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Uganda’s elite and the lost hope of its citizens

By Tony Okao Otoa Jr

One of my favourite Shakespeare plays is the one about Julius Caesar. The thing about this play that really makes me overly amazed is the ignorance of the leaders at the time and the intrigue and backstabbing that follows at the end.

However my most interesting part is the one where the soothsayer called Spurinna approaches Julius Caesar on his way to the senate and says ‘Beware the Ides of March have come’ as a way of warning him about his death that day. Julius Caesar acted with ignorance and rubbished him by calling him a dreamer and went on into the senate. What happened in the senate was his brutal murder by his closest generals and men.

The moral of this play to me is that even our loved ones can do away with us in the blink of an eye for reasons some cannot even explain.

Uganda in recent years just feels like Roman times during Caesar. You have the Emperor who is very much feared and seen as the basis of daily livelihood, and then you have the very interesting phenomena of sycophancy and ‘political leeches’.

Mwenda, in one of his recent columns, told us to look at the good of Museveni as a leader and praise him for uplifting the economy over the years from the 1980s. That’s a fair shot and of course credit can be given where it is due. However what Mwenda has completely forgotten is that a grown economy that only benefits the few elite and foreigners does no good for the masses. The few individuals who have benefited from the misguided allocation of resources and state funds should not be seen as promoting an economy. For as long as the government is not providing this same economic empowerment to citizens in all corners of the country, it is not worth mentioning.

I want to base my article on the ignorance of the elite in Uganda. I have always thought that this is an issue a lot of people hate to tackle because they would offend many or even themselves; however it is time we talked about it.

Uganda has a very big number of what I would refer to as highly schooled individuals, great businessmen and women and most important of all, great urban masses that consider themselves to be living the ideal life. However, what is there for them to show for their progress? I was asked recently to define what development is at a seminar and I responded that emancipation is development. To my surprise, I was asked to explain what I meant and I refused to because to me, there was no need to explain a straight forward answer. Emancipation is the idea that one is not limited politically or socially and can stand up for their rights. Are Uganda’s elite enlightened, yes but not emancipated.

The elite have taken on the trend of the Western lifestyle ‘” big cars, houses, glossy lives and ignored the fundamental ideals to a better life like the simple Christian notion of being my brother’s keeper, volunteering to invigorate the rural masses politically and so on. Over 70% of Ugandans live in poverty and yet the elite continue to ignore this in pursuit of the good life. The idea of thinking of oneself over the other and the inhuman competition levels have led to many people closing themselves into their small worlds.

I know everyone has dreams to chase and the highway express waits for no one, however lets go back to our core African ideals of community and team spirit.

I remember the days in Jinja at my church; Our Lady of Fatima, we had groups called bubondo which were more like cells. They brought families together and I can recall how everyone’s issue affected the community. The last time I went to this church, I did not feel that spirit and to the new generation, this is more like a tale.

If change is to happen in Uganda, if there has to be a massive rise in political actualisation, the elite have to relate with the bottom millions. There has to be a contact in ways like sensitizing the masses on their roles in creating change. Elites should use their education to educate the masses through constitutional building processes like translating the constitution into all spoken and written dialects in the country. And most important of all, mere talk will not effect much change.

Move on from just talking the talk through constant media bashing of the government and start walking the walk through action. Action can only make 100% returns if all parties are involved. For as long as the man in my village of Ogur is left out of the picture, we shall keep having the theme of ‘No change’ in our lives till the day of the inevitable change, death comes.

Elites can be like the soothsayer I mentioned, but they won’t until they realise that change is a concerted effort, everyone has to be on board.

-The writer is based in London.

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