Gen. Salim Saleh, one of the beneficiaries of the many dubious regime “wealth creation” schemes. Photo Facebook.
In July 2020, the corrupt and decadent National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime in Uganda launched a dubious scheme called the “Emyooga program” under which a whopping 260 billion shillings—$74 million—has already been squandered allegedly to enable poor people who work in the informal sector boost their household incomes.
One wonders why a national program should be called “emyooga” in the first place, a word from one of Uganda’s many local languages, which is not the official language of the Republic of Uganda. That alone speaks volumes. I am advised that one trillion shillings—$284.3 million—has been earmarked for emyooga during the 2021/2022 financial year. It is incredible, mind-boggling, unacceptable and a waste of scarce public resources.
Emyooga program resembles several previous poverty “alleviation” programs initiated by the incompetent NRM regime which have one common thread. They include, Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), Entandikwa, Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA)—whose principal beneficiary was former Vice President Dr. Speciosa Kazibwe—Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) whose principal beneficiary is Gen. Salim Saleh—the brother of Gen. Yoweri Museveni—and the Youth Livelihood Program.
The common thread which binds the above programs is the fact that all of them are spectacular failures because they were ill-advised, ill-conceived, not well designed, mismanaged and badly implemented by mediocre personnel who were recruited not because they possessed relevant qualifications and necessary experience, but because they have connections to the ruling clique or are NRM cadres. A story published in Daily Monitor of August 24 titled “Glaring flaws cast doubt on success of Emyooga” captures accurately the essence and paints a gloomy and pathetic picture of this bogus, dubious and indefensible program whose main objective appears to be political.
According to the Daily Monitor story, “In Mbarara City, the commercial officer, Mr Donati Mutahi, said since the disbursement of the funds started during the 2021 election campaigns, many beneficiaries misinterpreted it as a reward from President Museveni.” Mr. Museveni was the NRM presidential candidate at the January 14, 2021 elections. The bitter and unpleasant truth is that the beneficiaries of emyooga program in Mbarara City interpreted him correctly. Mr. Davis Kamukama, a Member of Parliament for Bunyangabu County concurs and said that, “some youth think that the money (paid to them under emyooga program) was meant to facilitate them during the elections, many of the youth have not utilized these monies and have no plan to pay back.”
Why should poor youth pay back emyooga money after casting their votes for the NRM presidential candidate whom the Electoral Commission declared winner despite serious and legitimate objections from many quarters?
Cult of mediocrity
In his 1983 book titled, “The trouble with Nigeria” Chinua Achebe (RIP) devoted a chapter to discuss what he calls, “Social injustice and the cult of mediocrity” in Nigeria. One can argue that the issues Achebe raised are pertinent for Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and most African countries. He begins the chapter as follows: “The major objection to the practice of tribalism is that it exposes the citizens to unfair treatment and social injustice. Less advertised, but no less damaging to social morality is the advantage which tribalism may confer on mediocrity.”
He continues: “But whereas tribalism might win enough votes to install a reactionary jingoist in a tribal ghetto, the cult of mediocrity will bring the wheels of modernization grinding to a halt throughout the land.” The evidence is everywhere in Nigeria, South Sudan and here in Uganda today where programs, such as, emyooga and entandikwa have failed precisely because of the cult of mediocrity.
The solution and way forward is to bring meritocracy back to public discourse and practice. Until all appointments to the public service of Uganda are made strictly on the basis of merit, wananchi—the citizens—and the country will continue to suffer the dire consequences and Uganda will never achieve the much-coveted middle income status.
August 28, 2021