20 November 2012

Uganda's Elite Setting Agenda for Lower Class


During one of my recent visits to Nairobi, I couldn't be picked up quickly enough upon my arrival at Jomo Kenyatta airport because a friend whom I had requested to do so spent a long time caught up in a particularly vicious traffic jam.

I sought to lessen his ordeal by selecting to use a commuter bus. I hopped onto the available bus for a fraction of the cost in money and time to get to our rendezvous. On my flight back to Entebbe a few days later, I contrived to repeat a similar feat. I did not bother to engage anyone to come for me.

The taxi drivers at the airport rank surveyed me wolfishly. They must have concluded that I was one of the dollar-drenched new arrivals doling out astronomical figures just for a short stint out of the airport. I was accosted with a hair-raising charge which clearly shocked my cash-starved pocket. I chose to check around for a bus alternative, but there was none.

I stood haggard by the kerbside until a good Samaritan relieved me with a pleasant ride. The reality of lack of public transport at Entebbe airport jolted me out of a reverie. It seemed that the elitist-minded handlers of our affairs at Entebbe airport understood it to be a no-go area for the less well-off, satisfied that only people driving pools of sleek vehicles are qualified to patronize the airport.

No one should be surprised by this. The attitude happily chimes with the feeling of being classy and elegant by our elites who enjoy snobbery of the seclusion of utilities for themselves in an apartheid-like clasp. This invasive behaviour is not limited to Entebbe airport alone. It's now the tread mill treatment accorded to the largest numbers of our people ? who are poor ? in every decision-making or use of resources.

Whereas official society is abuzz with talk of appropriate spreading of affirmative action for marginalized groups, this has been conveniently interpreted to mean only amorphous social definition given to gender, youths and PWDs. The great schism of poverty that induces the fundamental discrimination, cutting across all the mentioned marginalized groups, is being stealthily shoved from public view.

The interlacing of some elitist women, individuals amongst the youths or PWDs to join the celebrities is often touted as the earth-moving change we aspired for in the NRM. Yet, this can only relieve insignificant numbers of people. It is only when fundamental questions of banishing poverty from our midst are successfully and thoroughly addressed that the country can genuinely deal with all the other manifestations of asymmetry.

It is commonsense that since we are aware that many of our people cannot afford to transport themselves in four-wheel drives and sports-coupés, there ought to be provisions for mass-transport, such as buses, commuter taxis and rail for them as a matter of principle of good governance.

The ignoring of the economic frailties of large sections of our people has meant that they cannot access medical facilities, education opportunities, access credit, etc, rendering them to be socially excluded from amenities on account of their poverty. The Luo legends chronicle Kipir and his brother parting from each other out of a row over a string of beads.

The said quarrel allegedly triggered the Luo migration towards Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya. The big trek became possible because there was still plenty of open, uncontested land and space. In present conditions, Uganda's poor have nowhere to go to if the services they expect are not rendered to them. The world is already parceled up under the authority of different states that impose restrictions and credentials of passports merely to make a simple visit.

It is even known that the poor are permanently debarred from seeking any form of migration or economic asylum in the rich world. This is why the poor of Uganda ought to realize that the only country that they can be sure to lay claim to is this very one. The wealthier segments have the means and acceptance to live elsewhere in the rich world, whether just for the pleasure of a strike of golf, a breakfast meal or permanent residence abroad.

For this reason, the duty of the poor is not to bask in the usual politics of the elite. The demands of life impose on them to join the trench of politics that voices their own desire for real space for their life.

The author is a member of NEC (NRM) representing historicals.

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