Uganda is still the best country

If you were in Uganda last week, you would be forgiven for thinking that we are on the brink of some chaos.

On Thursday ‘Candidate Amama Mbabazi’ (JPAM) set off for Mbale on the first leg of his much-publicised tour of ‘consultations’ regarding his aspirations for the chairmanship of the ruling NRM and the presidency. He was finally stopped and apprehended, as he was about to enter Jinja town.

On that same day, Dr Kizza Besigye (KB) of the FDC party was arrested as he tried to leave his home. Police had directed him to stay at home because of a suspicion that he was heading to a rally in Kasangati that it had not permitted. KB claimed he was going to an appointment at the US embassy in Kampala and that he could be escorted if proof was necessary. Police bundled him off to Naggalama police station where he spent the day.

So, where is the confusion, one might ask? JPAM was denied access to Mbale consultations because he had not reconciled with his party, the NRM. Even though there has been a flurry of exchanges of letters between JPAM, the Electoral Commission, UPF and NRM, his aspirations are deemed illegal contrary to the attorney general’s official opinion on the matter.

On the other hand, KB has been officially pronounced by his party that he, KB, together with Gen Mugisha Muntu, is an official nominee for the FDC flag bearer for the country’s presidency and that he is permitted to begin national consultations.

There is more: despite Dr Olara Otunnu’s protestations that MP Hon Jimmy Akena is not UPC leader and should not hold UPC meetings, Akena has gone on to host such meetings and actually taken over the UPC leadership. There are scuffles going on in the DP as well between two factions; party leader Norbert Mao’s against a group of MPs from Buganda.

In short, it seems that the UPC and DP situation is not dissimilar to NRM’s. However, the UPF is happy to allow those two parties to bicker and sort themselves out internally. JPAM, on the other hand, needs permission! Of course the irony is that KB’s party is together but the UPF has intervened!

Last Thursday’s New Vision’s front-page photograph shows an NRM demonstration in Mbale with a local MP’s participation on Wednesday 8, the day before the arrests. Somewhere on page 4 of Daily Monitor of the same day, it is alleged that UPF senior officers were present and did nothing when another group of NRM was giving out money to people dissuading them from attending JPAM consultations.

Whilst we are all embroiled in the politics, something disastrous is happening with the economy. The Uganda shilling has depreciated to unheard-of levels and had Bank of Uganda (BOU) not intervened, we would have hit Shs 40,00 to one dollar. The BOU governor has sounded a warning that whereas there are ongoing interventions, these may not be sustainable!

You do not need to look too far for an example of a failing economy right now. All the international business news is focused on the Greek troubles. Banks have been closed for two weeks now and people can only withdraw 60 Euros per day if one is patient because queues are very long.

It is thought that the banks may eventually run out of money if the stalemate with the European Union and the IMF is not resolved soon. The Greek government has assured the country that petrol will not run out!

In Uganda if you were allowed 60 Euros (Shs 210,000) per day, you would live like a king! Of course only a very few can afford such monies. The point to note is that if banks were to close here, whom would it affect? It is the urban areas that are mostly commercialised and even then only about 50% are dependent on banks.

Note that of the 35 million Ugandans, about five million or less hold active bank accounts. My old folks in Kyaggwe, Katende and other areas do not have bank accounts or bank debts but perhaps a few shillings on their phones. They monitor their matooke, maize, beans, etc, gardens for next month’s meals.

Now you might think that Greece is so badly off, it might be one of the worst places to live. Surprisingly, Greece is the preferred entry point by many immigrants illegally seeking entry into the European Union.

Thousands from Libya, Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan plus the usual from sub-Saharan Africa have left their countries and will go anywhere including Greece where there is no money now or Iraq where violent unrest continues!

Despite all our contradictions, Uganda is best!

The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.

**This article was first published in The Observer newspaper:

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