As We Bury Zambia’s Sata, Let’s Cry for Our Uganda [opinion]

Two purely black African countries, Zambia and Burkina Faso, are making international headlines because of what has happened to their presidents.

President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, who seized power in a coup, has been thrown out by mass protests, after 27 years in power. Chaos is still the method of selecting presidents in Burkina Faso. All their presidents have been installed and removed by coups, including Thomas Sankara that Ugandans know and like most.

In Zambia, another president, Michael Sata, has died in office and will be buried on November 11. There are lessons for Uganda from both countries. Since 1991, Zambia has peacefully changed presidents five times. Founding President Kenneth Kaunda (KK) organised and lost democratic elections in 1991.

He was replaced by Frederick Chiluba who served two terms and left in 2002. Chiluba, like his neighbor, President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, attempted to change the constitution to remain in power, but failed. His Ugandan counterpart, after doing everything (including offering bribes), succeeded. I think that was the turning point in Zambia’s history. Then there came President Levy Mwanawasa who, like Sata, died in office before completing his second term.

His successor, President Rupiah Banda, took over, presided over elections, which he won, but, failed to secure a second term. Michael Sata defeated Banda in 2011 but has only ruled for three years. Zambia, by choosing a white Guy Scott to be president for only three months, has made history.

The white man is so overjoyed and overwhelmed as “everyone is getting used to calling me His Excellency and I am getting used to it, there are truckloads of guys, Police following me on motorbikes. It is very strange, but I am very proud to be entrusted with it.”

In three months’ time, Zambia will hold elections and, for the sixth time in the last three decades, change a president. Back home, every attempt to change a president, to offer our country stability, has been failed. The Constitution has been changed and elections continue to be stolen.

Meanwhile, Zambia, with a population of 14.5 million people, has a bigger GDP of $22.3 billion than Uganda. Our GDP – the total wealth of the country – is $21.4 billion, and we are about 37 million people. When the total wealth of Zambia is divided among the population, which by the way is theoretical, everybody gets $1,539 (GDP per capita) and in Uganda, we get $571.

You can see that in Zambia, where presidents have been changed and the country has remained stable, people are richer than us by almost three times. In Burkina Faso, where one man has ruled for 27 years and he had to be thrown out in a mass protest, the total wealth of the country is $11.5 billion, with a population of 17 million people. Interestingly, when the total wealth is divided, each Burkinabe gets $683, which is slightly bigger than Uganda’s.

Of course the situation that obtains in each country is different and that is why I have said let us pick lessons. By the way in Parliament, we are facilitated to travel regularly so we can pick good lessons. One of the lessons we have refused to pick is that of a peaceful transfer of power from one president to another.

The cost of that is not only in Museveni failing to deliver but in maintaining him in power. In countries like the sheikdoms of the United Arab Emirates, where leaders don’t change, money is never wasted on useless elections. Why should we hold elections, in which we spend billions, whose outcomes are pre-determined?

And an election is not the only cost. To get MPs stop Amama Mbabazi from contesting, the cost now exceeds tens of billions of shillings. Remember the [more than] Shs 100 million for each of the Kyankwanzi MP?

And it is not only MPs that are being bribed. Financing a life president in a country where elections are regularly held is an expensive venture. I see no reason why our kings don’t rule us?

A king in Dubai is doing wonders. The last time I visited, he was pumping another $7 billion into Dubai Airport to expand it and its airspace. This will give it capacity to handle 90 million passengers a year. Dubai is now second to LondonHeathrow Airport in handling the biggest number of international passengers. They handle around 65 million and London handles a million more.

Aviation alone contributes nearly $40 billion every year to the economy of Dubai. Uganda’s total wealth is just $21.4 billion! When expanded further, aviation will account for 22 per cent of Dubai’s jobs. Instead of expanding our airport, we are busy traversing the country bribing the population to shun Amama Mbabazi.

I have developed a second thought on our ambition to first industrialise. Probably, we can make more money by investing in things like aviation which immediately spur to other sectors such as tourism and trade.

The author is Kyadondo East MP.

Source : The Observer

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