9 January 2013

Uganda: Politicians Must Take Lead Role in Steering Development


SOME weeks ago, we were celebrating our belated Golden Jubilee as Isingiro District in Nyakitunda Sub County and we had General Kahinda Otafiire as the chief guest.

Speaker after speaker, they all praised the NRM, how it had liberated the country and some even made an effort to impress the General, him being one of the core members who liberated this country through the 1986 war.

When it was time for Kahinda Otafiire to give his speech, he also highlighted the achievements this country has gone through in the last 50 years and especially the last 26 years under the NRM but he quickly cautioned the local leaders that, if Uganda is to be better in the next 50 years, we must change our attitude as a nation and work harder.

He said, "how can one be independent when he/she is still suffering from jiggers in the 21st century, how can one claim to be independent when they have kids who they cannot afford to buy shoes, how can you claim to be independent when there are still people in the villages suffering from worms and other preventable diseases."

I personally felt Kahiinda was spot on especially as we plan for the next 50 years.

More often than not, when politicians are addressing the electorate, there is a tendency to tell the future voters they choose their words very carefully with an effort to make sure they do not "annoy or offend" the people hence be put In their black books for future reference when elections come.

If Uganda is to achieve the 1st world class position, it will take more than the oil money and government's commitment. We must make a deliberate effort to sensitise the public on the evils that are killing our nation, some that are at the personal and household level.

Every rally, church function, wedding or burial, I would be happy if every politician who stands up to talk addressed the following ten points;

The high number of idle young men, who, on a daily basis, simply engage in playing pool, drinking alcohol, gambling, sports betting and other related behaviour like drugs leading to the high crime rate within the communities we represent.

The increased rate of domestic violence in most peasant families, which is partly contributing to the high poverty levels. Women are the back bone of our agriculture and most of them have been thrown out of their homes. We must be seen to condemn it especially at public events.

The high rate of school drop outs especially in primary schools. It has been statistically noted that over 50% of the kids who join primary one in rural schools do not finish primary seven. As politicians, we must not only be heard but be seen actually doing something to avert the trend.

Poor saving/investment culture in our communities. It is reported that an average Ugandan saves less than 10% of their earnings. There is no way we will lift the masses out of poverty with such a trend, where even those that can earn spend more than they earn on luxuries like beers, cars and clothes.

Producing many children/Polygamous families. There are very many hard working families but they will continue living in poverty because they have many children/women to take care of. It is our moral obligation to de -campaign such cultures, especially in an economy where resources are becoming scarce every day.

There is need to rejuvenate the community service especially at the LC 1 level. Leadership structures at the LC 1 and LC 11 have collapsed in most villages especially in their core responsibility of mobilising the masses for community development. People no longer meet to clean water sources, clear community roads and solve domestic conflicts. This must be seen as a core role of politicians to participate and build ownership element in all government projects in the communities so that they can take care of the Government investments instead of looking at them as "Government, roads, government schools, government clinic instead of saying our clinic, our road, etc."

Encouraging the young people to engage in the agriculture sector. Many youth both out of school and those who never went to school have shunned agriculture regarding it a dirty and slow to yield activity and preferring to make quick money like running to towns and casual labour. Most of the food that is feeding the nation is being produced by our mothers and fathers who are 40 years and above, no wonder the country is facing a decline in food production leading to the high prices and this trend is not about to stop unless the youth take part in the agriculture sector.

Fighting corruption on the lower sectors of government. A lot of energy has been spent on fighting corruption at the central government and yet billions are lost every year in villages in form of UPE funds, USE funds, road fund, local revenue collections, monies that would serve the peasants directly. We must shift the war on corruption to include the districts, sub counties and villages.

Lastly, as politicians we must stop promising what we know we cannot deliver during campaigns. We are partly responsible for the high dependency levels by the people on government services because people innocently believe that the government must provide all services with zero input from them. No wonder the turnover of politicians is high during elections. Unless we stop giving hand outs to the people and making them believe that we must bless any project to exist in a certain location, we shall continue to see poverty trends constant. It is not the job of the MP or councilor to build a school or decide its location, because most of us not technical to do it. We must let the government employees do their job with less political interference.

Time wastage. We lose so much production simply because some farmers reach gardens late, teachers teach half day, some civil servants work three days a week/four hours per day and politicians arrive two hours late at functions. As the saying goes, "time is money"

It should be noted that Uganda as a county has made big strides in development especially in the last two decades.

As the government endeavors to bring services nearer to the people, it should be noted that these services will go to waste unless the common people in villages and towns are fully woken up to work hard and fight poverty at the household level.

Writer is the speaker, Isingiro District

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