Tuesday June 24 2014

Ugandans should not fear soldiers with seeds, just as those with guns

By Moses Nuwagaba

While delivering the State of the Nation address, and later speaking as the chief guest at the national celebrations on Heros Day recently, President Museveni announced his decision to use UPDF soldiers to fix gaps in the National Agricutltural Advisory Services (Naads) (a programme he promised to restructure soon), and Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (Nusaf) to ensure intended beneficiaries to these programmes do actually get the services. He faulted Naads in particular for putting to tangible use only Shs57 billion out of the total Shs203 billion the programme receives annually. The rest is simply spent on salaries, allowances and seminars.

Leaders of civil society organisations and Opposition politicians are already up in arms against the President’s decision. Anyone conversant with security affairs or even holding correct analysis of the same will admit that although armed rebellions against Mr Museveni’s government were defeated years ago, there is an emerging security threat whose fulcrum is poor service delivery in the country.

First of all, there is a new culture that is propping up in Uganda. It is the belief that access to elective and or appointed positions is an opportunity to do self-service. No political party or even religious denomination is entirely a stranger to this thinking. Otherwise, the Naads, NURP and Nusaf programmes would have failed in all other places except in areas led by the Opposition. Unfortunately, this retrogressive phenomenon is growing at a time when unemployment rates are alarmingly on the rise. It is also important to note that political opposition leaders in Uganda have, for some time been probing for ways to cause government change through civil disobedience and unrest.

In this endeavour, they are majorly banking on unemployed youth as their infantry troops. It is thus not surprising to hear any of such politicians undermining every effort government makes to create employment for the youth. Therefore, the Opposition views the President’s decision to use UPDF in agricultural and other poverty alleviation programmes as one that will greatly demoralise and deplete their manpower now reserved for street demonstrations and eventual violent change of government.

The President has no option but to work towards dismantling this unholy alliance between corrupt government leaders and workers, the cunning but power hungry opposition politicians and the angry youth now surviving on mere hope. This is what makes the revolutionary decision to use UPDF, an institution moreover trusted in Uganda for being result-oriented, tick.
After all the army is the one we often turn to when political manoeuvres, intrigue and general maladministration give way to instability. The people of Uganda should reject anarchists who see a problem in an opportunity and those who advance arguments devoid of logic. If Ugandans have not feared UPDF holding guns fulltime, how then will they fear the same army, this time armed with seeds and seedlings? Besides, article 209 of the Constitution allows the army to engage in productive activities and to contribute to national development. We should not be like the unbelievers who questioned Jesus Christ when he healed a woman on the Sabbath. The debate should now be on what the civil service needs to do in order to tap into the ingenuity of the UPDF. When the same army got involved in transporting and securing lives of ebola and nodding disease patients, who complained that the President was militarising the medical sector? How about the excavation and other work they did after the Budduda landslides? UPDF is in the process of setting yet another standard. We should support them after all, Ugandans in the villages are interested in the seeds and not who delivers them.

Mr Nuwagaba is the deputy RDC Kabale,