Will Museveni bless the historic Shs12.9 billion?
Posted Sunday, March 10 2013 at 02:00
We need someone like the President to instruct us what to think; like he told us during the Temangalo, Chogm 2007, oil bribery and the many Basajjabalaba crises. Although his opinion of the Judiciary is not always flattering, a presidential proclamation that he has no problem with the Shs12.9 billion award would assure us that the country is not groping in the dark without a leader.
Me, I don’t know whether I am an idiot or just a hopeless pauper and financial coward who trembles at the sight or sound of any figure that has 10 or more digits. One billion, two billion, three billion, four billion…and so on. Are you getting me?
For every billion shillings, I see 120 (yes, one hundred and twenty) Fuso or TATA trucks of dried unprocessed (kibooko) coffee, which, when parked nose-to-tail on the roadside, will stretch over a full kilometer or so. With a typical peasant household lucky to harvest ten or fifteen bags of coffee every year, that is the sweat of over 1,000 peasant households. Assuming a peasant couple is blessed with eight children, that is the cash earnings supporting almost 10,000 (peasant) men, women and children. That is just one billion.
It also happens to be equivalent to the toil of about 1,000 Ugandan factory slaves working for a whole year. These are the type of slaves not protected by a legislated minimum wage; protection President Museveni reportedly recently refereed to as a “slogan”, suggesting that the issue did not deserve serious national political attention, and the people who dwelled on it were merely mimicking foreign voices, possibly serving Uganda’s opposition interests. I have digressed, but we are still with our Shs1 billion; annual income for 1,000 peasant households or one thousand factory slaves.
Now, what about Shs12.9 billion? That is about 1,560 Fuso or TATA trucks fully loaded with Kibooko coffee, a line stretching from Museveni’s Nakasero residence to Kajjansi on Entebbe road. In other words, that is the income of 13,000 peasant households; or, roughly, of 130,000 (peasant) men, women and children. It is also the total annual income of 130,000 factory slaves.
At the other end of the scale, no ordinary mortal seems to know how much President Museveni earns officially; but the obscene figure given to the Kampala Capital City Authority executive director is one of our common horror stories, and this KCCA immortal would have to keep her job for about 30 years before her official loot accumulates to Shs13 billion.
In the nightmarish world created by the NRM, one Severino Twinobusingye, a lawyer hitherto of obscure profile, has been awarded Shs12.9 billion by the Constitutional Court. Why? For successfully petitioning to block the “step aside” resolutions that Parliament had slapped on Premier Amama Mbabazi and two other government ministers during the oil bribery scandal. Twinobusingye, suing as a “concerned citizen”, also wanted court to stop Parliament’s investigation of the alleged bribery.
Hailing from Amama Mbabazi”s Kinkizi West constituency makes Twinobusingye an intriguing “concerned citizen”. And the Shs12.9 billion awarded makes the five judges who heard the brief petition an equally intriguing Constitutional Court.
It is a staggering figure. Everybody – whether learned lawyer or idiots like me – who has heard about it is utterly stunned. Did Twinobusingye and/or his handlers ask for this amount? Is the figure a typing error that went viral? Was the judgment perhaps supposed to read Shs12.9 or Shs129 million?
Or, maybe, on reflection, the rest of us cannot see what the learned judges saw very clearly; that if Mbabazi et al had stepped aside, war would have broken out, or the entire country’s economy would have come to a standstill, and the citizen who had the insight and patriotism to prevent this was worth Shs12.9 billion.
We are dazed and lost. We need someone like the President to instruct us what to think; like he told us during the Temangalo, Chogm 2007, oil bribery and the many Basajjabalaba crises. Although his opinion of the Judiciary is not always flattering, a presidential proclamation that he has no problem with the Shs12.9 billion award would assure us that the country is not groping in the dark without a leader.
Allan Tacca is a novelist and socio-political