Friday July 13 2018

They chose to become unpatriotic at a time when we needed national redemption

Mr Alexander B. Kyokwijuka

Mr Alexander B. Kyokwijuka 

By Abiaz Rwamwiri

When I joined St Joseph’s Vocational School (JOVOC) in 2004, from St Joseph’s Primary Cchool, Kyabirukwa, it was not just a transition from primary to secondary school.
At JOVOC, it was clear that the education was more than just attending academic classes, there was more to formation of a rounded citizen and that is what set it apart. One of the many interesting subjects was Political Education by a gentleman whose name I will withhold, but use his nickname. We chose to call him Tiito because he had taught about a gentleman called Tito Okello Lutwa.
And stubborn as students always are, we ended up naming the gentleman that since he had taught about the name that sounded funny for us at the time. Political Education was later dropped from the syllabus, the consequence of this action by the powers that be, is the reason why I am writing this note to you as you ponder on engaging for the next season of political gymnastics.
In very many things that teacher Tiito taught us, was issues like slave trade, how it was practiced, who practiced it and how it was abolished, the importance of national symbols, including the Coat of Arms, The Constitution and the like, and the features on the Uganda Coat of Arms.
Tiito also introduced us to the concept of democracy and how democracy has been practiced in Uganda since independence, the Economic War in Uganda in 1972 and the results of the same war, the many ways in which one becomes a Ugandan citizen and our duties as per the 1995 Uganda constitution. But most importantly, the State with family as the smallest unit, and always encouraged us to love our families and so our country.
This was in a way rhyming well with the core purpose of the establishment of the school (JOVOC), to nurture leaders for generations to come. This way, we would be enjoying the fruits of having patriotic leaders, who know why they are entrusted with the trust by the citizens to lead.
The recent occurrences in the country have, however, made me regret on behalf of whoever denied our leaders the sense to appreciate that they hold a very big responsibility to do justice to this country. And I am rather not happy that our leaders have chosen to be unpatriotic at a time when we as wananchi need national redemption amidst the many things not going right, or moving at a pace lower than we (Wanainchi) would expect.
I will specifically talk about not the recent heated up debate when our leaders (legislators) were discussing to determine whether their emoluments are taxed or not, but rather the disappointment that after successfully exempting the biggest part of their emoluments from tax, they have decided to slap Ugandans with the most unpopular tax amendments, which have affected the two most important categories of Ugandans. I am talking about the Mobile Money tax and social media tax. The two tax amendments have greatly affected, to a larger extent, the wananchi, and the young people of this country.
Remember (like I shared in my previous note to you), that majority of Ugandan young people who have graduated from school and could not find a ready job to do, have either found solace in doing Mobile Money business and/or found empowerment in promoting their innovations through social media (I personally know scores of young people who fall under this category, including myself). Those who know about Brookings Institute, it started as an online training firm on and we have ever since moved to establish better. There are many other initiatives than I can mention in this note.
The reports that there has been a 60 per cent drop in Mobile Money business are not something we should take lightly. The countrywide outcry as a result of these new tax amendments are not something we should take lightly either, especially at a time when the world is embracing innovation and we are here seriously crippling Mobile Money business through this heavy tax regime.
Of course it is annoying that some of the leaders have come out to deny responsibility over some of these taxes, including the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, the President, who issued a statement on July 4, 2018 clarifying that he only knows about 0.5 per cent and not 1 per cent on Mobile Money transactions, and many others.
The question is, where does the future of this country lie? But like the Baganda say, “Mpawo atalikaaba”, the country has been pushed against the wall. I have seen some of my friends thinking of buying and using Sim cards from neighbouring countries in order to avoid paying the OTTs tax. I have also seen others thinking of resetting their handsets to a foreign country, I have also seen others admire Rwanda, which was unveiling a Volkswagen car assembling plant in the country. I have heard some Ugandans planning to unfollow the social media platforms for government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) since our leaders seem not to appreciate the contribution of social media to good governance.
All this got me wondering where we have dropwped our patriotism and most importantly, why our leaders chose to be unpatriotic at a time we need national redemption. In my opinion, our leaders seem to have declared a war against citizens of Uganda. They have forced the wanainchi to remember that Article 1 of the Constitution, which says ‘Power belongs to the people’ and that their (leaders’) acts are explicitly depicting a deliberate move to render the wanainchi powerless.
But time is always the best judge and this has restrained me from judging them though I can still predict that this is a war that we as wananchi must win this war. My advice to the leaders of this country, including my other Rwakitura friend, is that they should regain their patriotic senses and retract these unpopular tax amendments because even with the many taxes Ugandans pay, the quality of service delivery is still poor, and the level of misuse of taxpayers money is still high. By the grace of God, I hope that we shall reach the Promised Land.
Until my next note, Greetings from Kigarama!

Mr Kyokwijuka is the executive director at Youth Aid Africa.