There is nothing to write home about on Uganda’s top alcoholic ranking
Posted Tuesday, March 19 2013 at 02:00
When CNN published a survey titled ‘The Worlds 10 best drinking Nations’ and Uganda came 8th in the World topping the African league, my friend told me that it was a good sign of progress brought on by the good economic policies that the government has put in place since it came to power nearly 30 years ago.
One of the greatest optimists I have met, is a friend who volunteers to keep me abreast with the progress of the NRM organisation and its contribution to the development of Uganda. His arguments are always plain and simple.
Last week, he was at it again. When CNN published a survey titled ‘The Worlds 10 best drinking Nations’ and Uganda came 8th in the world and topping the African league, my friend told me that it was a good sign of progress brought about by the good economic policies that the government has put in place since it came to power nearly 30 years ago.
That people have prospered so much that they are not only peaceful and relaxed but they have extra cash to spare on alcohol. He intimated that we are now ready for ‘take-off’ to join the league of developed countries like Germany, Australia, Great Britain, Russia and China that feature on the list of great alcohol takers.
It is the same logic that we encounter when we complain about the traffic jams in town. Many ‘optimists’ will tell you that it is because we have become so prosperous that almost every one now owns a car. They will not pause to think about the never expanding road network or the break down in public transport.
That simple judgment when put in the story of Ugandans and the consumption of alcohol is quite absurd and misplaced. The CNN report points to local and other potent brew being the reason for the high score of Uganda.
Now local and potent brew is quite cheap and is the preserve of the low or ‘non’ income earners. The idlers, disguised unemployed, loafers, low paid menial labourers etc. These are a common sight in most towns and villages idling away, playing cards, board games and engaging in sports betting plus other forms of gambling.
With one of the youngest populations in the world, having over 50 per cent under the age of 15 years, and about 30 per cent being unemployed, there are so many people who find themselves desperately idle and ‘useless.’
Yet the reality of life is that they are at a stage where they are naturally excited by the finer things of life especially in the urban areas. Because they cannot achieve their dreams, many are frustrated and find solace and refuge in not only alcohol, but in drugs as well. They do not seem to see a distinction between life and death. They destroy themselves by drinking heavily.
Most of those who have held onto the bottle have missed the prosperity train. They are frustrated and humiliated. Being high, temporarily puts the stark realities of life on hold. Being constantly drunk, helps to prolong the period of provisional relief.
More than anything else, this state of respite is promoted by the sprouting of local breweries that package and sell alcohol in very small packages as low as 200mls. This means that and idler in town who pushes a car out of a ditch for a reward of Shs200 can still afford alcohol to sustain his habit.
One other factor that cannot be ignored is the trauma many people have suffered over the years brought on by war, and the concomitant wanton death and destruction. On top of this you add the HIV/Aids pandemic that has accounted for the deaths of many people. Many cannot cope psychologically.
The story of alcohol has had terrible consequences on Uganda’s society. For many to sustain it without employment means engaging in crime especially theft. Many of those infected with HIV or had an unwanted pregnancy did not have the sense to use protection due to alcoholic intoxication. Many of the cases referred to Butabika hospital that mainly deals with mental health are caused by abuse of alcohol. The police report that drunk drivers and pedestrians are the cause of several of the accidents on our roads, which accidents have wasted a lot of human resources and property which would otherwise contribute to growth and development.
You could go on and on to show that alcohol when abused is destructive and in the case of my friend works against ‘prosperity.’
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.