By Robert Mugabe, ANT Party Member
The past couple of weeks, I was witness to two important happenings that demonstrate the functionality of the State and lack of thereof.
However, before I mention the two occurrences, I need to put this on record. Something strange, really strange, is happening in Acholi sub-region. People are dying in numbers that are reminiscent of war time Acholi. In my conservative estimation, more than 10 Acholi people are dying every week. From young children, the youth, old people to women and men, etc. Last week alone, I attended four burials.
Had I not declined, unfortunately, to attend others, I could have spent the whole week burying! We don’t know what is causing all these deaths. Certainly, if we had a functional State, such deaths could have perhaps been averted or at least, there would have been a convincing explanation about the causes. But, in a country such as ours, nobody, let alone State agencies, seems to be bothered. In fact, the government is going about its business normally. Nothing seems amiss or abnormal.
Nothing is more painful and tragic in the history of a country than having a cabal whose preoccupation is using the State for self-aggrandisement, primitive accumulation of wealth and domination, assume state power. History has been very unkind to the people of Uganda for allowing such a group of individuals to ascend to the leadership of the country. They care the least about the welfare of the people they purport to lead. In fact, serving the citizenry is secondary to their primary objective. It is done only to dupe the people into believing that the rulers mean well and are striving to improve their lot.
So citizens pay huge sums of money in taxes but receive no service in turn. Last week, I was asked by the Local Government authorities of Pece Division, Gulu Municipality, to pay about Shs200,000 to secure an operation licence and a local service tax for a mobile money business that began a month ago. I definitely obliged andI’m currently working on the same. These, of course, are in addition to the taxes I pay daily in OTT, airtime, fuel, electricity, food, soap, etc.
In the same week, thugs invaded my residence in Layibi Division, Gulu Municipality, and stole some little money, four mobile phone handsets and a TV set. I immediately reported the case to police. As expected, police asked for ‘facilitation’ before they could handle the case. I gave them money for airtime and phone tracking. I am sure they are not yet done with me. They are yet to ask for money for transport and lunch. So, if I want their service, and I really do, I will have to pay more money or I won’t be served at all! Disappointingly, after paying all these monies, the police may never recover my stolen property!
On the other hand, Mr Benson Oryema, a retired prisons’ warder who is also a cousin of mine, spent his entire adult life serving the Ugandan State. About one and a half months ago, Oryema was involved in what seemed like a minor accident, only to discover later that it had caused grave damage to his head. He sustained a serious internal head injury that had caused acute blood haemorrhage. He was rushed to Lacor Hospital. Lacor couldn’t handle his case. He was thus promptly referred to Mulago National Referral Hospital for a CT scan. Incidentally, both Lacor and Gulu hospitals do not have CT scans.
Lacor Hospital couldn’t readily avail an ambulance. We opted for the one of Gulu Regional Referral Hospital. We were asked to pay Shs400, 000 for fuel and Shs110,000 as off-pocket allowance for the driver of the ambulance. Seeing frustration in our faces, a retired medic approached us and asked what the problem was. We narrated to him the story and he intimated to us that we should be given these services free of charge!
We were, however, torn between arguing with the hospital authorities about whether or not we should pay for these services and saving Oryema’s life. We chose the latter because Oryema’s life is far more important to us than Shs510,000. These are the kinds of dilemmas Ugandan citizens face every day because the Ugandan State is completely absent in their lives.
Mr Mugabe is a member of the Alliance for National Transformation party.