There is a deep Ugandan saying about huts and hearts. It says that the beauty of a rainstorm a village is that it also helps you identify the true nature of your fellow residents as it brings out their true characters from the way they react to the calamity. Are they good builders? Are they helpful to the needy? Are they resourceful in handling emergencies?
COVID shows MPs’ knowledge gap
You saw or heard the knee-jerk reaction by members of parliament to the government’s emergency food relief plan for Kampala-Mukono-Wakiso, which in effect is the Greater Kampala Metropolitan (GKM). Some were furious asking why the government concentrates on GKM. Others passionately said that ‘their’ people upcountry are also entitled. One wonders whose people those in GKM are. Yet others said that the whole country is under Coronavirus lockdown, so it is not only Kampala that should “benefit”.
If you listened only to the MPs without considering that the government has been responding to the Corona crisis scientifically after making rational analysis of the situation, you might even believe that GKM is being favored against the rest of the country. But would the government be so crazy as to come up with a number of supplies and not know how to target them but opt to spread them evenly across the country without any scientific criteria rather than wanting to appear fair? If you are an MP and a certain disease broke out in your constituency and you have to say, a thousand doses of medicine, would administer it to the afflicted persons or would you spread it out to all the 50,000 voters and end up with nobody being cured and instead of creating drug resistance?
But did the government also take the trouble to explain to the MPs how it had arrived at the decision to first provide in GKM (though many would assume it is obvious?
Locusts and lepers
Why didn’t the government spell it out to the MPs that all except one or two of the Corona carriers entered through Entebbe airport, located in Wakiso district and is practically a suburb of Kampala? Why didn’t the government explain to the MPs that most Corona ‘suspects’ (who included several MPs whose colleagues have been treating like lepers) on coming from abroad actually terminated their journey in GKM, which is also the most densely populated part of Uganda? Why didn’t the government remind the MP that only this year when the desert locusts invaded Uganda all the response funds were sent to Karamoja and the people of Rukungiri and Kalangala didn’t complain?
The government should be blamed for not explaining to the MPs that although the partial lockdown is all over Uganda, it immediately starts chocking GKM unlike the rest of the country. When public and other vehicular transport is banned, people in GKM cannot travel to work or to the market, but those in other parts can continue to go to their gardens as usual and return to the house – which in many cases is on the same plot as the garden, before curfew. Yet activities in Greater Kampala Metropolitan affect the whole country directly so the population in GKM needs the interventions to be kept alive first.
Maybe not all the MPs read the reports issued regularly by UBoS so the government ought to have told them that at least two million people in GKM live from hand to mouth – having no savings and relying on their daily earnings to survive. In most of the other parts of the country, the people can survive longer than the vulnerable millions of Kampala. Is it their fault? We hope that the MPs do not want the GKM people punished for not having savings. After all, we have seen several MPs on losing an election end up in civil jail for failure to clear some not-so-big debts. This is not to scorn them, but to show that MPs being Kampala people too, share the characteristics of not having enough savings to get them through a rainy day (the rain again as in the proverb we started with)! So the government ought to have explained to the legislators that it takes only one week of lockdown to trigger starvation in Kampala. And before people starve to death literally, their bodies will weaken and become vulnerable to simple diseases that they wouldn’t even have noticed if their immunity wasn’t compromised by hunger. And what would people do before they starve? They would turn to crime instead. Now you have an army of hundreds of thousands of taxi drivers, conductors, mechanics, shop attendants, bar attendants, boda boda riders and so on who are not working and not earning, therefore not eating. Meanwhile, you have all that food-wasting away without buyers, and the neighbors’ electronics which they can rob and sell for sh20k a laptop. Didn’t someone in government find it necessary to explain to the MPs before they passed a resolution to oppose the government’s relief food plan?
Finally and very sadly, the tones of some MPs had a tinge of communitisation of GKM. Maybe government should share with the MPs the statistical composition of the GKM genetic profile which security, political and economic intelligence certainly have, as some honourable members may not be aware that GKM, with a population of about twelve million people, is the microcosm of Uganda. This intel, which was updated during the 2014 mass registration could have been updated again, and our MPs would certainly find it interesting. The only cultural item the people of GKM share is the Luganda language which they speak with different levels of fluency and which fluency has little to do with their genetic ethnicity. The largest ethnic community of GKM barely makes up a third of the population of GKM, and in the densely populated “informal settlements” (the politically correct term for slums) no ethnic community exceeds twenty percent. And if it is any comforting to know, no ethnic community exceeds twenty percent on the affluent hills and of recent, the water front residences either.
So whatever measure is taken over Kampala is a measure taken over the whole of Uganda. When an MP says “our people also” they should know that “their” nearest people are right in Kampala, their own kin. When they say that 60 to 70 % of the national economy, revenue collection etc.. is in GKM, it is not about any community, but the whole of Uganda. And well, it would be interesting to know if there is any MP who completes their fiver year term without making an investment in GKM. And any Ugandan who works in Kampala for a several years does well to, and most actually do, invest in the area, without fear of being profile by their district of origin. For GKM is actually Uganda. It is that simple.