Desperate times require desperate measures; we need to talk

Desperate times - Stepping Stones



1. The subject of your letter, “Desperate times require desperate measures; we need to talk,” is very apt; for the letter appears to justify your President’s action in signing into law a controversial Constitution Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2017. The bill, also known as the infamous age limit bill, was successfully voted on by parliament on 20 December 2017, after 317 NRM honourable members of parliament preferred their stomachs first to defending the constitution; thereby condemning the affairs of the Republic of Uganda to stand in a very ill posture. They put themselves up for sale, prostituting both themselves and the dignity of parliament, cheapening their standing by accepting the president’s shilling; that is, the honourable members of parliament were obsequious in allowing themselves to be publically humiliated, brought up and placed on the dock, where they were stripped of all dignity and stood naked, to the shame of all Ugandans, and for the whole world to gaze at. Uganda now stands naked, stripped of all her constitutional clothing – with not a fig leaf in sight to cover her.

A dishonourable Auction!

2. The auctioneer, who incidentally was none other than the Speaker of Parliament, acted with due diligence which is commensurate with that august office, pinched and prodded them with every parliamentary procedure known in law to test their commitment and sincerity, and thus the auction was begun. The bidding process was exceedingly vigorous; with astonishing sums of money bandied about, and, at last, the president through an intermediary stepped in and offered his shilling. And a good shilling it was! The auctioneer’s gavel fell swiftly and the president got his way. His way, as it happened, was the removal of a troublesome clause embedded in the constitution, thus clearing a path for him to continue his tenure as a ruler, for, apparently, no material gain whatsoever! For aught you know it, the auction clearly made public for all to see, that greater love hath no president than this: to sacrifice himself for the wretched poor of the Republic of Uganda.

3. And, as if the dastardly deed were not shameful enough, the honourable members of parliament proceeded to rub salt into the wounds of many wretched poor Ugandans, to abuse their parliamentary privilege by adding an extra two years to both theirs and the president’s term in office; whereby should 2023 come, the president will now be eligible to present himself as a presidential candidate for the 7th term running, and would you know it, at a youthful age of 79! If ever an object lesson were needed, this was it; that is, the auction was an object lesson in how to sabotage a nation’s constitution; the new ‘1995 Constitution’ was promulgated amid much fanfare promising a better Uganda. But, who were the individuals that were guilty of this high misdemeanour? They were not your usual unthinking, poorly educated and gullible African peasants from the back of beyond region of Uganda. No. But rather, they were the jet-setting crème de la crème of Uganda’s educated elite, whose office it is to lead and not to debauch the Republic, and in whom, by reason of their social standing; that is, being above the common ordinary Ugandans, thus making the crime all the greater. I grieve at their hardness of heart.

Perverting constitutional democracy

4. Yet this was not the worst about this sorry tale: when the ordinary citizens of Uganda see the honourable members of parliament set out to deliberately compromise constitutional democracy with a high hand; and when these self-same highly educated elites in high standing are seen advocating for that which is plainly detrimental to the commonwealth of the Republic of Uganda, they not only degrade themselves, but they make ordinary members of the public think that the term ‘honourable’ with which they are supposed to be endowed by virtue of their status as members of parliament, must surely be nothing but a myth.

5. Indeed, I personally stand amazed; I am astonished at the absurdity of the spectacle. For when I gaze at the crime scene which is the floor of parliament, I am left speechless in two respects, and scarcely know which to wonder at the most. The first thing which astonishes me is the honourable members of parliament’s thoughtless betrayal of their electors, their actions in parliament suggest that they treat those who elected them to parliament with the uttermost contempt; and the second, which is even more startling, is the wilful ignorance as to the likely pernicious consequences of their actions – an ignorance that is so publically exhibited. I scarcely know which of the two causes me the greatest shock. What a deep infamy it is to see so many well-educated African men and women, Uganda’s very own jet setting crème-de-la-crème, so openly pervert democracy, the constitution, good governance and the rule of law on the floor of parliament! And all for a measly shilling – the mind boggles!

