In The Observer of September 4, 2019, I argued that discrediting Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, commonly known as Bobi Wine, by referring to his ghetto upbringing, served the unintended purpose of winning him more popularity.
Although, I cannot claim any credit for the change in approach, it appears that lately, those who are opposed to Bobi Wine have not only refrained from calling him a ganja man from the ghetto, and instead devised means to strip him of all the ranks, affiliations and connections to the ghetto.
The peak of the “disarmament exercise” has been the recent consideration of the musically faded, Mark Bugembe, aka Buchaman, as the special presidential envoy on ghetto affairs. At this rate, it will not be surprising to hear testimonies that Bobi Wine has never lived in the ghetto, doesn’t know anything about ghetto life and has never been a ganja man.
While the pointless battle over whose image truly represents the ghetto continues to loom, a little bit of light needs to be shone on the default implications of considering a ghetto envoy/ ambassador/ special consultant/ presidential advisor by a sitting president who has ruled for more than 34 years and intends to continue ruling until death do us part.
First, besides the conception of ghettos as the physical spaces of the city in which the socially and economically-alienated members typically live, another way to look at a ghetto is in the form of the consciousness of the socio-economic conditions of living a ghetto life.
Given the absurd conditions and the stereotypes associated with the ghetto life, whoever identifies as a ghetto person is not necessarily boasting since there is nothing to smile about in the ghetto. They are instead taking a swipe at the actions, inactions and the incompetence of the leadership that has led to the expansion and the popularization of the ghetto to the extent that a ghetto is almost seen as another republic within a republic that requires a separate hierarchy of leadership in addition to the already existing bulky leadership structures.
Secondly, designating a special envoy for the ghetto is not only a resignation statement on the president’s part as the chief executive officer of the Uganda project but also a vote of no confidence in the litany of the various needless and expensive Kampala city leadership structures.
Therefore, before appointing a ghetto envoy, the president needed to begin by apologising for the failures of the leaders - especially those that are directly appointed by him - to combat the infrastructural and social service delivery inefficiencies that have led to the emergence and expansion of the ghetto.
Thirdly, the socio-economic condition, dubbed as the ghetto, is not any different from any other indicators of poverty such as high levels of maternal deaths, high levels of infant mortality rates, no or low levels of income, high illiteracy levels, high unemployment, malnutrition and poor health services, just to mention a few.
Additionally, the social consciousness dubbed as the ghetto relates to a series of other social deviances such as crime, prostitution drug abuse, among others. If we are to designate separate envoys and presidential advisors for all the social indicators of poverty and social deviances, we will not only duplicate services, but we will never have enough money to pay all the so-called special presidential advisors.
Instead of designating special envoys for all kinds of poverty indicators and social deviances, we should express deliberate determination to improve social service delivery at all levels. Otherwise, we might as well appoint a special envoy for malnutrition, special presidential advisor on matters of prostitution and a special presidential representative for all unhealthy people.
Also, any serious endeavours to mitigate the slum-like conditions shall have to widen the scope of the ghetto to imply not only the wretched slums of Kampala, but all slums in the various districts. It is only then that we can have the moral authority to question what people mean when they identify as ghetto people or ghetto representatives.
Lastly, as the build-up to the 2021 presidential elections gains momentum, it is understandable when all prospective presidential candidates try to show concern by identifying with various social groups such as those from the ghetto. What is not acceptable is when such political expedience is executed using the ordinary taxpayers’ money.
The writer is a social worker in Alberta, Canada