Museveni’s Luwero tour is an Indictment to local Leaders!

Ofwono Opondo

Nov, 2, 16
President Yoweri Museveni’s return to Luwero early this week in an effort to re-mobilise the local people especially the very low down peasants to double their energies and creativity on the socio-economic agenda dubbed, Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) has, as expected generated support and excitement as well as sarcasm in equal measure. The president’s many and repeated field tours on the same subject is a grave indictment on the respective leaders who have abdicated responsibilities.
It will be recalled that a while ago, President Museveni toured the whole country in an effort to bolster the Naads programme where it emerged that much of the money was squandered, sub-standard in-puts supplied, and officials including some top politicians used the programme for self-aggrandisement. Currently, there is too much delay in the government procurement system that, by the time in-puts are supplied, farmers are out of season, particularly when one considers the changing and unpredictable weather patterns. In many ways, these failures are also an indictment on policy implementation, and calls for deeper reflection and reviews. It is amazing and disappointing that some parish chief chiefs don’t even know the number of households under their jurisdiction.
The derision came mainly because the president was seen pushing or riding a bicycle with a single jerrycan of water, and using otherwise waste perforated plastic bottles to demonstrate drip irrigation of plants at the new presidential state farm in Kawuuwu village, Luwero district. Obviously, there are several government and privately owned mechanized irrigation across the country. The president has over the years launched micro and macro projects, not because he was the engineer to build those dams, roads, railways and houses, but for symbolism, even if only to demonstrate that the president’s hands can also get soiled! In fact, this week he launched a 59.2km and 35km power lines and advised the people there not to just admire the poles and cables passing over their villages but instead connect to small and medium scale industries that add value to whatever they produce.
To the local beneficiaries who are in dire need and interacting with the president, it is more like a God-send, because they know and believe that the president means well, and particularly when he patiently and attentively listens to their plight, offers concrete advise on how to solve some of the seemingly simple although complicated problems.
In many instances, the president is making follow ups on policies and resources issued long ago but have been put to waste because the beneficiaries and local intermediary leaders abdicated their responsibilities, and so have failed the people. To the political shenanigans, we can only counsel that while you may wish that tractors, combine harvesters, mechanized and automated irrigation systems should power Uganda’s agriculture, the truth is, eighty percent of Uganda’s so-called farmers are mostly un-educated, un-skilled, and un-exposed small scale peasants who must be helped to work productively with the resources they either already have, can afford and sustain.
We, the elites ought to know, that Uganda will be not progress to the much hyped middle income status and modernity, unless we decisively tackle the plight of the sixty-eight percent still eking living under subsistence, and small informal businesses. The seemingly small efforts by President Museveni, if copied by other leaders, and done consistently is what shall liberate those poor souls.
Therefore, and particularly without addressing the intricate and explosive land tenure system, and agrarian reform, agro-processing and industrialisation, the hand hoe, and other low level manual technology will remain the mainstay of production. It should bother every right thinking Ugandan social, economic, and politic that while huge public expenditure has been incurred on roads and hydro power lines, these remain largely redundant because local uptake has been sluggish. It is common and saddens that across Uganda local people, are using brand new tarmac roads to dry cassava, rice and clothes, mainly because leaders haven’t mobilised them to make better use of these facilities! Equally, it ought to jolt the elites that in spite of the many schools built and equipped, that classrooms are empty, teacher absenteeism high, inspection weak, and grades are very low, yet we have elected leaders otherwise believed to be responsible, not performing their duties as expected.
The president’s gesture is a powerful and effective mobilization tool that anybody can become innovatively productive, and for the average rural peasant farmer whose main tools are a hand hoe, bicycle and water jerrycan there couldn’t have been any better approach. It helps a peasant know that using lame excuses to let crops including vegetables in the compound wither away will not be entertained in future. It is therefore pertinent that local authorities starting with sub counties and districts should pass by-laws on sustainable resources management including affordable irrigation to help deal with immediate food security and household incomes.
We must adopt technology that helps mitigate adverse effects of climate change in ways that are affordable and sustainable. The president underscored that the jerrycan and bottle approach, was a stop-gap measure at household level as government explores or indeed procures solar irrigation system which will certainly take a while to arrive.