A black day

6. At a personal level, December 20th 2017 will always be a black day, it will for ever be etched on my memory as a double whammy day of lamentation: for in the first place, it was the day on which the Republic of Uganda gave up all pretence to constitutional democracy, good governance, and the rule of law; it was the day on which the 317 NRM MPs deliberately spat in the fair face of constitutional democracy, despised and ravished her, and brutally murdered her in plain sight on the floor of parliament; and, in the second place, it was also the day on which my much loved sister, one Ms Lydia Keturah Kamugasa, a respected fashion editor of Flair magazine in Kampala, breathed her last and died. She died of a heart failure. Lydia went to sleep believing on the Lord Jesus Christ; I am therefore persuaded that I shall see her again in glory. But, what will become of the affairs of the Republic of Uganda? These are indeed desperate times; we really need to talk.

7. But first, a little housekeeping: allow me to commend you for your courage in picking up the gauntlet I threw down in my blogpost, “Bloody Independence – we wuz robbed! – Part 2.” I further admire your brave defence of the president’s achievements – spanning well over 50 years; it’s very courageous of you, but I must place on the record, you are desperately mistaken. To that end, I must disagree with your analysis. Below are the reasons why I am compelled to take the opposite view:

A fearful thing for a lawyer to be a dishonest broker

8. Evidently, you are a very clever lawyer. It is however, a fearful thing for a lawyer, who as it happens, boasts an LLM Degree in Human Rights Law, from a world class and prestigious university in England, to play a dishonest broker; for you write as one who uses his high education and sophistry, to justify wrong doing in public life and the oppression of the wretched poor of Uganda. I am afraid your letter adds very little, which is worth noticing. Indeed, you succeed only in saying nothing at all! I too am a lawyer, and I will pay you a professional courtesy by not disclosing your name in this blogpost, lest you should be embarrassed.

9. If I interpret your letter correctly, I think the gist of it is as follows: Am I too perhaps an internal enemy of Uganda’s generalissimo? Might it be that I am an enemy of his movement, government and everything he has stood for – all his long life? On the contrary: far be it from me to be a ‘quisling’ working in cahoots with foreigners to deliberately sabotage Uganda’s prospects. Your government is doing a fine job at sabotaging the Republic of Uganda. No! I only speak and write that which is demanded by common humanity, demanded by justice, demanded by common sense; that which is required of fairness and charity, all of this must be done in the public interest and for the good of all of our people, the commonwealth of the whole country. I have nothing to hide. I have no agenda!

A son of a desperado and a sore looser

10. Father taught me that in life, there will always be flies where there is honey. He taught me to be very wary of flattery; for you flatter me by making much of my blogposts, especially those which touch on Uganda. But you ask a question: who is this man who dares to give an opinion on matters, which on the face of it, are exclusively about Uganda; and, matters which are the preserve of Ugandans alone? My answer is simple: I am the son, as you have so cruelly put it, “of a has-been, a good-for-thing Kampala businessman; who as it should seem, supported that much despised, discredited political party, the Uganda People’s Congress.” In other words, my answer is a resounding yes, and I am proud to be numbered among his children. It is the very same businessman, of whom you say: “Stupidly stuck to his guns, refusing all cooperation with your president, to the detriment of both himself and his family.”

11. It is on the record that from the start, my father expected nothing from His Excellency’s munificence, he did not accept the president’s shilling; and his reward for not accepting the president’s shilling was – to be stripped of everything. He was ostracized, driven out of business, compelling him to spend the evening of his life in poverty; he died in obscurity. I am the very he; that very foolish boy you speak of, and whose father you describe as a desperado and a sore loser. But suppose it were true, that my much pilloried father was indeed a villain, as you so very cruelly suggest. And yet, your insinuation falls flat to the ground because there is zero evidence to support the claim, else I’m sure, that the generalissimo’s government would have spared no effort or expense, to prosecute him. Father was never prosecuted for any political crime.

I owe it to our joint ancestors

12. Moreover, in all the generalissimo’s 32 years in power, not a single member of father’s household was ever put on trial for any political crime. My father, his wife (now his widow) and the majority of the family members, who continued in Uganda, remained at large openly, going about their lawful business, albeit with their freedoms circumscribed somewhat.

