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The poor and illiterates are so easy to rule

By Bright Arinaitwe

I do not know many educated people who support President Museveni’s regime unless they enjoy personal benefits from it directly or indirectly.

The level of education has a big role to play in a country’s democratisation process. Poor and uneducated people do not know how their vote, for example, will affect them later. When an MP or a contending leader gives them a packet of salt, it cripples their conscience and judgement. All they care about is someone who has met their immediate need regardless of his competence in leadership. I do not know many educated people who support President Museveni’s regime unless they are enjoying personal benefits from it, either directly or indirectly. I wonder what the political values and democratic etiquette Eriya Kategaya and Aggrey Awori stand for considering that the two, among many others, openly opposed  Museveni’s third term (during the early moves to change the constitution) and his policies. Not only do they share his vision now, but they also recite the NRM creed every day.

My grandmother in Kabale compares Museveni’s regime with that of Idi Amin and uses that as a basis to vote. She recollects how Amin’s soldiers used to beat people, rape women etc with impunity. Whereas she argues that Museveni’s army is disciplined compared to Amin’s, she is quick to point out that in Obote I, Uganda’s money had value, roads were in fairly good shape, army and police barracks were good, and the government provided fairly good and free healthcare for all Ugandans. She wonders why doctors do not even have gloves in hospitals, hospitals lack running water, barracks and hospitals have decayed. She wonders why Museveni’s government cannot maintain what they found running and in a fairly good condition.

Surely, do we need to spend one trillion shillings of taxpayers’ money to buy fighter jets? Honourable members of parliament from either party, where is your honour if you cannot protect taxpayers’ money but rather serve the wishes of the executive? Mr President, do you still care about ordinary Ugandans who die every day due to lack of medicine in hospitals and lack basic social services? Should your priority be buying fighter jets or drugs for sick Ugandans? Absence of war in a country does not necessarily mean there is peace. We have corruption, poverty, joblessness, deplorable social services etc. These cannot give people peace.

The fate of the entire country is at the mercy of NRM’s numerical strength. The NRM uses its dogmatic majorities in Parliament to approval anything the Executive proposes no matter how prejudicial to public interest it might be. Museveni has taken advantage of his party’s majority in Parliament which he summons and commands at his whim and will. This exposes the entire country to the mercy of the President, whom I doubt can do any better after 25 years in power. He has lamented on several occasions that he is not God and therefore cannot simply say, “Let there be no corruption and it is wiped out.” This statement from the President leaves me wondering whether he is not a tired leader. It’s a clear admission that he has failed to catch the thieves who are stealing taxpayers’ money every day and night. Take an example of a family to understand Museveni’s resigned posture on corruption. Imagine a man telling his entire family that he cannot enforce a certain rule such as against coming home in the wee hours of the night on the basis that he is not God!

I remind Museveni that the same Bible he quotes out of context says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” In my opinion, Museveni has lost a sense of moral judgement to discipline his officials as most of the culprits are his personal friends, comrades or relatives. Mr President, you are the father of this homestead called Uganda, you are 100% held accountable for any wrongs or mess your government commits whether they are directly under you or someone else as long as they serve in your government. Therefore, as the saying “spare the road and spoil the child” goes, spare your corrupt comrades, friends and relatives and ruin Uganda.

Mr President, the model of leadership you have adopted is a nightmare; creating many districts under the pretext of “service delivery to the people.” The cost of administration for running these districts is way much bigger than the service delivery you purport to deliver. Paying district administrators, buying vehicles for all top civil servants in these districts, fuel for the vehicles, vehicle repairs and maintenance, etc are a serious hemorrhage on the national treasury at the expense of social services to the people. Most of these district officials use the government vehicles to carry manure to their farms, an utter abuse of taxpayers’ money. Ugandans work hard to pay these taxes, then your corrupt henchmen just steal the money meant for social services to the taxpayer.

I even wonder whether the office of the Inspectorate of Government is not just a mockery. How can someone who earns Shs600,000 (about $250) a month accumulate wealth worth Shs300m within five years? Even if such a person argues he has other businesses, why doesn’t the IGG have access to such officials’ business records and establish how the businesses make such money or even whether they remit taxes to the Uganda Revenue Authority. This would be a scientific basis  to establish their claims for such wealth accumulation. The Internal Revenue Service in the United States of America is so effective that they know whoever gets a dollar and from whom. It is hard for anyone in the USA to claim they have been accumulating money overtime through their businesses because everything is on record.

Unless there is a change in the way the country is run today, Uganda’s motto should me amended from “For God and My Country to “For NRM and My Stomach.” And Ugandans should brace themselves for harder times.

Bright Arinaitwe is a Ugandan living in California, United States

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