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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Forget ‘Emyooga’ and those radios. Stock enough teargas

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Alan Tacca – As I penned last Sunday’s little essay, ‘When Securing the Future means Persecuting Political Rivals’, in which I noted that even Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa and Field Marshal Idi Amin had worshippers, Kaboggoza Kibudde was separately penning ‘Opposition is Eating Soup with a Fork’; a very brave defence of fascism. Brave, because almost anyone could rip through the article and expose the ideological shallowness that informs its toadyism.  So I will not waste time on the exercise.

Suffice it to say that we must constantly remind ourselves that if we willfully refuse to understand what intelligent people in many other countries understand by a (reasonably) free and fair (albeit imperfect) election environment, then we deliberately increase the risk of sinking in the hubris of ‘popular’ armed strugglers; or turning to military coups and  mass uprisings; or to terrorism. How many steps back would that be, if the 1986 NRA triumph was a positive step in the direction of civilized nations? 

However, if NRM barbarism is here to stay, as Kibudde assures us, then the government should stop playing the double game of charming and terrorising the citizens. The double game stretches tax-payers.

Take this multi-billion thing called ‘Emyooga’.  It sounds like the name of some exotic cucumber. But it is another of those cash handout schemes that the NRM government unveils at every election cycle. Although promising to enrich the citizens, these schemes actually hook our people onto the belief that wealth comes like lottery prizes; a few lucky winners leaving the majority empty-handed.
There was ‘Entandikwa’; then any number of poverty reduction and eradication programmes. There has even been ‘Bonna Bagaggawale’, prophesying great wealth for every citizen, after which the number of people below the poverty line was increasing! Then Covid-19 came to put icy mud on the cake.

Simple investment mistakes by the beneficiaries, excited groups of convenience; plus huge pits of corruption in the government offices involved; these things will ensure that, apart from earning the NRM some votes, there is no wealth to show for the Emyooga two years down the road.
If the government’s wealth creation stories had not been myths, buying and owning a radio would not be an issue. Virtually every Ugandan household would have one.
In consumer electronics shops, and almost everywhere on the streets, basic radios go for between Sh15,000 and Sh30,000. Prices above that may bring you diminishing returns. Of course, connoisseurs may pay many times over for specialist units.

Facing a skeptical Parliament, the government wants to spend about Sh350billion to import 9 million radios and give them out, free; ostensibly for locked-down school children to get some lessons at home, but also plausibly as ‘gifts’ or vote-catchers for their parents. 
The way Uganda works, should any radios ever get bought, it would be exceedingly strange if the government bought 9 million. And if 9 million got bought, it would be equally strange if they were not at the lower price end. A simple calculation tells you that even with crooks less experienced than Uganda’s bigwigs, a cool Sh100 billion could easily vanish in that single deal. Why wouldn’t some Ugandans celebrate Covid-19?

However, fierce police action against NUP and FDC presidential candidates this week has shown that our money should go elsewhere, especially since supplementary budgets have turned the annual National Budget into a joke. To reduce pressure on the tax-payers, forget the ‘Emyooga’ and the radios. Be smart. Spend the money to stock enough tear-gas, pepper spray, and ammunition for the months ahead.

The article first appear on the daily Monitor Website.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.
altaccaone@gmail.com 

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