Saturday newspapers carried stories that troubled my mind throughout the weekend.
The first story that troubled me was about activities of Gen Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh in the Tooro sub-region. The Daily Monitor reported that Saleh had spent nearly two months in Tooro and, among other things, sponsored two sittings of Kabarole district council. He is helping Fort Portal to become a city and has been offered land to build some factories.
Remember Gen Saleh is a senior presidential advisor on defence and until recently operated an office in Bombo military barracks. He is also the coordinator of an illegal outfit called Operation Wealth Creation. An executive order from his brother that establishes it even expired.
The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), established by an Act of Parliament, surrenders more than half (about Shs 270 billion) of its budget to this illegal Saleh outfit annually.
This is the money that Saleh is using as he likes. I hope you still remember that he recently dished out some millions to kadongokamu people at a concert in Namboole. He is now sponsoring sittings of various district councils in Fort Portal. What will stop him from sponsoring weddings and traditional marriages?
And the reason NAADS was made to surrender this money was because of abuse. These days they say “Uganda zaabu” which means Uganda is gold.
The second story which both The Daily Monitor and New Vision carried was about the donation of vehicles to Busoga cultural leaders by another military general, Yoweri Museveni.
The vehicle of Kyabazinga costs more than Shs 400 million if it is a secondhand. This was brand new, which means its cost is about Shs 600 million. The rest of the pick-up trucks I think cost about Shs 250 million each. You can conservatively say the whole vehicle project cost is about Shs 3 billion.
The president, since he is the de facto minister of finance, has been prevailing over parliament to allocate him Shs 97 billion annually for donations. This money is part of the State House budget. Last financial year, another item called miscellaneous under State House was allocated Shs 78 billion.
It is possible that the vehicles were bought using this money for donations. It is, therefore, not illegal money. The source of the money or its legality is not what troubled me. The collective vulnerability of traditional leaders and their people is what troubled me.
According to the official 2014 housing and population census, Basoga are the third largest ethnic group in Uganda. The census put them at 2.9 million people. Of course they have since grown because our population grows at about 3.1 per cent every year.
One of my constituents who heard us discuss these vehicle donations on Capital Gang told me if each Musoga had contributed just Shs 1,800, they would have bought these vehicles themselves. Either, he argued, “these people have been extremely impoverished or the leadership undermined.”
And Batooro, according to the census results, were 810,708 people by 2014. And the reason districts are created right and centre is to take services nearer to the people.
It appears the districts have failed and Gen Saleh is the one now taking these services nearer to the Batooro. A sitting of the district council, Daily Monitor reported, costs just about Shs 10 million. The people of Kabarole/Fort Portal are too poor to afford this, the reason Gen Saleh intervened.
These two generals are brothers. For me I am emotional when it comes to my ethnic group. I feel very bad that my ethnic group, which contributed to the formation of Uganda in the London 1960 conferences, now must depend on handouts from other people.
Why are we in this marriage? Forgive me but that is what I saw in these two good gestures by the general brothers. That the Basoga - all of them - are incapable of buying their traditional leaders decent vehicles!
If all other things have not united us, this should. All this nonsense of dialogue should focus on this. I can allow you to belittle FDC, but not Buganda. This country should be able to tell off these generals. This is our country, and not their parent’s estate.
The author is Kira Municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament.