Who will develop Uganda? Young slaves or old powerful thieves?

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni

Before serious people stopped counting, Uganda had more than 70 government ministers. Unfortunately, instead of expecting comprehensive performance from them, Ugandans (including many ruling NRM ‘supporters’!) have normalised the habit of dismissing them as ‘thieves’.

Across the republic, on any day, that sweeping cry is uttered with total contempt at least a thousand times: “They are all thieves.”

Rather unfair, for there must be at least a few honest souls. Even in a bag of rotten mangoes, you may find two or three passable ones. You wash them thoroughly and whip them in the juice machine.

Vice President Edward Ssekandi might be one of these exceptions. Two or three.
Indeed, this may be one reason almost nobody believes that Mr Ssekandi can succeed President Museveni. Not just constitutionally, or theoretically, but in actuality; a person who, for instance, can proclaim that darkness is light and get quoted by serious media organisations.

You see, Ugandans have normalised another habit, thinking and talking as if the next president must be as stubborn as a very hard nut (if they are from the Opposition), or a cynical Mafioso (if they are from the ruling NRM). They talk as if Gen Museveni is the last decent man the loving God in our national motto can ever permit to rule this cursed republic.

Ugandans are strange hominids. You cannot stop them harbouring such weird assumptions. So, in their unshakable conviction, Ssekandi cannot succeed President Museveni.

But as the two men stand now, can one find points of convergence?
I recently found something. I just hope readers will not fly off like mischievous chatter-birds, squeaking everywhere that the vice president was speaking in ironies and parodying his superior.

The issue: A Uganda destined to achieve ‘middle income’ status by 2020 as proclaimed by President Museveni.

What did the vice president say?

As the chief guest at the commissioning of Atiak Health Centre IV, Mr Ssekandi appealed to all Uganda’s youth to “develop the spirit of offering free services to the nation and remember God blesses those who do good without expecting payment.” (Sunday Monitor, May 12; Page 3.) Otherwise (Ssekandi reasoned), realising Uganda’s middle income status might be delayed.

What a sermon!

A few days before, the BBC had cited a depressing statistic: In fast-growing Ethiopia’s booming garment industry, a factory-floor worker earns $26 (Shs98,000) per month.

I remembered our once-upon-a-time AGOA girls. And all those young jobbers sweating for Sh100,000 in factories in our swamps. Considering the cost of living in Ethiopia or Uganda, this is barely disguised slavery.

In his Labour Day speech, President Museveni relegated politicians and identified big business people as the drivers of a country’s economy.
However, the President often connects his NRM politics to a business-friendly environment.

Therefore, this NRM/Museveni-led politico-business machine cannot deny responsibility for the $26 slaves. But Mr Ssekandi now wants our people to provide free labour in the spirit of patriotism; otherwise Uganda cannot develop fast enough.

What a curious economy, and a curious morality; where young (strong) workers are not paid to buy food and other goods!