In Uganda, when it rains, it pours

Tricia G. Nabaye

What you need to know:

The workings of democracy hinge on “to power with the people” in the absence of that, we begin to border into autocracy that ultimately detaches the people from government.

Roads in Uganda continue to flood and claim lives on the rainy days, roads cave in and life stands still. The blessing that rain is supposed to be is put to the test when it pours in Uganda.

During the Labour Day weekend, President Museveni suggested cassava as an alternative to the skyrocketing foodstuff prices. A comment the public deemed as infantilising. I am not sure, Ugandans expected a different answer, earlier on at the start of the price influx crisis, there was a suggestion for Ugandans to use pawpaw leaves as an alternative to soap. And it goes without saying, that either the government officials have no concrete solution to the economic crisis that is looming or there is an adamantness to the plight of Ugandans.

The economic recovery alternatives for Ugandans are limited to resilience, and the classic, “Every man for himself and God for us all”. The solutions of Ubuntu are being evaluated and communities continue to look inward for solutions to the crisis that looms over us as a country. The question in the public is whether the government, which is the custodian of the taxes of the people, will do anything to cushion Ugandans?

As the economic hardships continue to bite, we need to interrogate what economic cushions are being prepared to help Ugandans navigate the times. Government cannot continue to pretend like the concerns of the public are divorced from their mandate.

The explanation that has been provided by the finance minister Hon. Matia Kasaija has been, that the Ugandan economy is suffering a negative external shock from the global pandemic economic breakdown, the Russian-Ukraine crisis, reduced exports, tourism earnings, remittances, and private capital flows among others. But given these factors that have contributed to the crisis, we cannot negate the need to address the internal contradictions that contribute to the gallows of poverty that has created a cycle of apathy among many Ugandans.

Among these, is the political will to address the hardship with reasonable and implementable solutions.

The other critical internal contradiction is our national budget which stands at Shs 43 trillion in a time when our goal would be to be frugal with our expenditures. The supplementary budgets that have constantly been approved and continue to be requested from state agencies baffle the everyday taxpayer!

Yet inflation continues to surge the prices for petroleum products and the cost of doing business in Uganda has gone up.

In all this, with the shrinking civic space, there has not been enough room to hold the government accountable for their actions in addressing the downpour of the crisis that has Ugandans drowning in apathy and poverty. The gag on dissent continues to make the voice of the citizens unheard and ignored.

Ugandans need to be able to question their leaders on how their taxes are being allocated and used through participatory budgeting meetings, sector-specific budget monitoring and participatory audits in the view of improving citizen engagement in public finance management.

Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys, citizen report cards, scorecards, social audits, and community monitoring can provide for accountability in the expenditure and use of taxpayers’ monies.

Conclusively, the challenges of a detached government continue to tank us into an abyss that we can escape if we deliberately hold the government accountable and push them to serve the people. The workings of democracy hinge on “to power with the people” in the absence of that, we begin to border into autocracy that ultimately detaches the people from government. And as such, the rains continue to pour in Uganda.

Ms Tricia Gloria Nabaye,

Resident Research Associate- Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies

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