14 June 2017

Uganda: Villagers Soldier On But Let Down By Inept Govt

opinion

On Sunday June 11, after a very long time, I visited Kitosi village where I spent the biggest part of my early life with my grandmother, the late Hajat Mariam Nakimera.

Kitosi is in Kalungu district, one of the villages making up MP Joseph Ssewungu's constituency. It is 40 minutes' drive from Lukaya town off the Kampala-Masaka highway.

There are two things I noticed when I branched off from the main road. The road from Lukaya through Lusango and Kiweesa trading centres is in a bad state. It has not seen any form of grading for a while.

One of my unties that I carried in my vehicle who lives in Kitebi, Kampala, wondered why a place once represented by two powerful people - Kintu Musoke (former prime minister) and the late Jehoash Mayanja Nkangi (a former finance minister) - is without even a kilometer of tarmac?

I told her that all Baganda ministers are given positions, and not authority. And Maj John Kazoora illustrated this point. I know you may have forgotten dear readers. While meeting Ankore parliamentary group many years ago, Mr Museveni asked them whether they thought that Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe was the vice president or that Gen Jeje Odongo was the army commander.

He told them he had appointed Kazibwe to please Catholics, Women and Basoga. And that since Iteso like paraphernalia and would be excited by soldiers jumping off a Jeep to open a door for Jeje, he appointed him army commander. I didn't tell her the story of Kazoora but it came back in my mind.

Just imagine having two powerful government ministers, one in finance and another a prime minister, and you don't have any of the main roads in your area paved!

Surprisingly, the small village road that branches off before Kyamulibwa to Kitosi has just been graded and a small layer of murrum poured on it. This is another complication of this administration. The road going to my home in Bukasa, the site of a proposed inland port, is not constructed. Reason? It is neither a Kira Municipality nor Wakiso district road. It is a Uganda National Roads Authority Road (Unra).

It is possible these days to find a main road not constructed by local authorities simply because it is listed as falling under Unra. The main road from Lukaya is in a poor state yet the one in the village is accessible.

The second thing I noticed are healthy maize gardens almost everywhere. And because of the prolonged rain season, the maize just looks nice, a few weeks away from harvest. There has not been a bumper maize season like this one for a long time. I think those distributing seeds will use it for accountability. These are also coffee-growing areas and many homes had spread their harvest in the compound to dry.

Although generally happy with this year's season, two things are troubling the villagers. First, a kilogram of dry coffee now goes at Shs 2,500 yet a kilogram of sugar is still at about Shs 6,000.

A kilogram of meat is at Shs 10,000 yet a kilo of beans is sold at less than Shs 1,000. The second thing troubling them are media reports that government may ban exportation of maize and beans. They hoped their harvest could be exported to neighbouring Tanzania and Kenya for a better pay.

All in all, the levels of production in this area are very pleasing. Trouble is that all this has happened because of the good rainy season. A slight change means food shortage as we have seen before. Providing irrigation equipment is what government should do, not distribution of seeds.

Finally - and pardon me this is the main theme of my column today - a word about new road equipment from Japan which we were told was negotiated by the revolutionary himself. The equipment is parked here in my constituency in Bweyogerere and is supplied on a Shs 500 billion loan facility. The revolutionary sort of launched it when he sat in one machine and got photographed.

Uganda is a good country. The population has already forgotten that the same person, just four years ago, obtained a consignment of the same equipment on a loan from China.

The China equipment cost us Shs 360 billion ($100 million). A report of the parliamentary committee on local government revealed that the equipment had broken down almost immediately after delivery. Butaleja used the equipment to grade only 14 kilometers, Moyo 22, Kaberamaido 26, Amuru 32.

The money that was used to buy the China equipment was simply wasted! That is the same way money has been stolen in the name of paving national roads. You remember the report by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire? For nearly every shilling invested, another shilling was stolen.

I think towards elections, the revolutionary will deliver another consignment of district road equipment from probably Qatar. Alternatively, he may put a hotline in State House to report broken equipment.

The author is Kira Municipality MP and Opposition Chief Whip in parliament.

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