13. But suppose for argument’s sake, that it were actually true that father really was a villain, does it not fall to me, as his son, to endeavour with all possible diligence, and by eminent virtues, to roll away the reproach visited upon him and his household? And, what of it, as you clearly state in your letter, that I am now a foreigner having surrendered my Ugandan passport years ago! I must place it on the record that it was your government which took away my passport; I took it in to the Ugandan High Commission in London for renewal and it was never returned. When I enquired about it, I was told that there was no record of it, and the clerk to whom I had hand delivered it, had returned to Kampala and was no longer an employee of the government.

14. I was also told that if I wanted a new passport, all I had to do was to travel back to Uganda and make a formal application in person. I was told in very blunt terms that the High Commission owed me no duty of care, and that my problems were none of their business – that was that! I have often wondered how those at the High Commission expected me to travel to Uganda without a passport. But God, in his great mercy and grace, worked a strange providence in which ordinary men and women in England stepped into the breach, along with Her Majesty’s Government, after much toing and froing going through the immigration and asylum process, took pity on this waif and stray, and the British government gave me a passport. Therefore, if other foreigners with a more tenuous connection with Africa than me have a free rein to comment on Ugandan affairs, why should I, who was born in Kampala, not be allowed to express an opinion? I have an interest in Uganda as well as you; for Uganda is the land of both our ancestors.

15. Surely, I too have as much a right as any African to take an interest in the affairs of the African continent, especially those of Uganda! At any rate, this is a debt, which I as a son, owe to the memory of my late father, his friends and their respective ancestors. Moreover, I think it ill becomes any African to sit down unconcerned about the difficult and desperate circumstances in which their African brethren find themselves in. I believe the time is ripe for all Africans to take a step back and look themselves in the mirror, to see their natural face, and yes, to look at their own reflection as others see them. Africans owe it as a duty to their children and their children’s children.

Why don’t you cast in your lot with us?

16. Elsewhere, in your letter, you write that if I were to bend but a little and come a little nearer to the position of your president generalissimo, then perhaps the president’s government may come some way to meet me, in the name of patriotism. Forgive me for saying so, but you are something of a flatterer! You remind me of that fox in the fable; some men do indeed act like that fox, which hoped to gain the cheese by praising the crow. They never saw such plumage, say they, and no voice could be as sweet as yours. While the whole of their mind is set, not on you, but on what they are to gain by you. Sir, I have no cheese – none whatsoever!

17. Are you the only one not to see that your freedom fighter hero, as you so obsequiously refer to him, no doubt he is your idol; that he has founded his ideas, philosophy, and system of government upon the floods? And, if they be established on the floods, do you wonder that after he has been at the helm of Uganda these 32 years and counting, he should plead for more time to play at Mr. President; for he now finds that all his entire career in public life is held together by nothing more than ropes made out of sand!

18. Moreover, you and I know I cannot throw my lot in with you; for we are poles apart. If I were to come near, as you write, to your president’s government, I will lose all credibility; for it is an open secret that the generalissimo’s government is exceedingly corrupt. So much so that corruption in Uganda now pleads prescription. And, as we have noticed above, the recent change in the constitution to allow him to stand in the next presidential election was procured thanks to a bribe to the honourable members of parliament. This bribe is all the more perplexing considering that the honourable members of parliament are generously rewarded; that is, they receive a monthly remuneration plus sundry benefits amounting to $10,000, on top of other privileges which include a new car, free healthcare both at home and abroad, reportedly valued at nearly $20,000 extra! Whereas essential medical professionals, who are so sorely needed in a poor country such as Uganda, are paid a derisory maximum of a mere $1,000 a month – if that is, they get paid at all.

19. Suppose I threw my lot in with you, what do you expect your supporters will say behind my back, if they were to see me inconsistent merely to please you and your president? It would result in my moral and intellectual self-destruction. And, are you the only one not to have heard of that old saying, which goes something like this: “It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest?” Please remember that Uganda is the land of my ancestors also; I too have a stake in the country, albeit a vicarious one; it would be an ill thing for me to profane the land of my fathers.

20. Indeed, as I write this blogpost, I am conscious of a strange whirring sound of rattling bones of dead men such as the late Professor Dan Mudoola, the deputy chairman of the Ugandan Constitutional Commission, who as you well know, was brutally assassinated in grenade attack, on 22 February 1993 in Kampala; I hear their bones turning in their respective graves to give voice to their violent disapproval: “Oh!” I hear them say to father: “All that education has evidently done your boy no good…he is all mere talk, a natural born windbag…playing fast and loose with our people’s lives; the boy is not sincere, corrupt just like the rest of those so-called freedom fighters…the very same who loudly claim to have liberated our country – when all the while they are practising policies which may be summed up as, for want of a better expression, beggar-thy-neighbour!” God forbid that on that great day, when judgement shall be dispensed by him who is just, that it should be said of me, “I was hungry and you gave me no meat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; naked and you clothed me not; sick and in prison and you visited me not.” Sir, please remember that a degenerate member of a family is looked upon, on all sides, as an abomination.

Educated African elite – types

21. And, I would be no different from those educated African elite ‘types’ I have so publically criticized, of whom it may be said, the glare of the generalissimo’s genius blinded them as to the terrible hue of his character and the atrocity of his conduct, so they have followed headlong in his track, because forsooth, he is a great man and a freedom fighter to boot! Moreover, in the name of so-called consensus, these educated African elite ‘types’ have abandoned all beliefs, principles, values, including policies, in a desperate search for something no one seems to believe in, and to which no one objects; thus avoiding very pressing issues such as education, health-care, youth unemployment and an exploding population, all of which are crying out for answers. The net result is that they never seem to agree on anything, except on personal aggrandizement, as the debacle of changing the constitution on 20 December 2017 clearly testifies. Their mistake, it is now clear as the day, was to talk about peace, peace, as if that in itself were the sole aim of government. But peace is not enough without freedom, democracy, rule of law and good governance; it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice peace if freedom, democracy, rule of law and good governance are to prevail.

22. Nothing better displays their intellectual and moral bankruptcy than the reality that South Korea was once poorer than Uganda. This country is evidently, an object lesson in how progress may be achieved; for “South Korea was able to go from a third world [country] to [the] first world in a generation while a number of Ugandans living below the poverty line is growing. If we are to go from growing sorghum to exporting electronics we cannot do business as usual: we need to stop digging and listen to some sound advice.”

23. Living as we are in these strange and vacillating times of globalization and Donald Trump, when there is so very little conviction left in public life, when principle is cast to the winds, and when morals are elastic both in thought and practice; it is still the fact, I hope, that anyone who is resolute in his stand for freedom, democracy, the rule of law and good governance, who will speak boldly, and act accordingly to right principles – such a man, sir, is the one who will command the respect of all right thinking men and women – both at home and abroad.

Clean hands and a counterfeit democracy cannot mix

24. But I can hear you suck in the air between your teeth as it were, protesting that I cannot be of much use unless I come down on the level of the government ministers and the honourable members of parliament; that I too must get my hands dirty, if I wish to make a contribution. What of that, I ask you! Are you the only one not to know that your government practices a counterfeit democracy? Uganda’s democracy is a mongrel democracy. By a counterfeit democracy I mean a kind of democracy in which so-called leaders, much to their shame, are a despicable spectacle, who openly take much pleasure or so it would seem, in plundering and impoverishing the Republic of Uganda; their dictum or so it would seem is, to eat, drink, and be merry; live a fast life, and satisfy themselves; they may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb; they may as well perish with their stomachs full. Their conduct confirms and agrees with President Trump’s description of some African countries, namely, ‘shitholes.’ Clearly, sir, it is a question of morality; and our values are not aligned. We are chalk and cheese!

