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Snapshots in the New Year

By Simon Peter Kaye

Mini-skirt brawls, Gen. Sejusa leaks, gay bashing, teargas, and World Cup in 2014

An in-depth analysis of anticipated trends and phenomena bound to shape Uganda’s socio-economic and political landscape this year reveals some interesting projections. Let me play the oracle and tell you what to expect in the next 12 months.

Whether it will be on the premise of the banned miniskirts, random excuses by university students ranging from bad food to increases in tuition charges, politicians opposing various ideologies by taking to the streets or the teachers not getting long over-due promised salary increments; one thing is for sure – there will be some group of Ugandans striking at some point on these dusty, potholed streets during the new year. And yes, the ‘tear gas’ phenomenon is almost always a given.

After 2013 closed off with a few exciting Bills passed by the August House, 2014 will certainly be remarkable in the legislation arena.

First off, the mandatory requirement by the state for women to dress up in clothes extending below the knee will certainly have more than a few grumbling about the apparent attack on their freedoms of expression through fashion.

More wonder is just how this law will ever be enforced if President Yoweri Museveni assents to it, given the routinely evolving trends of fashion? The Police already have enough assignments on their job cards; including administering breathalyzer tests to suspected intoxicated drivers and plucking number plates off of errant drivers’ vehicles.

There is something else to think about here; the Anti-Pornography Bill as passed, does not mention anything about a “miniskirt”. So the police might lack the locus to deal the brief skirt. That does not mean they will not try. They do not have powers to deregister motor vehicles; but they try!

Still on legislations; specifically regarding freedoms and rights, 2014 will see Uganda taking pole position on the global scene as far as the regulation of the rights of same sex couples and partners is concerned. The headlines are already screaming what foretells the ignition of demonstrations.

On the political scene, I envisage another cabinet reshuffle during the year. This would be a more strategic alignment of the pieces at play for maximum effect as the campaigns ahead of the next Presidential Elections in 2016 draw closer.

Certainly self-exiled Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza will make more headlines albeit this time through his newly formed Freedom and Unity Front party. And his revelations will be as sensational as Snowden’s leaked NSA secrets or even Julian Assange’s global cables.

In 2014 we will continue to have more people feel the impact of the Central Bank’s stringent policies aimed at curbing inflation, and the divide between the haves and have-nots will remain profound. Nevertheless, the New Year will have the economy experience the real estate bubble bursting.

In the closing few weeks of 2013, the prices of not only construction materials but also property rates slumped in a got saturated local market and this trend will continue for the next several months to come.

Now that our Kenyan neighbors have shown how serious the issue of digital migration can be, chances are that the Uganda Communications Commission will embark on a serious implementation strategy to have all broadcasting transmitted over the digital platform come next year.

With that sorted, focus will turn to the serious unfinished business from 2013 – which is the UMEME contract. Parliament and other arms of government are set to revisit and review the electricity distributor’s concession and performance.

Meanwhile, talking about electricity and digital migration only brings two things to mind – television and the 2014 World Cup – and there is no sporting event with as many global audiences as the FIFA World Cup. As usual, we shall support wholeheartedly as a country, even when for the umpteenth time will not be representing the continent with some of the other African states.

I envisage the mushrooming sports betting industry collecting huge wagers during the 2014 World Cup season in this potential million dollar industry. More of these betting franchises will spring up in the New Year, even as government is trying a hand at getting some serious regulation in place.

And then there are those local calendar events which are guaranteed to happen in the New Year. The importation of some foreign musicians (and there is always someone flying in from Jamaica where it used to be Congo and South Africa in the past), ‘launch’ concerts for local artistes and the now annual ‘corporate social responsibility’ events such as the Kampala International Marathon, the Goat Race, the numerous awards for different sectors and not forgetting the KCCA Annual City festival – which reminds me; there will obviously be continued tiffs and legal scrapings between the Lord Mayor and the Executive Director of KCCA.

The influx of neighbors into Uganda fleeing from their unsettled countries will increase in 2014 in the wake of the instability in South Sudan. However, the unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west of the country will also continue to add to the numbers in this season when concerted efforts are geared towards cementing a concrete East Africa Community.

To this end, a few schemes will be implemented in as early as the first quarter of the year such as the East Africa Tourist Visa, the joint taxation scheme for imports into the region and even attempts to progress towards a unified common EA Currency.

So, will it be a great year? I would be optimistic. There are more positives than projected hurdles in the New Year though; quite inevitably, some projects will potentially fail to take off. I just pray by the end of 2014, I shall be armed with my National Identity card, would have eventually participated in the National Census, and endured less power load-shedding. May God help us all have a more prosperous year ahead.

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