On Friday last week Ugandans also celebrated Martyrâ€™s Day in remembrance of the Ugandan Christian converts murdered by Kabaka Mwanga for defying then collapsing Buganda feudal authority.
Veteran pan-Africanist Chango Macho Woâ€™Banda has written extensively disputing the â€˜martyrdomâ€™ of these Christians and called them â€˜traitorsâ€™. Machoâ€™s views are widely held and respected but in quietness for fear of isolation and retribution.
On June 9, 1981, Edidian Lutamaguzi was murdered in Kikanddwa by UNLA soldiers assisted by UPC functionaries because of his links with the NRA.
It is 19 years since President Yoweri Museveni matched to the parliamentary terrace to announce â€œNo one should think that what is happening today is a mere change of guard; it is a fundamental change in the politics of our country.â€
â€œIn Africa, we have seen many changes, that, change, as such, is nothing short of mere turmoil. We have had one group getting rid of another, only for it to turn out to be worse than the group it displaced. Please do not count us in that group: the NRM is clear-headed with clear objectives and a good membership,â€ Museveni said.
However, he hastened to add â€œof course, we may have some bad elements among us because we are part of the Ugandan society and we may, therefore, not be able to completely guard against infiltration by wrong elements. It is our deliberate policy to ensure that we uplift the quality of politics in our country.â€
Fortunately Museveniâ€™s address and the budget presented on Wednesday by Dr Ezra Suruma, and which form the political platform were balanced.
The policy shifts announced indicate government has listened and learnt from past failures and is proposing new ways to transform Uganda. For instance, a year ago debate raged over graduated tax, which its critics claimed was primitive, costly, brutally collected, stolen and burdens poor people.
Some of us argued then that the claims may be valid but that the opponents of graduated tax abolition were deliberately not telling the whole truth to the people that scrapping it was not the sole answer because another form of tax or revenue source must be sought to fund personal welfare and service delivery to the population.
In addition, we argued that the long-term answer to the alleged tax burned on the poor lay in helping them engage, increase and improve their productivity and profitability so as to have a taxable income. What Museveni calls â€˜value additionâ€™ and access lucrative and rich markets.
There was a particularly bruising media debate with Dr Okullo Epak (MP Oyam North) who argued that â€˜hisâ€™ people were too poor to pay sh3,000 asked for by local authorities.
Our rebuttal was he could sensitise â€˜his peopleâ€™ to rear local chickens whose farm-gate price in rural Apac is sh4,000 each and one can rear 30 a year, which he didnâ€™t accept. Then a few days later we met in the parliamentary canteen, during which another passionate debate ensued.
I told him that the Government could consider waiving graduated tax as it sought alternative revenue sources, but in any case people must have an income from which to buy basics like food, shelter, clothing and medicine, hence, we should focus more on productivity than just abolishing graduated tax!
This argument is also valid for all the talk about â€˜hugeâ€™ public expenditure and donor conditionalities being wrung around our necks.
Dr Lumonya, a Makerere University lecturer and frequent gangster on Capital FM, has persistently but falsely argued that Government politicians earn â€˜oversizeâ€™ salaries for â€˜unproductiveâ€™ work.
Yes, politicians may be earning above the average public salaried earner, but they are not enjoying a better. But where is the productivity of humanity lecturers whose graduates cannot find work?
The push came to shove and the graduated tax is abolished, local governments are to be â€˜compensatedâ€™ over sh30b in lost revenue, which somebody must pay for.
Many times, Museveni has said that people, who went to hunt asked for the buffalo (scrapping graduated tax), which has come, the hunters should not climb tall trees in fear of or avoiding throwing their spears at the buffalo.
Suruma has also increased tax on a number of items, which people cannot easily avoid and they should be sensitised on seizing opportunities to earn an income, however, modest and spend it productively.
It is good that Government has lowered the ratio of donor funding to 44% and which should be reduced further as Uganda enhances capacity to earn. Reduction on donor funding in non-productive areas like capacity building, which never comes to anything, except as personal allowances, should be tightened. It will turn opposition groups relying on donor pressures into lame ducks.
This area is where donors in connivance with local â€˜yellow dogsâ€™ in government bureaucracy, as President Fidel Castro calls them, have been able to distort public pay structure and create insatiable appetite.
While Museveni calls for parliamentâ€™s speedy evaluation of Government investment requests it is necessary for the executive to be timely and thorough in its presentations.
Enactment of legislation and regulations on governmentâ€™s financial intervention, support or bailouts for investors is crucial to remove accusations of arbitrariness even when they are false.
Movement ideals are alive and well