If Uganda ‘divorced’ colonialism, why are we on our knees over aid cuts?

Tuesday November 27 2012

By Harriet Anena

The financial filth in the Office of the Prime Minister is no doubt the most mega mess to befall the country this year.
The squandering of billions of shillings meant for post-war recovery in northern Uganda and Karamoja has seen donors Norway, after Ireland, the UK and Denmark suspend aid to the country.

Since then, Uganda has been on her knees, begging the donors to reconsider their actions, with the Premier Amama Mbabazi apologizing for the mess in his docket. Religious leaders recently beseeched the donors to instead channel donation through faith-based and civil society organizations who deal directly with beneficiaries.

Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka last week said government was in talks with donors to have aid unfrozen. The latest group to join the pleading queue is the Acholi local leaders, who have demanded to meet the President and donors over the financial aid cuts.

But why does Uganda, who, when presenting yearly financial budgets, pride in the falling percentage of dependency on donors [now at 25 per cent of the National Budget]?
Why does Uganda, whose Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga recently assured Canada that Uganda is not its colony, want to be financially colonized?

Why is Uganda on her knees, looking to the donors instead of focusing its energies on bringing to book the culprits of the financial transgression? Why is Uganda, who boasts of 50 years of supposed independence from the British, still running after her for handouts?

The proponents of donor support would probably say the reality on the ground is different and that Uganda is still not developed enough to completely stand on both feet. But for how long, will the country borrow feet with which to stand? For how long, will Uganda cling onto the cloak of her former colonizer and implore her to stay?
The culture of dependency has become so extensive that nobody seems to see the need for the country and its citizens to make an effort to do things on their own.

As the government is running after donors for aid, Ugandans are running after government for all manner of aid, including buying books and uniforms for their children in UPE schools.

Shouldn’t the Acholi local leaders be talking their people into picking the hoe to till the land, to send their children to school and rebuild lives wrecked by a two-decade war?

Should the local leaders join their people in waiting for government to give them seeds, hoes, iron sheets, build them houses, or give each household money before they can step into the farm?

It is very likely, that after the threats to the thieves and condemnations have subsided, all will return to ‘normal’. The Acholi local leaders will probably continue watching their men sit under shades from morning till dawn, gambling and drinking. They will watch women, carrying children yearly on their backs, running to the market to sell the little foodstuff they have to get money for meeting needs of a dozen mouths.

The Acholi local leaders will probably watch their people cling onto the chain of dependency sown during the IDP life and also watch them sell off their land to buy alcohol or marry women and relocate to trading centres for ‘easy’ life.

What the people in northern Uganda need to do is not wave as their leaders board the bus to State House for a lecture from His Excellency, tea and transport ‘facilitation’. They need to be told to stop staring at the broom and waiting for government to come and sweep their houses.

The religious leaders need to tell Ugandans that God created hands, not for begging but for work and the MPs need to do some sober reflection on how existing policies can be used to guide internal funds generation and how stolen money can be recovered.
The government is no doubt responsible for the welfare of its citizens, so let it stop the donor courtship and let Ugandans play a role in bettering their living conditions.
Uganda needs to urgently get off her knees and ask what the Plan B will be if donor aid is no more.

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