God knows, and attentive readers of this column will bear Him out that I have been, from the very lock, stock and barrel start, utterly against the profligate creation of districts in this country. It is as if we didn’t have enough problems already and therefore worked out new ways to create fresh ones for reasons I have never been able to understand! At last from on high came news at the week’s beginning that H.E the President had called: Enough! My heart sang like a violin, or, if you prefer, like a nightingale’s.
At Independence there had been four Provinces: East, West, North and Buganda, sub-divided into Districts. But at some stage the Leaders of the time thought that Buganda and its Baganda thought themselves as special and apart (which they did) and they changed the Province’s name to Central, perhaps missing the implication that it would make Buganda and the Baganda as being central to everything Ugandan! Over the years Uganda’s districts grew to a high but still manageable 46. Nothing could have prepared its citizens to the sudden and frenzied outburst by the Movement Government, to a figure of nearly three times that number, with more on the way!
It is from this latest nightmarish scenario, as far as big numbers of Ugandans are concerned (your columnist therein) that President Museveni’s message hit us like a fragrance of flowers! “Museveni Stops Creation of Districts” announced Government’s Vision, while Monitor talked of “Museveni U-turn”, adding: “President tells MPS that Government lacks money to run units.” Excuse my preening, but I knew this well before and had repeatedly said so, pointing out that each district, some huge, some smaller than a sub-county, would need the same extensive and ruinous assembly of officials. If you’ve forgotten, look at my website: www.onemansweek.com.
Multiply this by all the new creations, around a gross in number to date, with more threatened and it follows as night follows day that you are up “manure” creek without a paddle: dangerous to your health! Right from the off, Government never had the funds. It gets worse. Even what little was put in was, without serious financial supervision, seriously looted.
If you see the Office of the Prime Minister scandal (what a polite word) and multiply it by the number of the districts, it becomes abundantly clear what problems arise in any attempt to police them. The funds looted are much less, but finding the thousands of bolt-holes the rats use becomes, and this is not rocket science, akin to finding the proverbial needle in the haystack!
Neither was this all. In many cases methods undertaken by the desperate district seekers, including the chewing and swallowing of live rats (not the human variety above) should have warned prudent analysts to (yes!) smell a rat and wonder why the rodent eaters were being quite so keen! Yet we threw all caution to the wind. Now we are crying. As the song goes, “Cry me a River!”
Besides, what were we, who preached so wonderfully against divisionism by tribe (and meant it) fall so easily into the trap of creating these new units based on people saying, early and late: “I much prefer to be with people I am most familiar with!”: another description of tribalism. We had rightly gone against traits of this at the Mengo Lukiiko, what laxity made us fail to recognise it in the new creations? Alas, even Homer nods!
But it isn’t too late to fully wake up. Let these districts be dismantled into more profitable, and necessarily larger, units. They could be called Regions. It will take courage, but we have never been short of that. Please, Mr. President!
Perhaps it is too early to give a definitive word on the just concluded Kenyan Elections, the more so since the Presidential loser, Raila Odinga, is predictably appealing to the Courts. But it is only fair to note that last time’s carnage has not (yet) appeared. And also to praise the condition that a successful Presidential candidate must win, other than a simple majority, at least 25% in at least half of the electoral constituencies. Uganda might well copy!
I can only call it Heavenly Delight which suffused me at the conclusion of the choice of the new 76-year-old Pope in Rome. Everything about it was right: the speed by which it was made, the theatre of the occasion, including the delay in the announcement until our nerves were taut. But way above these, the choice of the man himself. Pope Francis (the name he chose redolent of Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226, a saint of the people, which no Pontiff had ever chosen before) told you much about this bus-riding Cardinal, but with a robust and radical social conscience, from Argentina.
But more than this it was his bearing, at once humble but regal, his face; where at any time a smile might break out like the sun rising from the Eastern sky, and which expressed an affability not usually associated with the Rich of the Earth, that sealed this magnificent occasion.
I had never expected Pope John XXIII to be exceeded in these wonderful qualities, but Francis, while obviously not competing, might manage it, God Bless him.