Ugandans need more economics in their unbalanced politics diet

Monday January 24 2022

Politicians are busy talking politics, just like a carpenter who swings a hammer at a mosquito perching on his child’s head. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


Electioneering is engulfing East Africa as a full-time five-yearlong affair! With Baba and Hustler busy like Kenya’s General Election is today, and now Tanzania’s intra-CCM battles touching every contest in the ruling party, we must accept that politics is East Africa’s main activity which, unfortunately, isn’t well done either.

Uganda’s big topic just half a year after the government was sworn in is changing the mode of electing the president, after a bunch of ruling party parliamentary election losers came up with a proposal that the head of state be picked by MPs instead of universal suffrage.

Watching the opposition MPs – some of them pretty decent fellows actually – getting worked up over the inconsequential proposal shows the opposition's inconsequentiality in shaping power. For the proposal is inconsequential in the current set-up, as it neither increases nor decreases the opposition’s chances of winning or losing the election. Those who want to wrest power from Yoweri Museveni and the NRM party continue focusing on the wrong things, as they have always done every five years since he first contested in 1996.

Our opposition politicians are like a bunch of prisoners trying to break down the prison gate even after the prison cells and walls have been gutted by a storm, but standing in the open, they continue banging on the inconsequential gate. They are stuck in the PO Box era, crying over the price of postage stamps when nobody posts letters anymore.

Nothing highlights the impotence of today’s political opposition like the current education finance crisis as schools reopen after two calendar years of closure, with parents spending far more than they can afford on school fees and so-called requirements.

Two years ago, as Ugandan instituted the Covid-19 lockdown, there were 15 million learners. The number should have grown by some two million, assuming three million have joined, but one million finished or outgrew school. The parents, sponsors and relatives of 17 million learners in a population of 45 million should be more than all the country’s voters.


Over the past 25 years, opposition leaders have tried to convince Ugandans to get angry enough and throw out the incumbent government, but haven’t convinced them that the change would be for the better.

The change seekers don’t even seem to be noticing what Equity Bank is doing, apparently because the bank doesn’t do politics. But, as things stand now, if the Equity managing director was interested in ruling Uganda, he or she would stand a good chance of winning the next general election by giving credible hope to Uganda’s desperate learners and their parents.

The Equity people are giving full scholarships on merit to thousands across the country. While the “most respected” government schools have been on the rampage selling places of children who had been admitted on merit to the richest bidder, by eliminating the qualified children on grounds of delaying to pay for “other requirements”, Equity Bank is picking up the bills for thousands of poor children who qualified to join Form One across the country. Clueless, the politicians are busy talking politics, just like a carpenter who swings a hammer at a mosquito perching on his child’s head.

Our government today controls such a small fraction of the country’s resources that if leaders focused on guiding the public to seek happiness by harnessing their resources instead crying at state errors, they would have the population eating out of their palm. Moreover, government is such a poor revenue collector it barely picks 13 percent of GDP, and half the collection goes to repay debt, so it keeps borrowing more to pay debt.

Yet, like a sick body wracked by stage ten cancer, much of what it collects is stolen by corrupt officials. A smart leader should point the population to those resources and opportunities outside government control. For telling people that government isn’t competent is a waste of time.

Wherever the Equity guys are getting all the cash they are helping our children with, there certainly is enough of it and whoever wants the peoples’ support should focus there. Besides Uganda, the Equity people should step up their good work in South Sudan and DR Congo, swing down through Tanzania and back up to Kenya. People need more economics in the now unbalanced diet packed with politics.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]