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Putting 2016 and 2017 in Perspective

Ofwono Opondo

Dec, 28, 16

Ugandans just ended 2016, which was, to put mildly, a very hot year in many respects, and although we remained stable and relatively secure, calls for individual and collective introspection so that together we lower the temperatures and anxieties to manageable levels otherwise our country explodes. And while the judicial process of criminal investigations and prosecutions particularly in the recent Kasese incidents continue, no political effort should be spared by the government to reach out to the disaffected because after all, pain-staking and patient negotiation has been the hallmark of President Yoweri Museveni for many decades now.
For starters we began 2016 with a hot presidential and parliamentary elections campaigns in which competitors in an otherwise a democratic process behaved towards each other as if they were wolves to dogs, expending cartridges of offensive superlatives, and occasionally blood, for no other reason except because they either couldn’t control their individual emotions, or rowdy opportunistic supporters.
Thankfully, Uganda has re-built a robust state infrastructure especially intelligence, police and the military that effectively and promptly dealt with and neutralized all the emerging threatening nuisances, before they could turn disruptive and destructive. Except, only one nuisance, Dr Warren Smith Kizza Besigye continued to linger on, apparently defying all common sense, even when his own fellow party leaders in the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) chose a more civilized, peaceful and democratic ways to express disagreements.
Many hope, although it is really hope against hope, that Besigye should in 2017 realise the futility of his chosen path of violence laced defiance campaign against the national collective for peaceful settlement of dispute because Uganda has seen so much destructive disruptions. With a huge electoral difference between the National Resistance Movement (NRM), and FDC of nearly 80% against 08%, it is not possible that Besigye will convince any reasonable minds that he lost the presidential elections only because of the alleged cheating.
While the afore-going may only be an advise that Besigye should take a slightly different, and non-confrontational political path, while continuing with his campaigns for transformative changes in the country, which many desire, having lost five times, he could even hang up his gloves. After-all, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, and John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who were former political high flyers for decades, got vanquished only once, and have remained silent since.
And Besigye could even learn more from both the Democratic Party (DP) and Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) whose current leaders Norbert Mao and Jimmy Akena climbed from high horse-riding and political bravado to constructive engagements which seem to be bearing some national fruit of harmony.  
Having won a new mandate, the NRM government, in line with the UN global development goals, announced the very ambitious target of ensuring that Uganda achieves the lower middle income status by 2020, which is now only three years away. Some optimists believe that this target is still achievable particularly if we all pull and push creatively and innovatively towards the same directions. But looking at the entrenched malaise in government bureaucracy, sluggish, poor, and compromised implementation of programs, there is need to shake up aggressively in 2017 and beyond. And majority of the people who are supposedly the beneficiaries are too slow to adopt and absorb new methods of production to become truly productive and economically viable even in our own enclave market.
Considering the prolonged drought, widespread crop failure, in addition to bad food handling and wastage, there is a looming famine amidst declining national economic performance. Also, food crops especially grains, remain the only source of income for many farming families. The socio-economic distress of 2016 is likely to continue well into 2017 further causing more despair especially among the most vulnerable 68% who live under subsistence livelihoods. And of particular concern in 2017 will be how to keep school going children from already poor families from dropping out when the national average in universal education is not particularly very encouraging.
Going through Lango, Teso, and eastern Uganda during the last two weeks, l could see long lines of village women and children with containers already lining up at water collection points in many places as early 5.00am in the morning! At many of these places, the bore-holes, spring wells, ponds and ‘rivers’ had already dried up by mid December, meaning that either the location was poor or simply the job itself. In my humble view, it looks like the government must put in place a robust surveillance mechanism, and contingency plans not only for medicines and relief food, but for water provision as well to avoid being taken as usual by surprise when political opportunists become alarmists. In many of the places that I visited, the local government systems which ought to be the peoples’ first point of call and also sound alert alarms, either don’t work, have abdicated or are simply helpless.