Uganda: Our little paradise where vultures are celebrated everyday
Posted Thursday, July 26 2012 at 01:00
The former Gold Coast Ghana on Tuesday had a “material” event. Former law Professor John Atta Mills died aged 68. Within hours, Parliament had been summoned and his former Vice President Mamah sworn into office. John Atta Mills epitaph was short. He had only been president since 2009 and was scheduled to run for re-election in December after a Primary that eviscerated Nana Konadu, Rawlings assertive wife and former power broker in NDC, a part Nkrumah- part neo-revolutionary party that has ruled Ghana uninterrupted since the 1990s save for the two term interlude of President Kufuor.
Turn over to Uganda: a slightly larger economy but demographically and culturally closer to Ghana than most of our neighbours. If the impossible happened, would a President Edward Ssekandi start waving from the steps of the National Assembly building and serve for 90 days prior to the next election. Or will it be a murkier transition; we just went through one episode in Malawi where the president’s brother and widow took charge and kept the nation in the dark about the President’s passing.
Maybe the conclave of army Generals would meet immediately to discuss the transition. Or Speaker Kadaga would be allowed to ride from her Muyenga digs to central Kampala to preside over Parliament that would have to approve a new Vice President almost immediately.
In the new decade Uganda’s international profile has some new firsts - the electric car; if its wiring could survive potholes; better fortunes in sports; music; and now robotic engineering. Uganda’s ICT efforts are building a workforce for tomorrow and if some more ambition and investment is added to this - Thailand will start distributing tablets to all school going children this year only better things can happen.
But the political question remains. Will Uganda remain a reliable security contractor in the Great Lakes region and beyond; given the new spate of low to medium intensity conflict in the region and beyond. At the last count, military conflicts are in a varying state of simmering; the DRC, Sudan, al-Shabaab in Kenya, Ethiopia versus Eritrea. It is unlikely to see a non-military president keep Uganda’s troops committed so far afield without muscular supervision?
Will the continued efforts to centralise power continue? Even the best intentioned efforts like UPE/USE are in a state of near paralysis due to over-centralisation. The centre continues to assume responsibilities unabated. Parliament seemed to have woken up to delay the arrival of at least 25 She-MPs on the over-stretched benches of Parliament by delaying a motion to create more districts. Where else but in our little paradise would the national debating chamber provide garden chairs as seating?
Outside the greenery, scenic landscape that is our home, will the ongoing cancer of corruption cease? We have already seen the phenomenon of Cabinet ministers far wealthier than the departments they supervise. A headmaster soon accumulates more wealth than the school’s assets. A hospital director takes over the procurement process to supply linens and food in the kitchen. In the West, they call them scavenger funds; they will feed off the tree until its bare.
But in our little paradise and fragile economy, there can only be so many vultures. It is not difficult to imagine that the cornerstones of stability- primary school teachers, nurses, policemen are all up in arms. Where they have been silenced, the products are there for all to see in our education system that produces half-baked products who can barely read and spell. Or policemen and health workers, who show up to work but spend half the time collecting bribes and “tips” to provide services.
Our paradise is very specialised; for the church-goers, there is need to remind them daily on the streets from mobile podiums that heaven does exist. Witchdoctors long banished from the public during the old era, now openly offer sacrifices to pray for the scavengers or the wannabe scavengers.
In Ghana, shock therapy by Rawlings moderated corruption for many years. Of course after Idi Amin, no one is advocating for the same methods. His hunting bag had three executed former presidents and numerous other firing squads to hunt enemies of the revolution.
For years, Ghanaians and still today shun the ostentatious display of wealth, it is a poor country with a soul. Bribe solicitation like in most African countries still occurs, but the economy has not yet produced the vulture divas we celebrate everyday in our lives.
Mr Ssemogerere, an attorney and social entrepreneur, practices law in New York. email@example.com