Fresh Kid, the stage name for Patrick Ssenyonjo, Uganda’s first child rapper, is a child prodigy whose songs such as Banteeka and Bambi have hit the airwaves big time. Bambi was his appeal to Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, the minister of state for Youth and Children Affairs, not to stop him from singing after she pointed out that, according to the Children’s Act, he was too young to hold down a job.
Some of the reasons given to justify Fresh Kid’s budding music career are that he does not want to go back to the village and his newfound occupation is an escape from poverty for his impoverished family.
Fresh Kid is now looking after his parents and siblings. His parents are stuck in menial jobs. His mother is a food vendor, while his father is a manicurist; so, naturally they would raise no objections to their infant son working to supplement their meager income!
Should a child be the breadwinner of the home? Can you discipline such a child? Isn’t this undue pressure to be borne on the shoulders of one so young? Isn’t this talented youngster being exploited in child labour?
Minister Nakiwala’s fears for Fresh Kid’s wellbeing are not unfounded. There have been cases of child stars crashing and burning due to the pressures of stardom.
Granted, Fresh Kid will no longer be singing in bars, as per the minister’s directive. However, I urge Ugandans not to be caught up in the glitz and glamour of the secular music entertainment industry.
Is this really the right environment for a seven-year-old?
For years, pop icon Michael Jackson lamented the loss of his childhood, by being caught up in the studio for long hours recording and rehearsing when he would rather be outdoors playing with other children. He suffered emotional trauma and, as a result, spent the rest of his life trying to regain his lost childhood by hanging out with young boys.
Nakiwala is well aware of the street children and neglected children. I do not see why the public and media insinuated that the minister was doing nothing about street and neglected children.
Respect dissenting views
The debate on the removal of the age limit exposed Uganda as one which does not tolerate dissenting views.
Uganda is a democratic country - or supposed to be - and this means that certain rights are non-negotiable. Our constitution gives us the right to express our opinions on any subject and further enjoins citizens to participate in the affairs of government individually or in association with others especially on how they should be governed.
As we near the 2021 elections, the ghosts are back! It is wrong to assume that only one party has a right to speak over others and that anyone else with a contrary view is an enemy of the state.
In any democracy, critique is healthy as it tends to shed light on what would otherwise have been neglected. There have been several debates going on, such as the Lubowa specialized hospital development; the conduct of the preliminary business of the revival of the Uganda Airlines; extrajudicial killings, among others.
However, those with a dissenting view have been shunned and labeled saboteurs. You can’t suffocate one side of the public and protect the other and then call it a healthy discussion! This is something else, but not democracy!
Democracy demands that each side presents their views unabated. It is, therefore, unconstitutional to disrupt and block dissenting voices. Those who fear dissenting views are not ready for democracy and we cannot pretend about it! A free society is one we all envisage where rights are respected and protected by the state.
We need to respect every individual’s views because it is their right to air them out!
What has gone wrong with Ubos strategy?
On April 4, 2019 in Mukono town, I made a stopover to purchase some items at one of the shops when a lady putting on a Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) tag approached the shopkeeper and began splashing a series of interview questions.
She introduced herself as a UBOS staff sent to conduct a business census. The shopkeeper expressed shock because she told me later that she had not received any information regarding this exercise.
The official quickly explained that this information was not to be used for levying new taxes on the business. The shopkeeper simply refused to cooperate. The official shook her head and continued to the next business. It appears as if other traders also refused to cooperate.
As I watched this drama, I started wondering what had happened to government. As one who has formerly worked as a census official, the approach of this official left me wondering whether they were given adequate training.
First of all, I expected UBOS to first run adverts in media outlets preparing the public about the exercise. secondly, I also expected such teams to move with an area Local Council chairperson or committee member who keeps on introducing them to clients. This would make the exercise successful with accurate data.
Otherwise, the public, especially in urban areas, is sometimes hit by conmen and thieves who disguise in full gear of different companies.
John Vianney Ahumuza,
Expensive energy projects
Government should hold accountable government agencies and ministers who negotiate energy projects on behalf of Ugandans for the failed energy projects.
Recently, President Yoweri Museveni commissioned the 183MW Isimba hydropower station, bringing Uganda’s installed power capacity from 955MW to 1,138MW.
Also, Harrison Mutikanga, the chief executive officer of Uganda Electricity Generation Company (UEGCL), assured the country that Isimba will generate the cheapest electricity in East Africa. He further informed the public that Uganda hopes to generate 17,000MW by 2028.
Since 1986, Uganda has invested over $3.86 billion in the construction of big dams and renovation of old dams such as Karuma, Isimba, Bujagali, Nalubaale and Kiira, with the view of increasing accessibility, reliability and affordability to drive Uganda into industrialization and for socio-economic development.
However, power access remains low, standing at only 20.4 per cent. Uganda’s electricity remains unaffordable and one of the most expensive in the world.
On the other hand, Ethiopia’s 6,000MW Grand Renaissance dam, which is about 32 times bigger than Isimba, is costing only $4.8 billion.
This means that while each megawatt of power from Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance dam is at $800,000, that of Isimba is at about $3.1 million per megawatt.
Therefore, Uganda’s energy sector debts rotate within some of the above scenarios. Trillions of shillings are borrowed and invested in the energy sector with the promise that the economy will be transformed to industrialization.
Unfortunately, the money borrowed and invested by government has completely failed to address concerns in the energy sector.
Government should penalise those agencies and officials who negotiate for energy projects on behalf of Ugandans and the same time offer misleading advice on energy projects.