25. And, suppose I were to get my hands dirty as you suggest, how on earth will I have clean hands with which to make a contribution, that is, to conduct the difficult business of cleaning up the mess your government and all other failed governments on the continent of Africa have created over the past decades? I find your persuasions to be very treacherous indeed: as treacherous as the very waters of the mighty lake Victoria, on which as you probably know, many have found to their cost that while the sailing may appear smooth under the African blue skies and sun, but which, may suddenly turn and wreck their little boat without mercy.

26. Your honey coated promises are not in the least to be depended on. At any rate, I have had my hands dirty already, but not in the way you think; for I started making a contribution right early, something I continue to do to this day, and mean to continue doing until the day I die. Indeed, it is well known that ambitious turbulent spirits commonly prepare for them the instruments of death; many a head has been lost by catching at the presidential crown. Sir, I have no ambition to play Mr. President or Mr. Prime Minister! But, I am very happy to make a contribution in the role of a simple mason; with both trowel and plumb-line in hand, going about the fiendishly difficult business of raising solid foundations of many generations, one worker preparing for another – which he may add thereto! Today is the day of small things, which we must not despise.

27. Today is the day for raising solid foundations, not to make war. Therefore, it behooves us all to do the work of the day in its day, according as the duty of the day requires, that is, we are to improve our time, by finding some business to do every day that will turn to a good account in respect of raising foundations. We are to improve opportunity, by accommodating ourselves to that which is the proper business of the present day, namely, to build. And, while we must do what we can, we should still aim to do more and better. Let me show you what I mean by making a contribution.

I started making a contribution young

28. My contribution making started when I first took cognizance of Africa’s tragic difficulties, and Uganda’s in particular, when a group of Makerere university graduates invited me to join their newly formed (but now defunct) venture, the Youth Volunteers for Development (YOVODE), in 1986. YOVODE was a practical response to the scandalous poverty then existing in Uganda, particularly in the slums of Kampala along bat valley. Our bowels of compassion respecting the suffering of the desperately poor were moved to do something. My father, along with a number of prominent businessmen in Kampala at the time, helped us raise the initial donations to get us started; and, we achieved some notable success in the short time I was with the group. We, for instance, successfully organized a keep Kampala tidy campaign towards the end of 1986; the campaign was launched by the then Prime Minister, the late Dr Samson Kisekka.

29. The Uganda Television coverage was such that, even my father, who was never known for sentimentality, was suitably impressed; he welcomed me home at the end of that eventful day, with a generous measure of his Glenfiddich single malt whiskey, which he had opened to congratulate me, apparently, upon realizing my childhood ambition. I had declared at the age of seven that when I grew up, I wished be a dustman in Kampala. The reason for my wishing to become a dustman was because at the tender age of seven, I strongly believed that only the poor qualified to enter the Kingdom of God.

30. I evidently misunderstood that the poverty spoken of in the Bible, was the poverty of the soul, and not the poverty of material things. Alas, however, I did not continue long with the venture as I removed to England in the autumn of 1987; I subsequently lost touch with my colleagues. But that spark of interest was never fully quenched. I genuinely want to help in any way I can – which is why I have created a new blogging category, ‘Stepping Stones – a debate’ – in answer to your letter’s subject line, ‘Desperate times require desperate measures; we need to talk.’ I hope this blog is the first of many.

External initiatives

31. But how are we to commence talking about Africa? It is well said that facts are a powerful advocate. Therefore, except for countries such as Botswana, Mauritius and South Africa, it is an incontestable fact that independent Africa is now synonymous with disappointment and catastrophic failure. Indicators such as per capita income, life expectancy, infant mortality, responsible government and the rule of law, show that most African states since independence have either remained stagnant or gone backwards. It was indeed against this setting that the former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, announced the formation of a 17 member Commission for Africa in early 2004 – whose report on 11 March 2005 “Our Common Interest” – coincided with the British Presidency of the G8.

32. The subsequent declaration of 2005 as the year of Africa inspired the Make Poverty History campaign which galvanized popular support in July by staging, thanks mainly to Bob Geldof, the greatest rock show in the history of the world, LIVE8 – with the slogan “We don’t want your money, we want your voice.” The campaign reached its climax when 250,000 people marched on Edinburgh calling on the leaders at the G8 summit to keep their promises on the Millennium Development Goals.

