Uganda today is faced with key problems today, issues like hunger, poverty, disease and corruption which all emanate from poor leadership. The way of life in the Government, private sector and civil society is greed and the need for ‘nfunira waa’ ( where is my benefit). Those in Government offices want a cut-off before they can process anything for anyone. Those in the private sector know that to get a deal in the Government someone has to be given a kick-back. Bosses will agree for a junior to represent them at a meeting if the junior has some kick-back (Njawulo) they are bringing back.
Does it surprise you that in certain organizations it is only certain individuals that are sent for particular assignments? Local consultants must agree to give a kick-back to someone if they are to receive a consultancy and they assess organizations based on the kick-back. Everything is wrong with Uganda, but we are our own problem. We (Ugandans) have certified corruption and nobody sees anything wrong with it. I read this story on watsapp recently and I find that it illustrates Uganda today, in terms of the leaders and citizens.
The story goes; During the society dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, he was a brutal dictator with a mind of his own. On one fateful day, Stalin came to a meeting with a live chicken. He stood in front of the audience and started to pluck the feathers of the live chicken off one by one. The chicken trembled in pain, blood tricking out of its pores. The chicken gave out grievous cries, but Stalin continued plucking its feathers with no remorse, until the chicken was completely naked. The chicken was staggering in pain when Stalin reached out of his pockets and picked some feeds and started throwing it at the chicken as he walked away into his seat. The chicken followed him and sat below his seat and continued to feed.
Stalin looked at his leadership team and told them this is how the people are. Dis-empower them, brutalize them, beat them up, starve them and leave them. They will always follow you. You simply need to go into your pockets and feed them on peanuts and you will keep them glued on you. The people will think you are a Hero forever. Corruption compounded with exploitation of Ugandans by their leaders can be solved, if we (citizens) stopped whining about Uganda’s problems and focused on finding tangible solutions. The solution to Uganda’s problem is building a civic culture, where Ugandans like the Constitution says take back the power into their hands . Cultivating a Civic Culture largely relies on communication and persuasion. It is a culture of consensus and diversity. A culture that that can lead to change, but has within it means to moderate everyone’s actions. Society has three structures that define it, the political structures to which the Government belongs; the citizenry and emerging issues. In a civic culture individual attitudes are connected through the political structures. People must be empowered through civic education to know their rights and responsibilities as citizens of this country.
Ugandans must be charged to look at the bigger picture rather than the individual picture. Every Ugandan should be sensitized to know that each time they participate in a corruption deal, they affect their own country and ultimately are accountable for everything that is going wrong within their society. For Ugandan leaders to improve and serve their citizens better, the citizens must be informed and guided to actively be involved in their own governance. Effective self-governance would, therefore, mean that citizens do not passively take part in political and policy process, but are rather proactively involved in the governance of their society.
Did you know for instance that under article 41 of the Constitution every Ugandan has a right to access information from any Government institution or Organization and no one can stop you. We can start with information on the new oil industry that is going to be fully established by 2020 and we find out how we can meaningfully contribute to this sector, but also how we can benefit from the sector.
We also need information on the lifting of Age Limits and what we can do as Ugandans. Every Citizen can claim for information from any Government body: It is their constitutional right.-
Demand for your Right to Information (article 41 of the Constitution and section 5 of the Access To Information Act)
Ugandans should take deliberate efforts to know the Right to Information Act ( RTI)
Ugandans must familiarise themselves with the law on Access to information (ATIA)
Have a firm grasp of the scope of accessible information Citizens can only hold their Government accountable when they have information concerning a particular issue they want the Government to resolve.
And the first step is to access all the necessary information concerning the issue from Government bodies, then use the information to hold the government accountable. First things first, in-order to promote a vibrant civic culture in Uganda we must get informed about what is going on in our society on a daily basis.
Information can be accessed in the newspapers, but we are also entitled to get it from Government bodies within 21 days after we lodge a request. The elite should then interpret this information for the people in our communities who cannot read or comprehend the issues as we do.
Together we can bring about the much needed change in our Ugandan society, the berk starts and stops with you.
The writer is the Communication and Advocacy Manager, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative