What you need to know:
Failure to fulfil promises has increased discontent, manifested in service delivery protests.
It is electioneering time and politicians are promising so much in their manifestos like they have always done. It is during campaigns that politicians commit to serving the citizens. The services range from improving healthcare, roads, education, fighting corruption, creating employment, and increasing offering pay for civil servants, among others.
No matter how enticing and persuasive these promises are, the challenges and their devastating consequences on individuals, the economy and the environment persist through the five-year term of office.
Some of the persisting issues in the service delivery include unemployment, which is a big factor at a rate of 13.3 per cent, according the 2019 World Bank report, the education sector is struggling with poor quality and low retention of learners in schools where 12 per cent of children are out of school, among the reasons being inadequate infrastructure and scholastic materials-related issues.
According to the annual sector health performance report, just 69 per cent of health posts are filled, resulting in a high patient doctor ratio of 1: 24,725 with a nurse to patient ratio of 1: 11,000, which is below the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of one physician per 1,000 people, resulting in crowded hospitals. This is exacerbated by the brain-drain of more than 2,000 Uganda’s critical nurses and doctors. Also, according to the Ministry of Health, 139 sub-counties do not have health facilities.
Additionally, there is also a challenge of poor sanitation where people using improved drinking water source, was only at 69 per cent as of 2018/2019. Uganda was promised a middle-income status by 2020, achieving a per capita income of $1,039 (Shs3.8m) in vain. This was a major campaign promise by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party during the 2016 campaigns. Among the reasons for not achieving middle income status is corruption in government.
In the Great Lakes region, Kenya, Angola, Sudan, Congo (Brazzaville), Zambia and Tanzania are the only countries that have attained middle-income status, according to the World Social Report 2020. In Tanzania, President John Magufuli, used cost-cutting as a measure to improve service delivery.
He replaced Tanzania’s Independence Day celebrations with a national clean-up campaign, banned unnecessary foreign travels for government officials, prohibited the use of expensive hotels for government meetings, and streamlined the Cabinet. He appointed 22 ministers and 20 deputy ministers.
It was through these strategies that great improvements in education, health services, water services, and electricity access were registered.
Failure to fulfil promises has increased discontent, manifested in service delivery protests where people take to the streets to express their frustrations. Among the few recently recorded protests include the incident in 2018 over the poor state of service delivery in their district; in December 2020, Katakwi District residents protested over bad roads and poor health services; doctors protested against low pay, and poor working conditions, among others.
In all this, the losers are the poor, whose children do not learn to read and write or get sick and die because public health facilities do not have adequate medicines, who can’t transport their goods to markets due to impassable roads, etc.
This calls for empowerment of citizens through sensitisation to enable the poor to demand improved services and hold elected leaders accountable. This could create entitlement to the provision of public services.
This would enable citizens to make more informed assessments of electoral promises and their plausibility hence influence better decision-making during voting.
Ms Roline Tusiime is a resident research associate, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLiSS). [email protected]