The entitlement culture in Uganda has meant that the term civil “servant” is nothing but a fallacy.
By Elly Mugamba
In August 2018, I acquired a driving permit, and was excited about the prospect of freedom of mobility. Eight months on, and the early excitement has turned into dread.
Is there anything more stressful than driving in Kampala?
Having to constantly look left and right because of the inevitability of taxis and boda bodas improperly entering the road; not knowing what side of the road boda bodas and taxis are going to attempt to overtake on; bumper to bumper traffic every time it rains; Police vehicles perpetually driving in the middle of the road, sirens blaring, government vehicles deciding that their time is more worthy than anyone else’s; drivers speeding up at intersections instead of slowing down.
What do all of these examples have in common? Entitlement.
Taxis and bodas feel as though they are entitled to the road, so they stop where they like and overtake where they like.
At the best of times, this leads to chaos and confusion for other road users. And at the worst of times it leads to entirely avoidable accidents and even death. Police cars and government vehicles drive in the middle of the road with their sirens blaring because they feel entitled to drive as they please due to their lofty positions. Instead of upholding the law, they are consistently breaking it.
And of course civilians are going to follow suit -- and if nobody is following the highway code, everyone on the road suffers.
Entitlement is defined as “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment”.
Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, entitlement has gripped the nation. Until this entitlement culture is eradicated, the nation will continue to wallow in squalor, despite being abundantly blessed with natural resources.
This got me thinking: Where else is entitlement present in the country and how is it affecting us?
Culture is defined as “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society”.
Unfortunately for Uganda, as a people, we are not just entitled on the road. We are entitled in almost every sphere of our existence -- from the top of the social pyramid all the way down to the bottom. Political leaders feel entitled to their positions. Their sense of entitlement explains why despite the country experiencing no real economic growth, political leaders are all too willing to ask for payrises.
Furthermore, this sense of entitlement expounds why politicians dawdle until election time, when they suddenly awake from their hibernation with a burst of energy that swiftly disperses once campaign season is in their rear view mirror.
The entitlement culture in Uganda has meant that the term civil “servant” is nothing but a fallacy, as the only people political leaders serve are themselves.
One could argue that this sense of entitlement has also clouded political leaders’ judgment when it comes to viewing long-term versus short-term policies. Because leaders feel entitled to their positions, their main goal is often just to get re-elected, and not to promote any significant growth/change. This leads to the implementation of very myopic policies that are ultimately not in the country/economy’s best interest. In addition to this, because leaders feel that they “inherently deserve” the positions that they are in, they struggle with the idea of succession.
This entitlement culture does not stop with political leaders.
In the business sphere, entitlement rears its ugly head all too regularly. How often do businesses/clients expect a job to be done without paying for it? Too often! Because people feel that they “inherently deserve privileges or special treatment”, businesses are frequently not paid on time for products/services.
This has a trickledown effect, because if businesses are not paid on time, employees cannot be paid on time, which means that other businesses (where money employees make can be spent) also do not get paid on time, creating a cycle that ultimately costs everyone.
The buck does not stop with business leaders. Because employees feel entitled to their jobs, they seldom work to their full potential. This simultaneously frustrates employers and clients (because employee’s inefficiency often costs clients time whilst also affecting the business’ bottom line).
A system is defined as “a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network”.
Because human beings are a social creature, for us to operate at our most effective, we require systems (be it political, business, law, etc.). For systems to work effectively, most (if not all) parts must adhere to a set(s) of rules. Because of how rife the sense of entitlement is in Uganda, most people just adhere to their own disposition.
Due to the nature of systems, if most of its components go rogue, the system is ineffective. For example, if you are driving in Kampala and adhere to the rules of the highway code, it will take you a longer time to get to your destination than someone that does not follow the code. This can frustrate drivers and cause them to shun the code, creating further disorder and pushing more and more drivers towards snubbing the code.
If we do not dispel with this entitlement culture and restore our systems, social and economic progress will continue to stall.
How do we go about solving this?
Ultimately, it should start with leadership. If government officials and law enforcement officers stop taking their positions for granted and lead by example, civilians are likely to follow suit. Rule breakers should also be held accountable and punished for their actions.
Once we have our systems back in place there is no reason why Uganda cannot capitalize on the abundance of natural resources we have been blessed with. As a proud citizen of this beautiful nation, it is my hope that in 50 years, I can look back and tell my grandchildren that 2019 was the turning point.
The writer is a Ugandan citizen