Political manoeuvres are gaining momentum in Uganda today as 2021 draws close. It is enough to tune in to some radio or TV talk shows to get the feeling of what is taking place.
I guess you are now familiar with “sole candidature”, “Tuliyambala Engule”, “new formation”, “Re-union”, “People Power” and things like “roadmap 2021”.
Recently, another strange one was introduced referred to as “scientific campaigns”! The coronavirus pandemic has also worsened the already rough waters.
It is said Uganda’s population stands at about 41 million people. But I sense that many of the political strategies gaining traction are a product of a small, crafty, and may be self-positioning section! It is about 457 MPs, 70 to 80 Cabinet ministers, a handful of party leaders and their strategists.
I am still finding it difficult to situate the commoners, the ordinary Ugandans in this whole debacle. The situation of many a Ugandan commoner (omuntu wa wansi), is this: Many can no longer sleep soundly due to ongoing evictions from their bibanja (land), cannot afford two meals a day, and cannot access adequate medical care.
A commoner today sells off their property to pay tuition or loans, many graduates of common descent cannot be employed in Uganda unless they sell themselves off to the highest bidder in some foreign countries. “Common” traders’ capital has been erased by unscrupulous landlords in exorbitant rent. Farmers are not doing any better due to unpredictable weather and a primitive marketing system.
My question is: Where is this suffering and underprivileged majority in the political schemes that are going on today? Fellow “Commoners”, do you know that the actions of the small crafty group greatly determine your destiny? Who is planning for you, your children and your future?
Sticking to my lubimbi, as a priest, I had resolved to avoid speaking about issues whose intricacies I do not fully understand, but then, I remembered that before I became a Christian, or even a priest for that matter, I was born a Ugandan. I have my national ID. I am a voter. I live in Uganda. I, therefore, have a stake in the affairs of the country once referred to as the Pearl of Africa.
Having been involved in the pastoral ministry for more than 20 years now, I have interacted with many people with various social, economic, spiritual, family and health challenges. Many of these people have approached me with the hope of securing school fees, clear their medical bills, getting something to put on table...
Of course, at first, I considered this situation very normal, in line with the social gospel and charitable mission of the Church. However, I am increasingly getting convinced that social transformation and national economic issues cannot be left to voluntarism and charity.
We need sober and serious political action and economic planning. Much as the Church has a social responsibility towards God’s people, it cannot substitute the State! We elect leaders to whom we entrust the organisation of society, national resources and responsibility of ensuring the well-being of the citizenry.
The Ugandan commoner, who is caring about your destiny? Who will sincerely lead you to a dignified living? When unscrupulous strategists are already eyeing General Election in 2021 and beyond and planning to use you as a voter certainly, how are you positioned?
As both newcomers and old guards are imploring you “to send” them to Parliament, to State House, do you know that your wellbeing is at stake? Are you ready to continue watching and lamenting while some few people are taking decisions which will condemn you to continued misery, dependency and perpetual political confusion?
If it is going ahead with the same, what are you perpetrating? If it is change, to what are you changing? Come on! Be part of the game, then you will celebrate the credit or take the blame. Soberly use your vote to determine your destiny and quality of life come General Election in 2021.
Fr Dr Lazarus Luyinda is the Rector,
St Mary’s National Seminary, Ggaba.