The season of good cheer overcast by economic gloom

Friday December 23 2011

By Augustine Ruzindana

This is the season of good tidings and good cheer but in so many countries there is economic gloom and death has struck the mighty. In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, 69, Chairman of the National Defence Commission, Commander of the Korean People’s Army and Chairman of the Presidium of the Workers Party, died, without ever becoming President since his late father Kim Il Sung is the ‘Eternal President’. He has been succeeded by the “The Great Successor”, the “Brilliant Comrade” Kim Jong Un. We wish success to the people of the DPRK.

In the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, 75, a great fighter for democracy, the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic also died. He was a leading figure in the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and for a man uninterested in politics, he was nevertheless unanimously elected President in December 1989. He lived by his motto of “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hate” and has been compared to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Here in Uganda Prof. Dani Wadada Nabudere, 79, also a great fighter for democracy passed on. Over a period of more than 50 years, he consistently fought for the expansion of fundamental rights in Uganda and Africa generally. He wrote and educated Africa and the Third World about their disadvantaged and unfair relationship with the developed world. He championed dialogue in the resolution of national political problems, rather than violent confrontation. The political class, in particular, will miss his invaluable advisory role.

In Cape Verde, Cesaria Evora, 70, called ‘the barefoot diva’ because of performing without shoes, died. Though fame came to her late, she won many international music awards, including Grammy and KORA All African Music Awards. She was a great African woman and a great musician.

There have also been some people worth congratulations, in particular, women achievers. Justice Julia Sebutinde was elected to International Court of Justice and deserves congratulations on her success in going through a very competitive process. Her achievement has made Uganda, Africa and women very proud. Congratulations also go to the new International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda of Gambia who has been appointed to succeed the indomitable Louis Moreno Ocampo. These women appointments are on merit, not affirmative action. The Hon. Rebecca Kadaga became the first woman Speaker in Uganda and so did Hon. Anna Makinda in Tanzania. In Liberia, President Johnson Ellen Sirleaf won the Nobel Peace prize with two other women and was re-elected in an acrimonious second round. The IMF also got a woman Managing Director, Ms Christine Lagarde, replacing a disgraced male French compatriot. By this chronology it looks as if women have done very well and indeed they have, but there have been spoilers as well. Hon Kabakumba Masiko burst on the corruption scene with a bang. With cartoons depicting her heavily laden with a 75-metre mast, the corruption affirmative imbalance has been rectified. She has also shown that after all, women are not necessarily inherently honest but that it has just been a question of lack of opportunity.

Uganda is going into the festive season and the New Year with a series of puzzles and paradoxes. There is this paradox of high profile politicians who, while vehemently avowing their innocence, have not prevented court proceedings that have halted parliamentary investigations that could prove their innocence. Then there is this other paradox playing out in Busoga where ministers and MPs, who supported and voted for the first female Speaker, have been said to be collecting signatures for the recall of their sister, from representing Kamuli in Parliament and thereby also from the position of Speaker. Then there is the puzzle of the President who has informed the Public Accounts Committee that his ministers, Syda Bbumba and Kiddu Makubuya and the Governor Bank of Uganda and business man Hassan Basajjabalaba have lied against him regarding the authorisation of market compensation payments to Basajjabalaba and yet he has not sacked them. Basajjabalaba remains an executive member of the NRM where the President is chairman.
With an embattled ruling class and an economy in shambles, Ugandans need lots of wishes of a Merry Christmas.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.