‘Clever’ by half govt officials continue to be a danger to everyone

Author, Benjamin Rukwengye. PHOTO/FILE. 

What you need to know:

... the starting point could be an imposition of heavy prices on small transgressions, as a message and deterrent to those who are in the habit of orchestrating schemes that put the welfare of citizens at stake.

Hana Horka. That’s someone I doubt you have ever heard of. She was a 57-year-old Czech musician who died this week, of Covid-19. Not so unsurprising given the times, except that she deliberately caught the virus.

Hana was an anti-vaxxer, but reasoned that catching the disease and healing from it would give her two advantages – if you like. The first and erroneous one being immunity against the virus, and the second, a recovery pass allowing her to access different venues. So, when her husband and son – both vaxxed - tested positive, she figured this was her chance. Well, she is no more.

For effect, let me also share simple analogy. Let us say you run an enterprise which employs a couple of staff. You realise that for a while now, some members of your team are not performing as expected. They are missing their deadlines and some need constant reminders to get even basic tasks done. You constantly talk about it, try to be understanding, cajole and encourage, switch them up, but nothing improves. The trouble is that when you compound their actions (or inactions) you realise how much money you are losing.

You have got to do something, right? Because if you don’t, you are risking the future of the business. So, you announce that going forward, you will enforce a fining system, where actions will have consequences (and rewards) depending. They aren’t very happy, of course, but you know that eventually, everybody shall be the better for it.

Why are these two stories important? Well, because both of them are a clear illustration of Uganda and its government, and what could or needs to happen. They also point to the fact that if you are looking for a quick way to a disastrous end, nothing will get you there faster than self-sabotage mixed with folly. Take, for example, the fact that the country is currently up in arms thanks to the over-the-top fuel prices, which will invariably affect the cost of everything and further complicate business processes.

The only reason we got to this is because those in charge, like Hana, are too clever by half, and oh-so greedy. If you are a country like Uganda, poor, mismanaged, landlocked and surviving on vibes, you don’t reason like Hana. You make rational decisions that give you an edge, instead of irrationality that has you conceding own goals. For example, you don’t antagonise truck drivers who are your lifeline – especially those carrying fuel, the lifeblood of the economy. But they did and now, here we are. Will anything happen to them? Not a chance! For Ugandans, the tragedy is that this is not the first time those charged with the responsibility of thinking are bungling it. It will also not be the last, without consequences. It is the same logic by which a police officer, Robert Mukebezi, lost a leg in the course of duty, when a soldier opened fire on him. There was no reason except for impunity and the fact that he knew he could get away with it. He had seen his bosses order shootings of civilians, or have them driven off the roads without consequences.

It is not the first time this is happening, neither will it be the last. We have all seen in the past, videos of especially land disputes involving senior officers, things escalating to cocked guns and hot words. In one classic case at a Kampala bar that shouldn’t even still be operational, a minister showed up and threatened to deploy a counter force against the police which had been deployed to enforce a court order.

In our case it is not just skyrocketing fuel prices, disappearances and detentions without trial, disregarding of court orders, gunmen showing up everywhere and wantonly doing as they wish, failing to educate properly – the list is endless. It is the compounding effect of what happens when all these things eventually come together – the country will end up exactly where Hana did.

Perhaps, the starting point could be an imposition of heavy prices on small transgressions, as a message and deterrent to those who are in the habit of orchestrating schemes that put the welfare of citizens at stake. All this would of course be a lot easier if those in the line of fire were not friends, relatives and in-laws.

Mr Rukwengye is the founder, Boundless Minds. @Rukwengye