8 September 2017

Uganda: President's Nationwide Talk Show Tour Exposes an Inefficient System

Photo: The Monitor
President Yoweri Museveni appearing on a radio talk-show
opinion

President Museveni has embarked on a nationwide radio talk show activism to address the vehemently rejected Constitutional Amendment Bill that will make it compulsory for government to acquire land forcefully. This amendment comes with its own burden, so I will limit myself to the President's recent activism for the Bill.

On September 4, Mr Museveni kicked off with his campaign, starting in Kabale. He was on Voice of Kigezi at 7pm, joined by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and Attorney General William Byaruhanga.

This follows land-related clashes from all parts of the country - the most reported of which was in Amuru - where elderly women stripped in protest before government officials.

To attempt to address the issue, a land commission led by Court of Appeal judge Catherine Bamugemereire was appointed in December last year to look into land issues. But even before the committee produces a report, a Constitutional Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament, sent to the committee and the committee sent it back to the Cabinet.

The Bill seeks to amend Article 26 of the Constitution to provide for compulsory acquisition of land for government projects. Article 26 provides for the right of persons to own property and decrees how the government can acquire it: With fair and adequate compensation that may be challenged in a court of law. But the government argues that this provision has slowed down implementation of key projects because infrastructural development is halted by court proceedings resulting from compensation disputes.

The circus doesn't end as the President is on a countrywide effort to highlight the advantages of the Bill. He said that he wants to "remove toxins from the masses" as "some people have been misusing radios to tell lies".

And so the country's President spent Monday on Voice of Kigezi, Tuesday on Radio West and Wednesday on Voice of Tooro. He will also be in Hoima (Spice FM), Mubende (Point FM) and Masaka (Radio Buddu). It is a busy week for the President.

Yet this is a country which has one of Africa's largest Cabinet. The President is supported by 108 presidential advisers, and has a full blown-out communications team. Ideally, one of these people, who are on the payroll funded by the taxpayers, should be the ones moving from one media house to another.

Then the President, his Prime Minister and Attorney General would be busy, you know, running a country.

This is a symptom of a system that has centred around the President. We have read often in the media of different groups lining up at State House to meet the President. Groups have ranged from the poor youth, religious leaders, Opposition MPs and community elders - all waiting for a chance to share their issues with the nation's leader.

Shouldn't Local Council I be the first point of contact? Some might argue that this is a sign of a plugged-in President who has an open-door policy for his citizens. However, if local governments are fully functioning and even have land boards, then why should elders be travelling from as far as Amuru to State House to meet the President to resolve their problem?

He is the only chief problem solver while the rest of the system is crippling. Or perhaps the rest of the people who should be accountable and sitting at functioning desks, are simply taking home a salary for doing no work.

The government could have enrolled a nationwide campaign to promote the Bill, spearheaded by Lands minister Betty Amongi. But now you can call into a radio station from your home in Kigezi and talk to the President, Prime Minister and Attorney General - all at the same time! Should we just save taxpayers' money and fire all the ministers so that the top office does all the work?

I am sure this would be a settlement many taxpayers would appreciate.

Ms Kemigisa is the head of Content at Centre for Policy Analysis

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