By Stephen Lwetutte
This country is clearly run in reactive mode, the state of having to follow events rather than directing them. This is one of the manifestations of loss of control and direction, a disaster if you are running a private business, but a calamity if you are running the state. The most unfortunate aspect about it all is the fact that the underlying factors behind this state of affairs are easily addressed by a competent and accountable administration.
In this column of last week dated 17 January 2022, on this persisting fuel crisis, l wrote: “The current fuel crisis is a direct consequence of incompetent and insensitive decisions that are not only costing lives of Ugandans, but also causing colossal economic loss estimated in billions of shillings,,,[t]he congestion crowding, shortages and losses created to neighbouring countries is another problem they will have to grapple with,,,”. Well, the Right Honourable Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja was on Friday 21 January 2022, forced to go and see for herself the situation at Malaba, the most affected border-crossing point. Following meetings with border and revenue officials, she issued prompt directives that overrule standard procedures to ease the crisis.
Nabbanja lashed out at unnamed culprits, who she referred to as “traitors” and the crisis as “treason”, who shall be dealt with. I think her statements are more out of embarrassment and shame than genuine remorse. We will all recall the genesis of this crisis and the calls to address it, which , as usual, were ignored, until it was too little, too late to do anything. I would like to know where Right Honourable Nabbanja was and what she was doing about this situation. It could clearly have been nipped in the bud and the crisis, losses and reputation spared. She could have intervened then and proactively acted rather than having to react out of panic in the manner she is doing.
The Prime Minister is trying to do damage control and limitation by attempting to reassure all and sundry that “ [t]his country is steered by a [sober] president, Prime Minister and Cabinet and we are going to use our brains to make sure that all those traitors are exposed where possible. We shall deal with them because this is like treason”. If, after 36 years, one finds themselves in a situation of having to try to convince the public about the sobriety of the government, then something is really seriously amiss. Achievements always speak for themselves and are independently praised by others not, not those claiming them. The bottom line is there are none to show for the entire time they have been in power.
The very least one would have expected to see, instead of apportioning blame, is the acknowledgements of the government failures and an apology. In such circumstances, compensation would be in order and l hope that this is something that the government should be actively considering, as litigation cannot be ruled out. The Prime Minister appeared to concede responsibility when she said: “Uganda is under pressure from the neighbouring countries that import their goods through Uganda. They are wondering why their goods have been delayed but the government currently has no answers”. This might explain why she was forced physically to intervene, and not because she cared for Ugandans, whom they have learnt to take for granted.
Nabbanja is only a few months into the job to be able to make any meaningful changes in a system that is older than 36 years. The ultimate responsibility is with President Museveni with whom the buck ends. This whole situation makes a mockery of all the calls for operational efficiency and effectiveness locally and regionally, and his handling of it has given many in the region food for thought. In the meantime, it remains to be seen if President Museveni will not only apologise, but also redress the losses occasioned to all in a prompt, adequate and expeditious manner.
The writer is a Multilingual Human Rights Practitioner, formerly at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for over 20 years and now Legal and Human Rights Consultant.
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