On Tuesday, here at home and across the globe, people will celebrate the New Year’s Day — the festival of renewal. Yet in the shadows of our society, in the death of former Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda, we seem to have ended 2012 on a sad note and the drama is still unfolding.
Some outspoken legislators spent their Christmas in police cells and others in hiding. The police are pursuing a number of legislators for making pejorative comments on the death of their colleague. At a press conference on the eve of Christmas, President Museveni described as “idiots” and “fools” the people accusing his government of having a hand in the death of Nebanda and vowed to deal with them.
In trying to show the country that nobody is above the law, the President indicated that the most eminent and important personage of the House - Speaker Rebecca Kadaga - would also be questioned by police on what she knows about Nebanda’s death. That she lampooned the government’s autopsy and toxicology report which linked Nebanda’s death to narcotic drugs.
In defense of what some people call “the temple of democracy”, legislators across the political divide are now collecting 125 signatures to recall the House for emergency sitting to discuss what they called President’s “assault” on Parliament. They have reminded the NRM leader that as the Head of State, he is under obligation as to defend the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers. That he has a duty to uphold the constitutional equilibrium between the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary.
Even with all this endless drama unfolding after the burial of Nebanda, we thank the almighty - the God of all blessings and the Giver of all grace - for the gift of life. Whichever way you look at 2012, it has been a very difficult year for many of us. From unemployment to tough economic times, from poverty in the countryside to the struggling vagabonds in dusty cities and towns, from the widespread corruption in private and public offices to the outbreak of dangerous epidemics such as Ebola and Marburg - all these and more continue to bother many Ugandans.
In 2013 we have the opportunity to ask for forgiveness, pardon those who have wronged us, and move forward. We pay tribute to those who have lost their dear ones in 2012 and for those who have survived a nail-biting year, once again, thank God for the priceless gift of life.
Burying the hatchet
As for our leaders, in the New Year, let’s bury the hatchet and move on as Ugandans, irrespective of our political differences. We can dance for 2013; but let’s not forget that the 2012 disasters are still pursuing us and that everything we do today decides what will happen in the future.
The harsh economic times and the endless corruption scandals in 2012 have left us wounded in many aspects. Those who steal from the poor - the corrupt officials in government - added an insult to injury. The ghosts have taken over Public Service. From ghost teachers to ghost pupils, ghost schools, ghost suppliers, ghost deals, ghost pensioners and yes, ‘ghost reports’ – like the one of Brig. Noble Mayombo’s death (President claimed he had handed this report to the Mayombo family, but the family denied receiving anything to that effect). With all these scandals, things are falling apart. This is why we must clench our fists in 2013.
Inflation is receding but we continue to seek out grant monies to offset some of our important projects.
Every time the donors freeze or cut aid, the government cries foul even when it’s our people’s fault. They punish us for being perennial “thieves”. For instance, the latest scandal in Prime Minister’s Office is one of the sad tales in 2012. This scam involving outright theft of foreign aid has exposed the rot in public offices and how ridiculous some people can be. By stealing aid for the poor people of northern Uganda and Karamoja sub-region, these officials – some of them still at large - confirmed the President’s conclusion that Uganda is indeed full of thieves; the unreasonable crooks masquerading as public servants. These are the people who have made 2012 more like a living hell for many Ugandans.
Having said that, New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday - an opportunity for us to work on our failures. Another chance for us to get it right. At a time when too many Ugandans are struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, it is up to our leaders to help them survive 2013. It’s unfortunate that some of our leaders, including those in opposition look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits. But it’s not yet too late to do the right things. For those in government, corruption in Public Service remains the most pressing issue that needs urgent attention in 2013.
In fact, without making practical efforts to deal with the rampant corruption in the system, the hopelessness in the population, we will be deceiving ourselves to imagine that oil money can transform Uganda. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.
At a time when we still consider some people enemies because of their political views, in the New Year, it is up to our leaders at all levels to stand as a beacon of hope and embrace the diversity that has always made other nations stronger. It’s not so difficult for us to co-exist, what we need to do in 2013 is to be good listeners.
Call for personal reflection
And the kind of renewal we seek in the new year calls us to look within ourselves – to repent for our sins, tolerate dissent, put Uganda first, isolate the corrupt, regardless of their position in government or in opposition, recommit ourselves to prayer; and remember the blessings that come from helping the poor.
Our faith in God teaches us that there is a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. Let 2013 be a year for repentance and renewal; let us commit ourselves to a more hopeful future for Uganda. New Year’s Day is a time of new beginnings, so, for the sake of our beloved country, Uganda, described by Sir Winston Churchill as “the Pearl of Africa”, let’s make this papal promise: In a time of challenge, let our actions be guided by a commitment to help our neighbours, a promise to open our hands and our hearts to the less fortunate among us, and a pledge to embrace our diversity as a source of strength, not a cause for division.
Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story. A Happy New Year to everyone.
Ministry of health
Although child mortality has been on the decline, a new report shows that Uganda is one of 24 developing countries where 100 deaths per 1,000 live births are still registered. Statistics show that Uganda’s under-five mortality rate is 131 per 1,000 live births, the highest rate in East Africa. Although most of these diseases that kill babies are preventable, reports show that the government interventions have fallen short of universal coverage and many children are being left out. We are not achieving any universal coverage for interventions and it needs to be scaled up to save the children. This is why we give frowns to the Minister of Health, Dr Christine Ondoa.
James Mukasa Sebugenyi
Uganda Law Society President James Mukasa Sebugenyi takes the flowers for defending the independence of Parliament. Mr Ssebugenyi made it clear to the President that Parliament is an independent institution and can, as it deems fit, conduct an internal inquiry into a colleague’s death. Mr Sebugenyi said the events had shown that “there is an apparent defilement of the legislative arm of government”. On Monday, a visibly infuriated Mr Museveni said police would question Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and described as “idiots” and “fools” people who suggested that his government had a hand in Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda’s death.