The national mood, January 2018

Sunday January 14 2018


By Timothy Kalyegira

The first two weeks of January 2018 have gotten off to a slow, quiet start.
I sense a certain general slowing down in Uganda.

There was a period from 1994 to about 2001 when something always seemed to be starting or being launched every month.

Businesses were filling in desperate needs.
We needed computers, office furniture, new supermarkets, specialist men’s or ladies’ boutiques, pharmacies, radio stations, Internet cafes, private schools, factories, fumigation services, restaurants and so on.

Today, it feels like that period of fastest growth is now well behind us.
Whatever new business opens seems to be just the latest of many of its kind.
So many floors in the new high-rise buildings are unoccupied. Restaurants and coffee shops in much of Kampala tend to sit empty for most of the time.

I don’t know how it is with the telecom companies, but that too seems to be at a saturation point and what saves them is that more data than voice services are used and with social media the addiction it is, this new lease on life will take the telecoms for another few years.
Even music concerts by some of the leading singers in town have started to flop or see much lower attendance than just a few years ago.

That is the slowdown many of us feel around us. We have run out of new ideas and new things to do.
Most of 2017 was taken up by political and crime news. The suspicion, later confirmed, that there were moves to lift the presidential age limit took up the last one third of the year.

High profile crimes, like the murder of Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi and the mysterious letters being dropped in and threatening murder in Masaka, took up the first half of the year.

Without them, 2017 could have been a very quiet year.
The quiet of the first fortnight of 2018 also suggests that the Ugandan public has given up on its last hope of preventing a Museveni life presidency.
It feels like the despondency that came over Buganda after the May 1966 incident.

People just pull out psychologically from political life, go quiet, and the pain and frustration eats them quietly on the inside since there is nothing they can do about the situation.

We shall continue to see by-elections in different parts of the country, but this will be more a going through the motions than anything.

National politics since 2004 had been shaped around the question of the succession to Museveni. Now that this does not seem likely in the short or medium term, what is there to really debate politically? Not much.

As far as the country is concerned, we are now officially in a one-party state lead by a life presidency.

I’m struggling to see where we might get big public projects that will change the national mood.
Perhaps the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway will be opened to the public and travel between the two towns made much faster and less congested.

Maybe the expansion of Entebbe International Airport will bring about a new look to the area near the airport.

Shoprite will open up several outlets in Kampala and Entebbe to fill in the gap in the market left by the departure of Nakumatt.

The football World Cup mid-year will hold the attention of mostly male Ugandans for a month.
These events and developments will have a little psychological knock-on, but I don’t know how on a broader scale they will change the overall national mood, which is that of a population left feeling pushed to the margins.
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