The Public Should Hold Government to its Words

Ofwono Opondo

In 1986, at his maiden inauguration, President Yoweri Museveni publicly pledged to Ugandans, and the whole world, the famous mantra of “This is a Fundamental Change, and not a mere Change of Guards.” Museveni, and the rag-tag National Resistance Army (NRA) had just emerged victorious from a five-year Protracted Peoples’ War, which had swept out the second fascist UPC regime, and its underling military junta led by two illiterate Generals, Tito Okello Lutwa, and Bazilio Olara  Okello. Dr Olara Otunnu, who today is a high priest of civilian democracy, was the junta’s minister of foreign affairs.

Since then, President Museveni, and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) have won many elections, the latest being in February 2016. Now, since May 12, 2016, when President Museveni declared this term as “Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo,” it has almost become a political cliché. And, as often with most clichés, critics tend to take cynicism. To the cynics, it was a double edged sword, perhaps implying that the president all along knowingly tolerated jokers, incompetents, malcontents, malingerers, impostors, and even the corrupt.

The “Fundamental Change,” mantra, accomplished so much to be enumerated here, and so, if, this, “Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo,” is to be believed, it ought to drastically accomplish among other things, sweep out the deadwood, publicly known corrupt, and plug the huge holes they exploit to cheat government. National security, stability, and law and order, alongside a disciplined armed forces, and revitalization of the economy are “Fundamental Changes,” that even the most extreme opponents find difficult to fault.

President Yoweri Museveni and the NRM were returned in February with a huge countrywide mandate; the president (62.6%), NRM MPs (75%), and Local Councils (75%), and therefore, NRM, has no lame excuses to make for failing to succeed! Without sounding pessimistic, it seems to many, that the current crop in top leadership across the board, leave so much to be desired, mainly, due to lack of total commitment to public duty. We seem, to work, more like hired bands of rouge soldiers.   

It is four months since the president and parliament was inaugurated, and about three since cabinet was appointed. During this period, there have been four critical retreats of the top leadership of government that started with NRM MPs-elect, then a joint NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC), all Cabinet Ministers, and Permanent Secretaries. This was been followed by the retreat and induction of all MPs, and another joint retreat comprising Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, District Local Government Chairpersons, Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs), and Chief Executive Officers of all major government Agencies. The main objective of all these retreats have been to refocus collective attention to duty, identify the critical obstacles, reset public priorities, achieve consensus, and plot the way forward.

 President Museveni as the pace-setter has outlined and continues to explain in detail the Twenty Three (23) Strategic Guidelines, which although not entirely new is hoped will form the basis for policy focus and formulation over the next five years in line with the National Development Plan II, and Uganda Vision 2040. The stated goal over the next five year term is that Uganda should attain the Middle income status by 2020, meaning majority of Ugandans should each be earning on average at least 1200 US dollars annually, or approximately 100 USD (350,000/=) monthly, which is achievable with focused hard work and collective efforts by all.

The imperative, therefore, is that all leaders from household level, communities, NGOs, and government institutions must gear themselves to strategies that will tackle the sixty-eight (68%) households, most of them in rural and peri-urban areas who are still in subsistence, peasant, informal and irregular economy to enable the people in this group to enter the formal money economy where they can earn regular incomes. This can be done by developing multiple models of small and medium projects and enterprises as possible regular income streams that can be mentored into success stories.

To achieve this feat, there must be continued national security and stability, and unity of purpose particularly among the political class that transcends political partisan lines able to withstand any form of diversion by the usual anarchists who would wish that Uganda doesn’t progress to socio-economic transform as planned in the hope they can exploit it for electioneering in 2021. Also, leaders especially at the top echelons of government in cabinet, parliament and Local Governments must ensure policy clarity, consistency and predictability as critical for the attraction of especially foreign investments and tourism into Uganda.

During the campaigns as reflected in the results there was noticeable, genuine and widespread public frustration, anger and despondence which the opposition exploited to the maximum through falsehoods, half truths and empty promises, and so government tasks are clearly cut out. These included among others the way public affairs are managed, huge, wasteful and duplicative cost of government. Tackling corruption, poor and ineffective service delivery and lack of effective response to matters of public concern by various government relevant officials should top priorities that must be urgently dealt with. It can no longer be business as usual!