Sunday, May 21, 2017

#Uganda goes to dogs while counting their heroes!

So many heroes, such little hope for Uganda... Isn’t that just phenomenal?
Uganda's Treasury Secretary Keith Muhakanizi, who also a bonus, contemptuously described the oil handshake as a “ka-thing,” but he still took it.
It is not easy to put a finger on the cause of poverty and underdevelopment in a country like Uganda that is so richly endowed both with natural resources and a population that has enjoyed Western education for more than a century and a quarter.
Many countries that have transited from extreme poverty to First World status have taken 30 years or less. Uganda has enjoyed an uninterrupted 30 years of enlightened leadership. But even if they say no justification is required for success while no excuse is enough for failure, we Ugandans are clever. We have learnt to describe our failures as successes. You won’t nail us.
We have learnt to put crowns on our “heroes,” as defined using our short yardstick. Celebration of mediocrity is becoming rampant. The nation has discussed to exhaustion the golden handshake that was given to a score or two of public officials who in the course of their regular duties were given some $2 million to share for giving office support to a team of foreign lawyers who defended Uganda’s tax claim against an oil firm in a British court.
Nobody is even wondering how many more millions they would have collected in bonus if they had done the actual court work themselves. Instead, the most frequent query raised by the public is why only those 40 officials and not all the 400,000 public servants? In other words, we want to celebrate everybody, performers and non-performers alike. No wonder, some recipients of the oil handshake are even ashamed of it.
Former attorney general Fred Ruhindi stated categorically that he did not deserve a bonus for what he felt was routine work. Treasury Secretary Keith Muhakanizi, who also received one, contemptuously described the oil handshake as a “ka-thing,” but he still took it.
Now in Uganda, at every national function, we award medals to hundreds of living national “heroes.” Surely, with a thousand Ugandans every year being celebrated for heroic service to the public, this country would be better off than South Korea and Japan.
Blame this new culture of celebrating mediocrity on the “modern” habit of paying compliments to everyone even when you don’t mean it. It has become so ingrained that we praise things we don’t even appreciate.
“Oh, you are so smart!” everybody has been taught to say to guests, even when you think they look horrible.
Men have learnt painfully to keep praising their wives’ hairstyles, which change more frequently than they can keep track of, and woe unto you if you don’t notice and exclaim at the new dead Brazilian’s hair or artificial Chinese piece she has perched onto her head.
Most men lack the courage to say they were attracted by the short natural hair on the girl’s head when they proposed years earlier or her long, straight-combed chemical-free puff, and did not realise they would be required to praise Brazilian and Chinese imports.
But just listen to the corporate language these days. Everything is “great” and people are always “excited” and things are “amazing” while words like “phenomenal” are used casually without batting an eyelid. 
Joachim Buwembo is a social and political commentator based in Kampala. E-mail:

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