Fellow compatriots, a couple of weeks ago, a friend invited me over for lunch in his house. We met at the university, nearly 15 years ago. We were both involved in student leadership. After the university, we took different political directions. I joined People’s Progressive Party (PPP); he went to the National Resistance Movement (NRM). He was eventually elected a Member of Parliament. We disagree politically, but have remained close friends.
It turns out he had organised a get together luncheon for a few of his old friends. So we met with his other friends who in their own right are politicians who subscribe to different political parties as well.
Naturally, the conversations we had before, during and after lunch centred on politics. He shared with us the vanity, hypocrisy and selfishness that characterise the politics of our country today.
Certainly, whatever he said about Uganda’s politics was not new. My dear friends, we must wake up to the reality of our politics. Let us stop living in illusions. Uganda’s current political system is designed and constructed to benefit a small political clique in government and those who purport to be in the Opposition. The design does not serve the interests of the people of Uganda.
Our politics is characterised by transactional rather than transformative ideas. It is driven by greed and moral bankruptcy. Whenever one assumes a leadership position, they begin to crack deals for personal aggrandisement. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether one is in government or in the Opposition. So, when the NRM is busy fleecing the country through humongous graft scandals and bizarre public administration costs, many in the Opposition will be busy looking for avenues to partake in the loot.
That is why the population has generally lost trust in politicians. Stories of Opposition politicians visiting State House at night abound. They visit to negotiate deals for personal survival rather than the common good for all. The negotiation is either seeking a financial bailout, a Cabinet/government job or a clearance to seek medical treatment abroad. Other visits have to do with inviting the President for weddings, funerals, graduations, thanks giving, etc.
While these deals are being hammered, public schools, hospitals, roads, etc., lie in ruin. Poverty, disease, misery, pain, indignity, etc., continue to afflict the lives of the citizenry. Lately, the political class has not only been denying the citizens, public amenities, they have also turned against the citizens to grab from them, for instance, huge chunks of land.
Therefore, my fellow youths, as a generation, we are faced with a political situation that requires us to search for solutions from within our lot, rather than from the conspired political class. They have made their contribution. It is now our turn to shape our destiny. And, we need to be clear about this. It is our future and the future of our children at stake. If we allow business to continue as usual, we shall incessantly bear the brunt.
We shall continuously suffer the indignity of under/unemployment. We shall continue living a poverty stricken life. We shall be losing our loved ones to simple treatable ailments because of a broken health care system. We shall fail to educate our children and thus deny them a better future. We shall continue living as slaves in our land. It is, however, within our power to stop this. We have the numbers, the knowledge/skills, the energy, etc. What we need to do now is to mobilise and organise ourselves.
The referendum to give Gen Museveni a seven-year tenure is coming. We must organise against it, because, it won’t be free, fair or credible. Thus, it won’t reflect our will and aspirations. We should instead, seize the opportunity to campaign for national dialogue that should give rise to a new political dispensation. Let us exploit all the resources at our disposal to compel political actors across the aisle to the dialogue table.
We must begin organising now. In the next weeks we should touch base with each other and begin the planning process. As we embark on this journey, we need to know that we have more reasons to be united than divided. We need to rise above trivia. We need to rise above partisan sentiments. We need to jettison selfish considerations and pursue common good for all. Last but not least, we must throw away fear and muster the necessary courage for salvaging a nation.
The writer is a member of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) national executive committee.