Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Commonwealth chair is Museveni’s big test
Now that Chogm has passed, it’s imperative that the country takes stock of the historic week when citizens once again demonstrated that they can stick together to attain a common objective.

President Yoweri Museveni, now has the privilege and right to be the Chairman of the Commonwealth community for another two years after the country successfully hosted a major international event since Independence.

As the organisers chest-stamp and indulge themselves with glee, the Chogm 2007 will truly have extraordinary consequences for the country and its leadership on the world stage.

The bar has been raised; Uganda’s holding of the chair for the Commonwealth will have the country come under intense scrutiny for the next two years on matters of democracy , rule of law and respect for human rights.

President Museveni, appeared to suggest months before Chogm that his government will not slip back to the dark days when oppressive governments undermined people’s fundamental rights to live in a free society.

Mr Museveni said that this will not happen especially now that he is the chairman of the Commonwealth. Much as the president can be given a benefit of doubt on his promises to realise democratic governance; growing our democracy will take more than just the spoken word. The role of good governance in boosting economic growth and development cannot be underestimated.

This is the reason why , the successful hosting of Chogm should not mask a multitude of problems the country is facing which include among others the total lack of respect and accountability by our national leaders to the 11 million voters that gave them the mandate to lead this country to prosperity.

There is still widespread –call it rampant corruption, the deliberate undermining, by the executive, of parliament and the judiciary which should ideally check against the excesses of the state and the apparent lack of general respect and tolerance to critical views and opinions of Ugandans; let it be the media, (event after being accredited, some reporters and photographers from the independent media were denied access to some state functions during the queen’s visit which again shows lack of tolerance and fair competition in our business).

But even opposition leaders must be tolerant to the views and decisions of the majority. That’s how a vibrant democracy functions.
A situation where our national and local leaders care too much for their own well being and too little about the people they lead, the peasantry that live on less than a dollar a day (just about Shs900), should also be urgently reversed.

At the opening of the business forum at Sheraton Hotel, President Museveni was quite persuasive in his arguments for the 900 Africans to ‘burst onto the world stage by exporting value added commodities and touch off an “Africa Industrial revolution”.

He rightly bemoaned the widening inequalities between the developed and developing world. But this inequality is also very evident in Uganda where the gap between the rich and the poor has assumed alarming proportions. For now , the government has done very little to improve the peasants’ lot. Charity should begin at home.

The country would save a lot of money from thinning the rank of idle cadres who have openly complained about being redundant and bored. The cost of Mr Museveni’s unprecedented huge government is simply astronomical!

The president should do the logical thing- cut down on the number of ministers, RDCs, presidential advisers (you can have one per region) and use the money to strengthen and professionalise national institutions the way he has done with the army and police.

Now that the country is relatively peaceful, we need to cut down on defence spending as well, to help extend to the countryside the un-precedented pre-Chogm renovations and construction witnessed in Entebbe and Kampala. Remember the country should, as a must, maintain these facilities together with the beautification and general high level of cleanliness experienced during Chogm. For those who pocketed the Chogm funds now is the time to account.

The out going Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon, a very pleasant man and accomplished diplomat, said, “the Commonwealth should be true to our values; freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and opportunity for all, especially women and young people. He then posed a question-what is the most important thing in the world? People! People! People!” What a wonderful way to say his adieu!

The writer is a journalist and advocate

No comments: