The two major dailies yesterday carried a front-page picture of the Busoga Youth Forum chairperson, Mr Sanon Bwire, carrying a sack reportedly containing Shs250 million which President Museveni had donated to the group.
Whereas we have grown accustomed to pictures of the President doling out money in brown envelopes, this was the first time we saw a sack involved. And it was a very disturbing image. Here is why.
Like we have argued before, we do not believe that presidential hand-outs are the way to help people out of poverty. Programmes like Bonna Baggagawale and Entandikwa collapsed because of the same reason.
People view these monetary offers as political favours and feel no sense of responsibility to ensure the money serves its purpose.
It was, therefore, not surprising that minutes after Mr Bwire received the sack of money, a group of youth tried to forcefully get their share and it took the intervention of the President’s security to ensure the money was taken to a nearby bank.
This, happening days after the President had launched Uganda Vision 2040, was troubling. We have always argued—and Vision 2040 did capture it—that development will only happen if the necessary infrastructure is put in place, capital availed in a clear system and merit rewarded. Images of offers of free cash in sacks do not help this cause at all.
Also, who qualifies for such hand-outs? We might be in agreement that Busoga is one of the poorest regions in Uganda but there are similarly needy youth in Bugisu just as there are in West Nile and Kabale. So, how does the President determine whom to offer a sack of money?
Finally, the age of people carrying bundles of money is long gone.
With the developed banking sector, moving around with a stash of money is symbolic of retrogression. At best, the President would have offered the youth a dummy cheque.
Whereas posing with a sack of Shs250m might score immediate political points, it paints an image of a country still steeped in a feudal thinking.