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Of State House connections and being ‘well-connected’

Uganda's State House

Uganda's State House

Several years ago, when I lived in England, a childhood friend of mine – currently a British Army soldier - visited me.

Because I forgot to provide him with a visitor’s parking card, which he was meant to display on his car, we found a parking violation penalty ticket attached to his windshield after his visit. When I advised him on how he could try to appeal and evade the penalty, he revealed to me that as a soldier, he was required to abide by all the laws of the land, including those he did not believe to be fair.

Yet, in the geographical space dubbed Uganda, it appears that to get away with anything, you only must state that you are a soldier or have some kind of connection to the State House.

While there are genuinely State House employees who use their positions to their advantage, a majority are simply masqueraders. It seems that as long as one can successfully feign some kind of connection to State House, they can easily fluke front seats during ceremonies, be exempted from payment of dowry, get free car rides, eat free food in restaurants, resist court orders and police arrests, among others.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t even matter what level of connection one has with State House. One can be a cleaner, receptionist, food vendor, stationery supplier, or even, just a friend of a friend of a friend who works in State House.

And the confidence with which the masqueraders speak about their connection to State House can delude you into thinking that they can secure you a next-day breakfast meeting with the president. From big issues such as land wrangles to minor ones such as applying for a passport and getting it in a timely manner, it appears that nothing can be secured without a special government connection.

From high-profile government officials to ordinary citizens, it appears that certain activities cannot be executed without making a reference to the president. The most prominent ones include those who call the president on the phone and put him on loudspeaker during public gatherings.

We have also witnessed several ordinary citizens who protest by walking from distant upcountry locations with the intention of making it to State House and speak to no one other than the president himself. Never mind the fact that all districts have RDCs who would supposedly resolve some issues without necessarily referring them to the president.

One is left wondering whether that is a sign of micro-managing or an illustration of how close the president is to his people. As a consequence, overreliance on the presidency undermines the rest of the institutions.

Yet, a closer look at some of the issues commonly referred to the president reveals that with a little more belief in the existing institutions, some matters could amicably be handled by a competent LC-1 chairperson. As a society, what happened to our abilities to locally resolve our conflicts through mediation, compromise, persuasion, compensation and punishment?

The level of appeal to the highest authorities is alarming. Soon, married men and women who are denied conjugal entitlements and athletes who get muscle strains while playing for Uganda will also call the president.

We will soon start calling the president to find out the next day’s weather forecast. Even school students who are dissatisfied with their exam results will start calling State House.

While State House is a national establishment, it appears that some people take their State House entitlements to a whole new level.

When a culture of  impunity thrives for too long, you end up with ministers who cannot respond to court and police summons unless that summon is endorsed by the president; major generals who shoot at civilian’s cars and deflate their tyres because their children have been inconvenienced; major generals who physically harass female traffic officers for doing their work and later publicly describe all legislators as stupid; ministers who boast of having the “majje” (army) on their side; and deputy attorney generals who prematurely walk out of special land committee inquiries and assure the committee that nothing will be done to them, even if the matter is referred to God!

As a comrade of mine recently re-tweeted, “we should never give up on ourselves as a society. There was a time when we thought that the boda boda culture and mannerisms [unprofessionalism and deliberate traffic violations] were irredeemable.

However, Safe Boda has shown us different. If we all try enough, we can still have a society where our aspirations to uphold the rule of law becomes a tradition, regardless of our connections to the powers that be.

We can still have a society where, regardless of our political positions, we can apologize when we humanly err and in some extreme cases, we resign when our actions/inactions terribly fall short of the standards of the offices we occupy. It is only then that we will never care so much about who becomes president as long as competent people occupy the right offices and are diligently paid for their work.

ssellwanga@gmail.com

The writer is a social worker in Alberta, Canada.

Comments

0 #1 Lakwena 2019-07-17 15:19
Thanks Deo Sselwanga.

But since independence, the political history of being connected to State House is like a curse. It is littered with so many tragedies and heartbreaks.

In other words, it is foolhardy and only absolute fools would like to identify and brag (State House Braggarts) for being connected to State House.

This is because there will always be a price to pay (demonized, ostracized, imprisonment without trial and sometimes instant death).

E.g. where are the people connected to State House when Obote, I; Amin; Obote II and Tito Lutwa were in power?
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0 #2 Paul Goldberg 2019-07-17 17:25
For sure, Uganda as a country has a long way to go. unfortunately the level of abuse by the so call connected or belonging to a particular tribe is beyond imagination.

There are people from a particular part of the country who will tell you point blank you are nobody in this government including the generals who think because they fought the so call liberation war the country owe them and they are above the law.

Think about your children or grand children when you are gone or disowned and there are many of those and now asking state house to help them go for treatment in India.
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0 #3 ejakait engoraton 2019-07-19 12:41
"But since independence, the political history of being connected to State House is like a curse. It is littered with so many tragedies and heartbreaks."

THIS has only become a big curse during this regime.

During AMINS era, very sad as it is to make this comparison, people did not go about bragging about how they were connected to state house or even IDI AMIN.

I know a man in Mbale , JUMA KURI who was known to be an uncle to AMIN , yet when he was suspected to have committed a crime was arrested by almost a nobody , a one man known as NOAH , and yet when KURI was released nothing happened to NOAH.

I went to school with the sons of Mr EKOCHU, who was the PPS to AMIN and yet there was absolutely no airs about them.

IT is this era of the TWARIIRES and TWATERA EMBUNDU that we have seen this type of behaviour.
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0 #4 Paul Muwonge 2019-07-23 11:03
All you are writing are lies and imaginations in your head to suit your agenda of discrediting govt.
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0 #5 kirya 2019-07-25 00:19
Well connected means already corrupted!
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