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Why Ugandans have lost confidence in leaders

Ramathan Ggoobi

Why Ugandans have lost confidence in leaders

People have chosen to listen to the Sekikubos and all those other “small people” due to failure by you senior members of government to lead!

Every day that passes confirms what I wrote in these pages three years ago. Mr. President, the people of Uganda would lose confidence in their 1986 liberators.  

To write this I was reacting to your State of the Nation Address you deliversed at the eve of 2009. In the speech you called upon Ugandans to become patriotic. You actually went ahead and formed what you named “Patriotism Clubs” to teach Ugandans patriotism. I warned you that nowhere in the world will you find evidence of successful teaching of patriotism. I told you that unlike other animals you cannot fool human beings. You cannot teach human beings to love their country if the country does not offer anything to them worth loving.

I wondered how you expected people to love a country whose leaders Ugandans think about only when they are discussing government flaws and the country’s predicaments. I invited you to seriously think about this: What would make one fall in love with a country whose leaders are as if on a mission to steal the last shilling from the State treasury.     

Today the National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) hold onto the power that it gained through an upheaval is itself in upheaval, triggered by failure by you senior members of the party and government to lead. It is now clear; the NRM government has lost the confidence of the people of Uganda. It is an understatement to say that the people of Uganda have lost a great deal of confidence in politics and politicians generally, but most significantly in NRM politicians.

While addressing Parliament last week I heard you questioning the contribution people like Hon. Theodore Sekikubo, and his colleagues who have championed a cause to fight corruption in your government, have made to Uganda to qualify them to oppose NRM excesses. You understandably spent the entire speech talking about “the Sekikubos”. There is no doubt that Ugandans no longer take you and your colleagues seriously. Ugandans no longer want to listen to you. The writings are on the all. You have made your party’s candidates lose by-elections.      

Stinking nepotism!
Mr President, I have written about this before but today I will be a little bit more frank. The reason people of Uganda are no longer willing to listen to you and your other senior colleagues in government, and they choose to listen to the Sekikubos or Katuntus and all those other “small” people that you love to disparage, is because people have become more cynical about the true original motive of you, the so-called 27 freedom fighters, who 27 years ago picked up guns to fight the government of late Milton Obote.

Many Ugandans have started to seriously think that you went to Luwero bushes not to liberate the country but to liberate yourselves from poverty. Some people now call you gunmen similar to any other gangs that use the gun to seek rent for themselves, their children, relatives, friends and in-laws.

A few years ago, George Soros coined a phrase ‘Sperm lottery’ (defined as the luck of being born in a good family or with good genes) to explain the disparities in welfare prevalent among societies. Mr. President, few countries can beat Uganda under your leadership at providing a perfect laboratory to test Soros’s concept.

For one to succeed in the Uganda under NRM, they must have won the sperm lottery of being born in a family of a top NRM leader. Yet more worryingly, the sample space for such families is itself shrinking every passing day. It is steadily becoming a lottery of belonging to a very small group closely knit around Rwakitura and Ntungamo. Let me be frank with you, Mr President, the level of nepotism, cronyism, and patronage you are practicing nowadays has reached stinking levels.       

Leaders now use God as cover to commit evil!
It does not require one to first conduct a survey to know that today people believe our values as a country have declined. The last 27 years have seen political and economic corruption rise, there has been increased materialism, a decline in family values, increased levels of using religion and God as cover to commit evil, proliferation of a get-rich-quick culture, and even reduced ability to succeed on one’s own merit.

You leaders of NRM behave as if you fought for self-enrichment. Barely a handful of you went to the bush with any wealth or even income to write home. Gladly many of you have written your biographies, and in them you narrated the stories of your humble beginnings, and in some cases went further to put pictures portraying the chronic levels of poverty you were living in before you got power. Today, you are all super-rich; sleeping in villas and mansions built in record time and in the most affluent suburbs of city and other uptown parts of this world. Estimates show that over 80% of the serious businesses in this country are owned by a handful of senior NRM leaders, which they either run directly or by proxy.

Mr President, majority of your colleagues and relatives spend more time at construction sites, ranches, sumptuous weddings and birthday parties, and shopping trips to New York, Dubai, and Beijing than they spend in offices. You guys in NRM are really obsessed with your new-found wealth, power, fame and civilisation. Like all beginners, you cannot believe what happened to you! You became so excited with the new-found wealth, power and fame, a factor that has compromised all the fibres that used to tie our family values. The current leadership has created a new alternative family life, having children out of wedlock and supporting divorce.    

It you leaders of this generation that have bred a culture of consumerism, thriftlessness and materialism among your children and others close to you. These young people (your children), since they go to school with children of other Ugandans living in unprivileged but fairly prosperous families, have propagated this culture to others. Now your children are practicing homosexuality, abusing drugs, and classifying themselves as pro-choice, busy drinking and sexing themselves to the graves.

In the meantime, majority of the children who grow up languishing in poverty and the poor quality Universal Primary Education (UPE) that NRM forged for them, descend on to the informal economy where they work as servants to the aforementioned group by riding them (children of the rich) on boda-bodas as they trot bar after bar and dancehalls. Others are all over the city hawking airtime scratch cards and used car parts that they steal from your vehicles.

Who’s killing leaders?
The income disparities have bred a sense of hopelessness and malaise among the latter group of Ugandans. It is a diverse group of the educated and the uneducated young men and women, vulnerable to transient poverty caused by the unstable macroeconomy, political violence and the rampant public sector corruption. This is the group that holds the swing vote in Uganda. This is the group that has lost confidence in your leadership, Mr President.

This is the group that is very much willing to listen to the Sekikubos, the Lukwagos, and all those other “small people” because they tell them what they want to hear. This is the group that will decide who leads this country in future. Undoubtedly, it is one of the Sekikubos who is likely to appeal to this group. To this group, the Musevenis, the Mbabazis, the Kutesas, the Sekandis and by extension their children and other relatives, are the thieves who do not deserve to continue leading their country.

Mr President, on top of the accusation of stealing the living hell out of the economy, this group has added another accusation to your government — killing competitors. Whispers are making rounds across the country that after the ruling class realising that they are losing ground to the Sekikubos, they have resorted to killing them. And your government is not helping itself to clear its name.

Complacency has made you think it is not your duty to conduct independent and transparent investigations into sudden deaths of leaders and publicize the findings of those reports. Serious governments around the world give professional explanations of the cause of death of leaders. In Uganda you think it is not important. From former Parliamentary Speakers, James Wapakhabulo and Francis Ayume, to former Army generals Noble Mayombo and James Kazini, leaders have died mysteriously without convincing explanation of their deaths.

This is irresponsibility on the side of government and it shouldn’t blame people who are whispering that may be it is government that is killing them. Look at the way you’ve handled Cerinah Nebanda’s death. A young member of Parliament, publicly critical of government, dies in very mysterious circumstances and no one in government shows concern. When Parliament takes leadership trying to conduct acceptable investigations government frustrates the process. What then does government want people to think? Granted death is inevitable and does not have a schedule on which it operates, but with technology every death must now be explained.



Ramathan Ggoobi is Policy Analyst, and Researcher. He lecturers economics at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and has co-authored several studies on Uganda's economy. For the past ten years, he has published a weekly column 'Are You Listening Mr. President' in The Sunrise Newspaper, Uganda's Leading Weekly

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