The Observer (Kampala)

24 August 2014

Uganda: Museveni - Army to Lead Poverty Fight

President Museveni has said he intends to send soldiers to every constituency to fight household poverty.

Launching a fundraising drive for the re-development of the Uganda Martyrs' Shrines at Namugongo on Friday, Museveni said this would complement the army's role in the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) programme.

"We have to address this issue of making sure that all households are not only food-secure but are also engaged in small-scale commercial farming," Museveni said, wondering why landowners should complain of poverty. "We have been talking about [deploying the army] for some time, but now we have to do it."

The president didn't explain what the army will actually do to make households more food-secure and climb out of poverty.

Tourism:

Museveni said Namugongo was not just a bastion of faith but an important source of tourism revenue. Shs 36 billion is needed for the re-development of the shrine, commemorating the killing, in the mid-1880s, of dozens of Christians by Kabaka Mwanga.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, the chairperson of the project's steering committee, said the re-development was a huge undertaking that could not be left to the church alone. Namugongo receives an estimated one million people on Martyrs day alone.

The archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, said the re-development was long overdue.

"Namugongo mirrors Uganda. Some pilgrims from other countries come to Namugongo and don't go to other areas; so, we have a challenge to make sure that they get a good image about Uganda," he said.

Politics at play:

The fundraising dinner didn't end without politics rearing its head. Lwanga first complained to the president that his meetings with Mbabazi and other leaders were wrongly reported in the press as being for political reasons. Tactfully, Lwanga started by quoting the Bible and explaining how God is against dishonesty, corruption, fraud and other evils. He reminded Museveni of his fundamental change promise.

"In January 1986, you promised this country a fundamental change. Am I right?" he asked.

With a smile on his face, Museveni quickly responded, "Yes, you are right". Lwanga then explained that fraud, widespread poverty, corruption, dishonesty, and murders, orchestrated mainly by senior government officials, were a departure from the fundament change promise.

Lwanga said religious leaders are not interested in political power. Museveni didn't respond directly to the archbishop's comments. He only said that the impressive figures released by banks and telecoms represent part of the fundamental change.

Donations:

Museveni kick-started the donations with a Shs 400m contribution; handing over the dummy cheque and saying: "Blessed are those who give. They will also be rewarded." After the president's contribution, telecom companies made a joint contribution of Shs 200m, while MTN separately donated Shs 50m.

The 26 commercial banks, under their umbrella body, Uganda Bankers Association, also jointly contributed Shs 130 million, while Prime Minister Mbabazi contributed Shs 10 million. Mbabazi said donations would also be received by electronic money transfer. He appealed to every Ugandan with a bank or mobile money account to contribute at least Shs 1,000 per month for 12 months.

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