Thursday June 12 2014

After Naads, the army should take over schools, hospitals, etc

By Daniel K. Kalinaki

Only unpatriotic people would find fault with the latest presidential directive to disband the National Agricultural Advisory Service (Naads) and replace it with the gallant men and women of the army.

What a remarkable opportunity this is for Uganda to turn our swords into ploughs! After all, who is better placed than the army to shoot down poverty? Who can lay better ambushes against weeds? Would a well-trained soldier who sprays bullets from a machine-gun struggle to handle a mere knapsack spray against pests?

No longer shall our farmers have to erect crude scarecrows in their gardens to keep off the monkeys and other pests. Gardens shall be patrolled – in single-file – and a pistol round delivered at close range to any pests found.
With a few modifications by our scientists at Makerere, our Sukhoi-su35 fighter jets can be modified to spray pesticides over larger plantations.

The police can also be roped in to help with nematodes and other smaller pests. Nothing a short burst of tear gas can’t kill yet it remains safe for Ugandans who have grown used to the hot pepper sauce served with their demonstrations. Our agricultural revolution shall not be undermined by this monkey business.

We were always going to suffer with coffee and banana wilt as long as shabby farmers in dirty rags tended gardens. Send in our soldiers, in their polished boots and starched uniforms, to deal with those wrinkly banana leaves.

However, we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we limited our efforts to agriculture. The army has already shown its civilian competencies in building a shed at the Kololo Airstrip, taking over the national ID project, and sweeping some streets every so often. Let’s roll out this efficiency in other areas.

Why should we continue to suffer with poor education and absent teachers in UPE when we have soldiers who can teach and know the consequences of going absent without official leave?
Why should doctors continue to hold patients ransom as if we do not have medical units in the army that have seen terrible things in war and could use some relative calm while amputating the limbs off boda boda accident victims?

Similarly, we can solve public transportation in Kampala overnight by bringing in a battalion or two of disciplined boda boda riders from the army. Not only will they respect the traffic rules, they will also fight off any iron bar thugs that try to waylay them and their passengers.

We can have another stand-by battalion in reserve for those afternoons when heavy downpours turn our streets into menacing meandering rivers, then deploy them to carry hapless fat women and pot-bellied men across these Rivers of Babylon.

A few snipers can be deployed in vantage spots to take out motorists who disrespect the rules and matatu drivers who stop in the middle of the road to board passengers. There might be some panic in the early days and passengers in the front row might need to carry an extra set of clothing but we shall install discipline on our road or, ah, die trying.

In time we can roll out this militarisation of society such that every Ugandan is a soldier with a secondary skill. Imagine our military parades! The few remaining fighters would lead the parade, goose-marching with their guns, bayonets and so on.
The rest of us would follow, carrying our stretchers, saw-blades, blackboards, hoes, microphones, boda bodas and other pieces of equipment to show our respective specialisations. Those who object shall be taken out and shot. These desperate times call for desperate measures. I salute you, comrades.

Mr Kalinaki is a Ugandan journalist based in Nairobi.
&Twitter: @Kalinaki