33. Eight international development goals were agreed upon, to be achievable by 2015, namely; to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; to achieve universal primary education; to promote general equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; to improve maternal health; to combat HIV/AIDs, malaria, and other diseases; to ensure environment sustainability; and to develop a goal partnership for development. Impressive though these goals were, and writing now in 2018, it is self-evident that there was one notable failing in the reckonings, which is, an absence of African political will to implement them and therefore there is very little for Africans to crow about today.

Stepping Stones – why debate at all?

34. Short of an oversimplification of Africa’s modern history, there is a growing impatience both at home and abroad with Africa’s strongmen. Strongmen – whose cynical brilliance bestride the continent leaving in their wake, a trail of breath-taking contradictions and historical riddles – all competing for solutions. Millions of starving and dying, the dispossessed and displaced, the impoverished, the imprisoned, the migrants and exiled – are examples of a calamitous misrule. This calamity is likely to escalate as China, which incidentally was not a subscriber to be a participant to the above initiative, asserts herself on the world stage as an emerging economic superpower.

35. Trade between China and Africa is growing at a dizzying speed with the eccentric mix of business logic, soft loans and aid. And, by common agreement, according to available data as of 2015, China accounted for about 20 percent of imports in sub-Saharan Africa, and about 15 percent of its exports. This calls for an urgent need for a debate, both within Africa and abroad, to help interpret and address issues created by this new reality.

36. Choosing to do nothing may be just as destructive as doing something that is poorly conceived. Circumstances appear ripe for a new thinking on Africa. An example of such a circumstance is the current recognition that the barrel of the gun though sometimes necessary, is not the solution to tyranny. Violence is not the answer to grievances which are the cornerstone of poverty in Africa. As I have clearly argued in my two-part blogpost, “Bloody Independence – we wuz robbed!” – it is critical to call to arms all the educated elite in Africa, both black and white, as they are the most credible hope Africa has, a driving force capable of freeing Africa’s most prized natural resource: her people. The African people are arguably by far the most realistic means by which to put an end to corruption; hunger and poverty; disease and ignorance; civil wars, migration and human right abuses.

Violence of the state

37. So, as a follow up on “Bloody Independence… we wuz robbed!” – I should like to start by praying in aid of Archbishop Helder Camara, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazile. He said that there were three types of violence. “Violence number one is the violence of the state, manifested in poverty, corruption, and repression. Violence number one produces violence number two: when the people rise up in protest or resistance. This leads to violence number three: when the government sends in the security apparatus to restore law and order.”

 38. Nowhere is the above more true than in Africa! To cite but one example: in November 2016, a marginalized tribal kingdom in the western region of Uganda, dared to challenge the authority of a sitting president of Uganda; the president answered the challenge by ordering a violent assault on the king’s palace, in which an estimated 116 souls perished. By all accounts, this dispute could have easily been settled without the use of disproportionate force against a poorly equipped palace guards. Sir, the loss of life was utterly needless.

39. The last 60 years have been so marked by the use of violent means to suppress discontent across Africa that it is arguable that this period may be Africa’s golden age for her rapacious leaders to abuse power with impunity. It is this impunity that has so fatally poisoned the body politic of many an African state; the Republic of South Sudan, the youngest African state, being a case in point that it is difficult to see how democracy could possibly be established. This violence which manifests itself in deeply corrupt and unjust governments is in desperate need of addressing.

Irresponsible leadership

40. Africa’s misfortune is best summed up by an amusing but sad story I heard many years ago, when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Buckingham. The Ivory Coast’ president Felix Hophouet Boigny in a Newspaper interview in 1983 said that: “I do have assets abroad. But they are not assets belonging to Cote d’Ivoire. What sensible man does not keep his assets in Switzerland, the whole world’s bank? I would be crazy to sacrifice my children’s future in this crazy country without thinking of their future.”

