rainfall, some Ugandans have already drowned while walking or driving on roads. And when the calamities strike sometimes out of recklessness, the victims or their relatives will find someone else rather than themselves to blame.
And so when ‘traders’ in Kampala, fanned by some political leaders, ended the week quibbling over Chinese and Indian business people who have allegedly taken over businesses from them, you ought to know that this country may not progress much with scapegoating. While Ugandan citizens should to be protected from undue intrusion, exploitation and unfair business practices we must resist the temptation of fueling xenophobia against foreigners who bring in capital, skills and entrepreneurship.