2014 will be a crucial year for Uganda’s future
Posted Thursday, January 2 2014 at 02:00
My best wishes for success and the changes our country deserve in 2014. Happy New Year!
The number 13 has long been (superstitiously) associated with bad luck. It would appear that the year 2013 lived up to that reputation. Most aspects of public life seem to have suffered serious shortage of luck. The lives of ordinary Ugandans continued to get steeply harder. Incomes dwindled or remained the same for most; while the expenditures continued to rise. Taxes on goods and services that poor Ugandans depend on shot up. Underpaid public servants, especially in the Education and Health sectors, resorted to strikes that worsened the already despicable service delivery.
Stealing of public money escalated to unprecedented levels; including the Prime Minister’s office scandals, Pensions money. Land-grabbing cases continued soaring. Special minister to deal with land problems, Ms Idah Nantaba, soon got caught up in the State House tragicomedy. Tens of thousands on Kampala’s Parkyard Market vendors suffered the fourth consecutive fire disaster. Natural disasters arising out of Uganda’s scandalous environmental degradation claimed a huge toll.
Possibly, the greatest setback of 2013 was in the political sphere. Politically motivated gross abuses of human rights continued to rear an ugly head. The Uganda Police Force’s unprecedented brutality against unarmed citizens remained routine. A shoot-to-kill policy was formally commissioned for certain “suspects”. Illegal detention, “preventive” detention, and home sieges of political opposition leaders was routine.
Critical voices within the ruling NRM were severely attacked; with four MPs thrown out of the party and every effort pursued to remove them from Parliament. The coordinator of Intelligence and UPDF MP Gen David Sejusa fled to exile amidst claims of an impending purge of those against the alleged Muhoozi project. He has since revealed how Mr Museveni has been stealing elections and that in 2006, a landslide victory was stolen from me.
Media houses were illegally closed and rampaged by the police and military for long periods; further clumping down on media freedom. The obnoxious Public Order Management Bill was passed into law; to set the stage for further clampdown on the enjoyment of political rights and freedoms. Law to legalise tapping of private phones was passed.
Mr Museveni, in complete disregard of the Constitution, appointed the Chief of Defence Forces as the Minister for Internal Affairs and he assumed office as an NRM minister while still a serving officer of the UPDF. Museveni went ahead to re-appoint retired Chief Justice (CJ) Benjamin Odoki into the CJ’s office; though he was beyond the retirement age and the Judicial Service Commission had not forwarded his name to him as required by the Constitution. The ensuing controversy has meant that, for close to a year, Uganda has no substantive head of the Judiciary!
As we closed the year, a military coup had been carried out against the Lord Mayor of Kampala! The NRM orchestrated a campaign for the impeachment of the Lord Mayor. In the extreme zeal to remove the “stubborn” opposition leader, a patently fraud process was undertaken from the beginning to the end. Eventually, the High Court issued two orders unequivocally declaring that Mr Erias Lukwago must remain in office until there is a review of the processes that were complained of. The NRM instead deployed heavily armed men around the KCCA offices and declared the offices out of bounds for the Lord Mayor. The emoluments and facilities of the Lord Mayor were withdrawn. The Attorney General and the Minister responsible for KCCA declared that they were not going to implement the court orders.
We are closing the year with a very precarious situation in the South Sudan. Violent conflict is raging; with strong ethnic overtones. Mr Museveni was quick to deploy our soldiers to intervene on the South Sudan government side; unduly endangering the lives of Ugandans in the “rebel-held” areas. As has been the case previously, parliamentary approval for deployment of our soldiers abroad will not be sought.
The year 2013 also closes with loss of very notable political leaders. Former Deputy Prime Minister Eriya Kategaya and minister of Health Stephen Mallinga passed on; as did two sitting MPs. I and my colleagues in FDC got the biggest shock of the year with the sudden demise of our esteemed party chairman Sam K. Njuba on December 13!
The above situation clearly shows that our country is entering 2014 with every reason to be worried. On the bright side, Uganda continued to celebrate the unique achievements of Mr Stephen Kiprotich; who resoundingly won the Moscow world marathon, adding it onto his Olympic championship.
Ugandans are encouragingly more aware of their rights and power and they are increasingly more assertive. Civil society organisations have stepped up to actively agitate for better governance; the Black Monday campaign has been inspiring. With the fast growing political consciousness on the one hand, and the intensifying repression on the other, 2014 is set to be a very determinant year for the future of our country.
My best wishes for success and the changes our country deserve in 2014. Happy New Year. For God and My Country!
Dr Besigye is a political activist