41. On hearing the above story, I could not help but ask: what is the point of being president of a country whose future you do not believe in? Sadly, it seems settled that many African leaders will tread a well-worn path of relying on a close circle of friends and kinsmen to secure a future for themselves and their children to the exclusion of their fellow citizens. Their entire modus operandi is one that does not have faith in Africa’s future which may perhaps explain why Africa is on the whole a failing continent. As Mr. Trump would happily remind us, Africa is a ‘shithole’ continent indeed!

Yes we can!

42. In proposing the ‘Stepping Stones – a debate,’ I hope to persuade Africa that it is possible to create a future in Africa – a future in which one can have faith, even a future for a president’s children’s children. The underlying object of the debate should, I hope, be about bringing a remote possibility of humanity through the cultivation of hope – as a catalyst for systematic and gradual change. This object should be attained by encouraging conversations among African educated elite in partnership with other organizations and institutions such as multi-national companies, charities, regional and national governments, and key decision-makers around the world.

43. The debate should also endeavour to be blind to difference in order for it to establish its credentials. Debating in of itself, should however not be seen as a panacea to Africa’s problems, but as a possible liberator of hope. Therefore, the overriding spirit of the conversation should be about not letting Africa’s troubled past to be a convenient alibi for failure and procrastination that is so characteristic in modern Africa.

An honest audit

44. It is worth pointing out here that the proposed debate is not about re-inventing the wheel. But a re-examination of the current wheel so to speak – by asking difficult questions such as why are Africa’s leaders so pre-occupied with staying in power, instead of dealing with the real issue of forging institutions that actually work? Accordingly, I hope that the real object of the debate will manifest itself in taking the proverbial wheel, and examining its possibilities with a fresh pair of spectacles – to see if the wheel can be made better and more efficient.

45. In particular, the debate should focus on avoiding narrowly conceived solutions that fail to take into account important factors such as economic, social and political circumstances which are unique to Africa. Moreover; some of the ideas which I hope will be articulated in the conversation including those aired on this blogging platform, The Kamugasa Challenge, should be born out of a gradual appreciation that Africa’s current misfortunes are not down to pure luck, but a direct consequence of neglect, corruption, mismanagement, improvidence and want of responsible leadership.

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It’s about hope

46. In other words, I would like to see the debate’s object as being about hope in like manner to the ancient Greek legend of the Pandora’s Box. It is said that when Pandora opened the forbidden box and released all the plagues and miseries that afflict mankind, the last spirit to flutter out was hope – with its iridescent wings. I do not for a moment propose that the debate try opening the so-called forbidden box. The proverbial forbidden box in Africa was opened a long time ago and it has since unleashed unprecedented plagues and miseries of a kind we are so accustomed to seeing on television and reading about in the press.

47. But rather, it is my wish that the conversation apply its best endeavours to coax out of the box, the elusive and iridescent spirit of hope. By inspiring the creation of institutions – the kind of institutions capable of protecting life, liberty and property – thus securing the enjoyment of the fruits of one’s labour. It is my dream that the debate initiated by The Kamugasa Challenge act as a midwife to hope – the very hope which is so desperately needed in Africa today. Moreover, I see these institutions as a vehicle or if you like, a means of helping and stimulating the African to elevate and improve himself by his own free and independent individual action.

Stepping Stones – it’s worth it

48. In summary, I believe that Independence in Africa over the last 60 years has come at a terrible price. Post-Independence Africa is characterized by loss of hope at the hands of a promise of liberation that has clearly gone wrong, but if those who survive it, and those who come after this apparent madness, profit by the lessons thereof, independence in Africa may on balance not have been purchased at so great a cost. This is the type of hope, I contend, that should be the main purpose of the debate.

49. The type of hope that will ultimately help tackle the grim realities of poverty which make the wretched poor African masses interpret democracy as a bidding process in which the highest bidder gets the right to represent them – instead of voting for the one with the best possible strategy to lift them out of poverty and offer practical solutions. This conversation should therefore aim to inculcate into the mind of the African the proposition that ultimately aid, even aid without strings from China, however well meaning, is not and cannot be a substitute for good governance.

I am sir, yours faithfully,


Stephen Kamugasa,

February 2018.

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