We should hire Sri Lankans as consultants for change in Uganda

Author, Musaazi Namiti. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Like in Sri Lanka, nepotism in Uganda is the order of the day.  

This week, the people of Sri Lanka ramped up their peaceful protests and occupied the residence and office of their president and that of the prime minister. They have a host of grievances, but the main one has to do with a crashed economy that has seen fuel and food prices skyrocketing, causing widespread misery.

The President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 73, has since fled the country and is said to have sought sanctuary in Singapore. The Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, 73, remains in the country, with a tenuous hold onto power. He is unpopular because of his ties to the Rajapaksa family, which has dominated Sri Lankan politics for almost 20 years and is accused of corruption and mismanagement of the country.

“The thieves are running away,” shouted one protester. If what has happened in Sri Lanka happened in Uganda, many Ugandans would shout the same and probably use tons of expletives.

We have the same situation in Uganda: rotten leadership that is as corrupt as it is incompetent and a struggling economy standing knee-deep in debt. Prices of fuel, food and nearly all essential commodities have skyrocketed; many Ugandans just do not know what to do. 

Amid this deepening misery, one prominent Ugandan, Dr Kizza Besigye, has been trying to lead Ugandans to protest to no avail. The regime has been quick to place him behind the bars, although he managed to secure bail recently. 

The suffering of Ugandans who cannot afford the cost of living — and they are in the majority — continues. The Observer newspaper reported this week that every month 2,000 young Ugandans leave the country to work as maids in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, where they are subjected to inhumane treatment by their Arab bosses. At least 88 Ugandan maids have died in three years, the paper reported.

The Sri Lankans appear to have succeeded where we have struggled to make progress, and maybe it is about time we hired them as consultants. They should advise us on how to organise peaceful protests to secure change; how you enter the residence of a Prime Minister, for example, occupy it for days, pose for selfies and even make spectacular high dives in their swimming pool.

There is plenty of evidence in Uganda and outside to suggest that Ugandans are fed up and are yearning for change. You see some of the evidence in that video where Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, a Cabinet minister and one of the supporters of the regime, is trying to speak to Ugandans in Canada, but none is ready to listen.

They are telling her that she should be ashamed of serving a government she knows is very unpopular in part because of its gross human rights violations. They reminded her of two Opposition MPs who, for months, have been languishing in jail over what the State calls capital offences, yet the government cannot even produce incriminating evidence to prosecute them.

Like in Sri Lanka, nepotism in Uganda is the order of the day. People looking for top public-sector jobs and are not relatives of individuals who have propped up the regime (or the regime linchpins themselves) have zero chance of getting hired. A vacancy can be advertised and filled before the vacancy notice deadline has expired. 

The prize example is Uganda Airlines. It spent nearly a billion shillings pretending to seek a new chief executive. The offer was made when applications were still being submitted.

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