The suffering Ugandans endure because of rotten leadership

Author: Musaazi Namiti. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Govt, which this week marked its 36th anniversary, has failed to create jobs for its people.  

It is incredibly difficult to earn a decent living in Uganda. Earning a good income means you have to be one of the following: a highly skilled professional who can be hired by (international) organisations that pay very well; a successful business person; a self-employed professional who charges high fees for the services you provide to the general public; a politician at the level of an MP; and the fifth, which is tried and tested, has everything to do with being close to people who wield state power in Uganda and — by extension — wealth.

Many Ugandans, unfortunately, do not belong to these categories and live in poverty, which they try to escape by looking for employment in countries such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

In some of these countries — notable examples include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates — migrant workers, especially if they are from Africa and Asia, are treated appallingly badly.
Women are raped by married men. Employers seize passports of their workers on arrival. The pittance workers earn is sometimes not paid.

It is impossible for the victims to get justice in these countries, which are notorious for human rights violations, so the suffering for Ugandans working there continues. 

Last week, we were treated to the poignant story of a Ugandan woman whose kidney was stolen by her employers in Saudi Arabia while she was sedated. 

Her family said they had lost contact with her, and when they demanded to speak to her, which they did several times, they were told she was injured in an accident. It was a barefaced lie. When they eventually got to know what had happened to her, they were appalled. She is a shadow of her former self, going by TV images of her.

Uganda is partly to blame. It has failed to address this cruel treatment of its people because it needs Saudi Arabia — probably more than Saudi Arabia needs it. Protesting by way of severing diplomatic ties or considering legal action is not on the cards.

The government, which this week marked its 36th anniversary in power, has signally failed to create jobs for its people — the principal reason people leave Uganda in search of work. 

The President is clueless about how he can tackle widespread unemployment. One moment he says unemployed Ugandans studied ‘useless’ subjects; the next he says the country is generating enough electricity to power factories that can employ many people.

Meanwhile, medical doctors who studied useful subjects often stage strikes because they are poorly paid.

The latest strike, which grabbed headlines, involved medical doctors/interns protesting starvation wages.
Ugandans who raise money and leave the country to begin a new life overseas are often greeted by thugs at the country’s only airport who demand bribes to allow them to check in. 

This is probably the best evidence that Uganda has rotten leadership. An international airport run by people who are graduates is taken over by thugs extorting money from passengers and no serious action is taken. 

The Civil Aviation Authority issues statements condemning this thuggery but cannot open toll-free lines to help victims.

It is hard to see how things can change for the better when the rotten leadership is not going anywhere. Worse, the leaders are now saying that the critical media has started to behave well. 

When bad leaders start to praise journalists, you have to weep. Literally.

Mr Namiti is a journalist and former Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk
[email protected]    @kazbuk