Order your katogo because the hangover from those 2005 drinks is starting to hit

Author, Benjamin Rukwengye. PHOTO/FILE. 

What you need to know:

  • Plausible, if you consider that even many of us who are fortunate to have a job that pays more than Shs200,000 often struggle to “Find X” when it comes to meeting any of those same basic needs.

Everyone who knows their alcohol will tell you that at some point in the night, there’s that one drink you should just say no to. You know you have hit the peak and probably need to go home to your bed but someone will offer it to you and for some reason, you will say yes. That one drink will tip you over the edge and in the morning when you are paying with a mad hangover that no katogo or kigere can cure, you will remember the moment when you should have left.

For the NRM that drink is the period between 2003-2005 when against common logic, they decided to amend Article 105 (2) of the Constitution, lifting the presidential term limits. The hangover is starting to manifest. But first, here is a story told by a friend who was part of a study on the working conditions of health workers.

One of the respondents, a doctor, nonchalantly told them of an experience from the day before. A pregnant woman had come in for emergency surgery on a stillbirth case. Without the required tools, the doctor was hamstrung and it quickly became apparent that proceeding with the surgery would lead to the loss of the mother’s life too.

They quickly decided to refer her to the district hospital for further management. To facilitate the journey and without the right tools, he put the stillborn baby back, did whatever stitching patchwork he could, and wished them well. Imagine!

Another story published by this newspaper earlier in the week reported that, “About 50 percent of Ugandans in paid employment earn Shs200,000 or less.” The paper was quoting the Uganda Bureau of Statistics survey of the National Labour Force Survey (2021). Unsurprisingly, it went on to report that six out of every 10 households (60 percent) are struggling and can barely afford basic commodities. Plausible, if you consider that even many of us who are fortunate to have a job that pays more than Shs200,000 often struggle to “Find X” when it comes to meeting any of those same basic needs.

Enter James Kakooza. Many people reading this column might have never heard of the man. But, ask around, he was kind of a big deal 20 years ago. At the time, Uganda was fresh out of the hellish 2001 Presidential election where Dr Kizza Besigye – the first insider and a ranking member – ran against President Museveni. In many ways, Uganda never recovered from that election. More importantly though, that (2001-2006) was also supposed to be President Museveni’s last term – because the Constitution mandated only two terms of office but also because he had made the promise publicly and even in the manifesto. A year or so later, James Kakooza, a little know Member of Parliament from Kabula in Greater Masaka, would become the poster boy for the lifting of presidential term limits – pushing the Kisanja thing.

In the intervening time (2006-2022), Uganda would probably have had two to three Presidents. If one were to hazard a guess, I would say maybe former prime minister Amama Mbabazi riding on the advantages of incumbency and state control to succeed Museveni in 2006; and then losing to Dr Kizza Besigye in a popular vote in 2011. Which would also mean that we would now be fresh into our third post-Museveni President.

Two things happening today become clearer when you look back 20 years ago at Kakooza’s bisanja. The first is that it is easy to see that on many indices, things have gotten better; but it is also easy to find evidence of stagnation and in some cases, retrogression – social services and standard of living. In both cases, Museveni is the constant variable.

The second is that Kisanja refueled the embers of the Musevenisation of the party and the state, inadvertently laying the ground for what is now described as an imperial presidency – where his family is fighting over the presidency. Had there been a presidential change in 2006, it would have negated the Museveni family’s entitlement to the presidency, while guaranteeing longevity for the NRM.

Suffice it to say that even Robert Kyagulanyi would have focused on Bobi Wine. Instead, and as a result, you now have this public spectacle that somewhat portends danger for not just the ruling party but the country’s future as well. Meanwhile, the actual issues and rot get half-solved.

Mr Rukwengye is the founder, Boundless Minds. @Rukwengye

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