Thought and Ideas
Lets challenge the inhuman NRM leadership
Posted Sunday, February 10 2013 at 02:00
Today, the income difference measured by the Gini coefficient has worsened from 0.33 to 0.43 and according to UNDP Human Developing Report 2005, the poorest 20 per cent in Uganda enjoy only 6 per cent of the national economy while the richest 20 per cent enjoy 50 per cent of the national income!
Not time to celebrate. Government is excited that with oil extraction, the situation in the country will get better. But experience from oil producing countries is that oil is a bad omen for citizens with poor leadership such as one in Uganda!
It is often when we take off time to reflect that reality hits you about the dangers that surround us. As a country, my reflection as we start the year is that not only has the NRM leadership betrayed Ugandans but is leading the country towards an awkward situation in not far a future.
As they celebrated their 27th anniversary, more money was spent on medals. Not that people do not deserve honour, but improving the livelihoods of some of those ‘medal awardees’ is far better than awarding medals.
Today, the income difference measured by the Gini coefficient has worsened from 0.33 to 0.43 and according to UNDP Human Developing Report 2005, the poorest 20 per cent in Uganda enjoy only 6 per cent of the national economy while the richest 20 per cent enjoy 50 per cent of the national income! According to the 2009/2010 Poverty Status report, 20.7 million Ugandans fall under the category of the absolute poor or non-poor but insecure.
This economic imbalance is also reflected at regional level where northern Uganda remains the worst economically followed by eastern Uganda. It is not surprising that in the recently released Primary Leaving Examinations results, children from western and central Uganda performed far better than their counterparts in northern and eastern parts of the country.
Poverty in Uganda is majorly a result of government neglect of key sectors like agriculture. The sector which employs up to 80% of Ugandans has been neglected by the regime to the effect that its performance continues to deteriorate every passing year. Rather than put adequate resources in agriculture, government spends huge resources on teargas to terrorize unarmed civilians!
Condemning majority people to a life of poverty and human indignity is a betrayal by government but importantly, very dangerous for us all. It is betrayal because health, water, education are some of the basic necessities in life and it is government sole responsibility to provide these basics. Chapter 4, (24) of the 1995 Constitution is distinct on respect for human dignity and protection. It says “no person shall be subject to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Often, when we think of inhuman treatment and torture, our minds are only focused on those in prisons but today, Uganda has become a big prison where majority people are condemned to perpetual poverty and other forms of human degradation. This is a very dangerous trend, more dangerous than the real and imaginary al-Shabaab we are fighting.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS: 2011), carries Prof. Joel. D. Barkan’s article; “Uganda: Assessing the risks to stability”. Prof. Barkan makes important observations which I agree with.
He projects that the internal threats to Uganda’s security are a patronage type of leadership; declining services delivery; a young population (the average Ugandan age is 15.1); the imbalanced economic development, as well as the declining hope to change government through elections.
Whenever Uganda’s economic growth figures are cited, what comes to my mind is economist Paul Krugman’s words that; “I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive looking mathematics, for truth.” The country is headed for a big crisis, yet the NRM leadership continues to celebrate the mistaken ‘impressive looking mathematical economic figures for truth!’ Things can only get worse.
Government is excited that with oil extraction, the situation in the country will get better. But experience from oil producing countries is that oil is a bad omen for citizens with poor leadership such as one in Uganda! In Nigeria for example, when oil exploration started, agriculture production fell, the country’s debt soured and millions sunk into poverty. Today, Nigeria is a scene of massacres shrouded in religious fundamentalism yet the crux of the matter is the inequitable sharing of the oil revenues.
In Gabon, oil has caused a drunken stupor so much so that the population is unwilling to do productive work because they all aspire to be among the few wealth nationals swimming in the oil wells and despite the oil and diamond wells, Angola has one of the worst infrastructures on the continent. The oil money was mortgaged for arms.
We are all aware that here, the Executive has rejected parliamentary demands to make affairs of oil as transparent as possible. It is therefore predictable that unless the current system and its beneficiaries are checked, life for majority Ugandans will only get worse; the agriculture sector will shrink further and more people will be vulnerable to hunger. Social services will slump as money is set for elephant projects like grand markets, legendary monuments and importantly, the military equipment.
As we start the year, these are issues we must reflect on, we must neither be diverted nor disillusioned by small challenges but rather, rally together and challenge the system that has ruined our future and the future of those to come after us.
Happy New Year!
Mr Mafabi is the Leader of Opposition in Parliament