DAVIDMAFABI: “That is Uganda” Why are Ugandans obsessed with this phrase

David Mafabi, a veteran journalist (PHOTO/Courtesy)

David Mafabi, a veteran journalist (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Following the onset of Uganda’s economic crisis, much of the news, especially in other economies, is dire.

Widespread unemployment is rising, corruption is rising, murders are rising, arrests without trial are common, company profits are falling, greed is so high, financial markets are tumbling, taxation is becoming extremely high and the housing sector is collapsing. Is there a single word to describe these developments in our country? Yes: “That is Uganda.”

And just last week, the speaker of Uganda Parliament; Ms. Anita Among was on the spotlight over corruption, after reading the story, my wife just remarked; “That is Uganda”

And President Yoweri Museveni who commissioned Bukedea Teaching Hospital just said Ms. Anita Among is a good planner.

Although the president congratulated the speaker on the construction of the health facility and nurses training complex describing it as “very imaginative initiative”, many Ugandans still remarked; “that is Uganda, our country”

Later last week, the speaker was back in the news for telling Lwemiyaga County legislator Mr Theodore Sekikubo that, “Speak whatever nonsense you have” and Ugandans still said; “that is Uganda today”

Ugandans face tough times due to high taxes, murders take place in broad daylight even when more than half of Ugandans say they are dissatisfied with country’s direction and the national economy, there are still those who say; “That is Uganda”.

We have seen expensive cars, lavish garden parties and expensive lifestyles for the ruling class in Uganda’s cash-strapped economy, government has been on a spending spree even as austerity measures take their toll on weary citizens but Ugandans say “that is Uganda”

Most commentators and analysts use, “that is Uganda” as a practical definition of hopelessness in the reign of president Museveni Tibuhaburwa which has seen a decline in a country’s real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP)—the value of all goods and services a country produces.

Although this definition is a useful rule of thumb, it has drawbacks. A focus on GDP alone is narrow, and it is often better to consider a wider set of measures of economic activity to determine whether a country is indeed suffering a recession but “that is Uganda”

For the past five election cycles, the country has been marred by incidents of vote rigging, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, physical assaults, and imprisonment of opposition politicians and their supporters.

The scars of these brutal encounters are etched on the bodies and souls of prominent figures such as Dr Kizza Besigye, a four-time presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, widely known as Bobi Wine, Kampala City Mayor Erias Lukwago, and numerous other politicians, Ugandans simply remark, “that is Uganda”.

Many Ugandans will still say “That is Uganda, our country” What does this mean? Do our leaders take time to think about this” Are our leaders so insensitive that they don’t think about the meaning of this? Could our professors help the government think the right way?

Unlike earlier years the narrative during evil happenings in our dear country has been the same, “that is Uganda”

There is no official definition of “that is Uganda”, but there is general recognition that the term refers to a time of hopelessness, the complete loss or absence of hope. “a voice full of self-hatred and despair” where nothing can be done to redeem this country apart from just looking on.

Besides economic concerns, government corruption has been broadly viewed as a major problem in the country but while Ugandans name corruption as one of the top priorities to address, they see little hope for substantial improvement, but then “that is Uganda”

Because the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, there is no middle class anymore. Young people can’t even afford to move out of their parents’ house anymore. Rent and housing costs are out of control, wages haven’t kept up, and everything is expensive… I could go on and on. The frustration is real, that is Uganda.

I’m guilty of saying I hate my country, because at times I genuinely have. But deep down, this is home and these people, for better for worse, are my people. I can’t say that I would fight for this country as it is, but I now fight for what it could be.

There is a lot of disappointment in the way things are going for Ugandans. I don’t hate Uganda. I love it but I hate the way the people in charge run it, and how other Ugandans are so hell-bent greed on and destroying and controlling others.

Dear President, Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister, and our legislators, do you see the same country like us outside here? Maybe both perspectives are right, because Uganda is a country of extremes. Extraordinary success stands side by side with resounding failures.

The worst part is, we the people, could literally fix it all. If, and this is a huge if, we could simply unify on one thing, and use that as a catalyst. We need a leader, not a politician or loud-mouth rebel; but someone who will truly unify the people and return the political system to the people it’s supposed to support.

Our leaders in Uganda have very little sense of country because the powers that be have worked hard to absorb as much money as possible, killing off the middle class who worked 9-5 but we’re able to live comfortably and safe.

“that is Uganda” This phrase has taken time, but that feeling that has been eating away at me around this which I couldn’t quite figure out finally came to me. It is anger. Ugandans are angry. I am angry. Angry that the best thing my country can see for me is unemployment, low wages or getting shipped off to another country to break my back to send remittances home.

“that is Uganda, “ My country does not see Ugandans as a source of innovation and ingenuity so it doesn’t try to figure out how to make Uganda work for Ugandans so they can stay and thrive here.

As a Ugandan living in Uganda, the last few years have been difficult to say the least. Like many others, I have watched the prices of basic goods and services quickly skyrocket.. It has become a running joke, but the truth is that UG Shs 1,000 doesn’t get you much nowadays.

To make life bearable under these increasingly strenuous circumstances, I’ve had to cut down my monthly spending on non-essentials and started considering price over brand preferences. Cooking oil is cooking oil and tissue is tissue because every single coin counts.

Do our leaders see the same country? Maybe both perspectives are right because Uganda is a country of extremes. Extraordinary success stands side by side with resounding failures like a juxtaposition..

Between examples of success and failure lies a broad continuum of mixed performance that sets the agenda for the next administration. These discrepancies span all aspects of the development agenda. Uganda is a country of contrasts: economically, socially and geographically.
These sharp contrasts can cause tensions, but they also constitute an asset going forward. To solve many of its problems, Uganda does not need to look outside its borders. Instead, it can learn from within to replicate success.

Ugandans, we should not lose hope, don’t be disappointed let us move on, let us hustle, let us drop the phrase “that is Uganda” but press our leaders to realise that what is good for the goose is also good for the gender.

The path towards a fair and transparent electoral process, equal development and peace remain uncertain, leaving the future of democracy in the country hanging in the balance but let us not leave in despair, we must fight for the good of this country.

Above all, drop the phrase “that is Uganda”, and know that responsibility lies on you [Ugandans] to reject extremism which is not in our interest and demand for accountability and responsible behavior from our leaders.

And at the end of the day, we all live in the nation, sailing on the same boat. If it sinks, we will go don with it. Nobody will be spared. We have a duty to save our country.


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