Friday March 25 2016

Ugandans in Diaspora are critical in country’s politics

By Morris Komakech

The debate on the role of Ugandans in Diaspora in shaping the socio-political discourses in Uganda is a superficial one.

During the election time, we were reminded always by adversaries that those living abroad have fled the frontiers of politics and should first return home to be counted.

It is increasingly absurd that when convenient, some Ugandans decide to put non-existent differences between those at home and those in the Diaspora. Those at home claim Ugandans in Diaspora are disconnected from their degradation and pitiful conditions due to their distance.

Many cite the relative progress in the country through foreign investment as a sign of development to be proud of.

According to them, telecommunications and entertainment industries are booming; their roads are being worked on, never mind the shoddy work; and Umeme is shinning bright – never mind the power outages.

Their children are now going to private schools that have become a supermarket for knowledge. Traditional institutions - schools and hospitals - are facing steady decay and for them, they are no longer engrossed with infrastructural, but moral decay.

The proliferation of private clinics and the development of the private sector under the NRM had answered all their problems, even if affordability is an issue – never mind that they depend on their relatives abroad. These “steady development”, they claim, have eluded Ugandans who live abroad.

This kind of arguments are pedestal and uninformed. First, most countries in Africa have a significant proportion of their citizens living abroad. There are various reasons that drive these Africans out of their countries – schools, persecution, bad governance, economic reasons, and so forth.

In the case of Uganda, the main reasons that Ugandans flee their country are associated with the legacy of insecurity, persecution, discrimination, and other forms of structured injustices such as sectarianism.

Moreover, each regime comes with its own brand. Uganda has been at war since independence, and faced various forms of sectarian, ethnic and trivial conflicts that forced many to leave.
In fact, more studies on brain drain show that nearly 67 per cent of Ugandan Nursing students express the desire to leave Uganda immediately upon graduation. Nearly 70 per cent of professionals, including doctors, lawyers, etc., expressed their wish to seek greener pastures where their professions are honoured.

With nearly 83 per cent of the youths unemployed, you find a situation where a large percentage of the population expressing their desires to leave the country. But that alone, is half the story.

The real reasons that force Ugandans out is the violence of the NRM regime. By violence, we view corruption, sectarianism and inequities in jobs and opportunities as forms of societal violence through which the regime expresses its dominance.

As a result, there has emerged a narrow clique of survivors, most of whom have stayed afloat by pandering to the regime. The just concluded election has exposed and isolated some of them adequately.

These are fake professionals who deal in fake goods and perpetuate fake ideologies that are mostly self gratifying.

In other words, those who have managed to do well under such a circumstance have had to evolve through a complex evolutionary process that has transformed them into believing and honouring fake ideology. Uganda needs redemption from and for those.

The satire with this so-called progressive Uganda is that it is not productive economically. The real irony is that, the very victims of the regime’s violence who manage to flee for a better life abroad are the ones who sustain the regime and its repressive machinery through their remittances.

The remittances are the monies that Ugandans who live abroad send back home. It has been growing in the last decade by nearly 14 per cent annually according to Revenue Authority estimates.
The UN estimates over 630,000 Ugandans to be living abroad and another 42,000 were already recruited by licensed employment agencies to work in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.

The lesson learned from those who think Ugandans in the Diaspora have no role in shaping Uganda’s socio-political discourse and economic development is that they should rethink.

Our roles are immense and we feel increasingly as disenfranchised as Kampala voters in being denied the opportunity to vote from our missions abroad and to get a representation in Parliament.
This is the issue that we must advance and it is an issue that I intend to pursue relentlessly.
Nearly two-thirds of districts in Uganda cannot generate local taxes to fund their own annual budgets and yet they are represented in Parliament.

Further, this regime has pursued foreign investment and lavished foreign investors with tax holidays as a vote of no confidence in indigenous investors. The government is no longer investing in innovations, in schools and in those critical areas to inspire local production.

Finally, the issue of Ugandans living abroad should not be about class, competition, or distance. It should be contextualised within the global nexus of information technology, foreign exchange and complementarity.

We now live in the global village made very tenable by advent of social media. Nothing happens in my village in Pajule or Dure, and never reaches me within 30 minutes. The Hansard is online and the local media are all accessible via Tnternet.

To assume Ugandans who live abroad have lost touch with what is happening at home in this era sounds ridiculous. Such clumsy thought should be obliterated from an industrious mind and left for the indolent.

Mr Komakech is a political analyst.
mordust_26@yahoo.ca

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