One of the memorable things Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada did when he ruled Uganda was to construct a 30-million-litre petroleum products’ reservoir in Jinja.
At that time, in the mid-1970s, Uganda had about 10 million people and, I think, about 70,000 vehicles. The reserves were supposed to store petrol, diesel and kerosene – 10 million litres each.
The petroleum products were supposed to cushion the country against unexpected disruption in supply caused either by price changes or transportation challenges for at least six months. The national population and housing census of 2014 put Uganda’s population at 34.6 million.
And considering that our population grows by three per cent annually, we are now about 40 million people. Uganda Revenue Authority puts the total number of vehicles in the country at about 800,000.
Instead of constructing more petroleum products’ reserves, the government of Gen Yoweri Museveni has run down a facility constructed more than 40 years ago by an un-educated leader.
In more than three annual reports includ- ing the one of 2015 under consideration by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the auditor general is consistently faulting this administration.
The Museveni administration concessioned out the reserves in Jinja to Hared Petroleum Limited on condition that the private firm refurbishes the facility, restocks and maintains it for 10 years. The agreement was that at any one given time, the reserve must hold 12 million litres of fuel, which is 40 per cent of its capacity.
At his last inspection, the auditor general found there just only 273,000 litres of petrol and 331,000 litres of diesel. The auditor general also reported that from his analysis, the private operator has never put there the 40 per cent agreed products.
Neither had the firm paid Uganda the agreed annual $974,659 rental fee. The reserves are, by the way, classified as a strategic facility. But under Museveni strategic facilities can be placed in private hands!
I think the only strategic facility that Gen Museveni cannot place in private and foreign hands is his and the regime’s security. This is a preserve of his kith and kin. There has never been a Musoga presidential guard commander.
This presidential guard has now grown into a group called Special Forces Command, numbering thousands and it is still commanded by one ethnic group. The mismanagement of our fuel reserves constructed by Idi Amin is what came to my mind when our neighbours in Kenya went to polls yesterday.
We paid a heavy price in 2007 when Kenya erupted into flames after general elections. I am told it is the reason the reserves were privatized so they can be stocked. Another election has come and the reserves are not ad- equately stocked.
The state under Museveni, who turns 73 years next month, behaves like a private entity. I remember in 2007, it was Minister Daudi Migereko who gave me the fuel that took me back home. I saw him quietly signaling to Ofwono Opondo after Capital FM’s Capital Gang talk show and I followed them uninvited.
He felt embarrassed and gave me 15 litres out of his stock at a fuel station. I suspect that is what they have done this time round – building presidential and ministers’ fuel stocks at given fuel stations.
Those of us who are supposed to be catered for by the government can go and hang! That is how Museveni has run this country for the last 31 years.
He wakes up every day (does he sleep anyway?) looking for what to grab for himself or his family. And they are not satisfied with wealth; they also want offices. Isn’t that how the wife ended up becoming education minister without any justification?
The brother and son are senior presidential advisors, with the former also responsible for all wealth creation funds in the country. And I am tired of taking blame for Museveni’s overstay in power.
This man grabbed power when I was 12 years and four months old. I was actually in primary school. Instead of blaming one another – especially the elite blaming the opposition – let us wake up and join hands to rescue our country. This visionary leader who is now revising his age won’t simply walk away.
That is why I welcome all the initiatives and efforts, including those from suspicious sources. We have a duty on our hands. Finally, the FDC officially begins its presidential elections processes next week with nomination of candidates.
I think five people have picked nomination forms wanting to be- come party president. If Gen Mugisha Muntu wins, he will be serving his final term as our constitution limits a leader to only two terms. He will then join Col Kizza Besigye on the elders’ bench.
That is what the FDC is able to give to Ugandans. If you don’t hold credible internal elections, it will be impossible for you to give credible elections to the entire country. If only the NRM can learn!
The author is Kira Municipality MP and Opposition Chief Whip in parliament.