Newly elected UN General Assembly Chairman Sam Kutesa returned from New York on Monday this week.
I bumped into a pre-arranged small crowd that came to receive him at Entebbe International Airport upon my arrival from Dubai. A police car and two dozen boda boda riders, wearing President Museveni’s yellow campaign T-shirts, led Kutesa’s motorcade as it snaked from the airport to Kampala. Driving just behind this convoy gave me an opportunity to observe public response.
In the convoy, there were at least five mini-buses carrying some rowdy youths waving yellow T-shirts through the windows. Yet everywhere they passed, people seemed unbothered and unaware of what was going on. It is only one boda boda cyclist at Najjanankumbi who followed the convoy and pleaded for a T-shirt from those waving them, although he didn’t get it.
For someone who has seen triumphant and heroic returns of achievers, Kutesa’s was a miserable one. Readers will remember the memorable return of Col Kizza Besigye from South Africa and more recently from treatment in Nairobi, Nasser Ntege Sebaggala’s return from a US jail or Gaetano Kaggwa’s return from the Big Brother house in South Africa.
There are two important points to note from this miserable return. First, the leaders and their handlers who are at the helm of our country are just a bunch of incompetent and unbothered marketers. The return of someone who has been elected chairman of the UN Assembly is an international headline.
Yet I didn’t see regional media from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Somalia or Burundi. I only saw a few local journalists at Entebbe. And that tells you the human resource deployed in our foreign service. In a poor country like ours, very skilled and innovative people are the ones supposed to be deployed as economic attaches at various embassies. Instead, it is ruling party functionaries and tribesmen that get these jobs, moreover without basic training.
Just look at the list of our ambassadors majority are NRM politicians who lost elections!
In Dubai, every opportunity to promote the country is seized and its importance exaggerated. I have, in earlier columns, told you how the country reacted to news of being awarded the opportunity to host World Expo 2020. Now everything in Dubai is about World Expo 2020. They have printed “Dubai, host nation of World Expo 2020” even on the Emirates air tickets, and you know this airline transports more than 57 million passengers every year.
The second point to note is that these fellows don’t care about Uganda but themselves. On a day like this, you would expect the pre-arranged crowd going to Entebbe to receive Kutesa to be wearing national colours and flying the national flag, and not Museveni’s yellow campaign T-shirts. The national flag and colours would certainly draw the attention of onlookers to the event.
Very few Ugandans know that Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the ruler of Dubai, but they know about Dubai. That is what has been marketed not the ruler. Mind you, this is a monarch who would be interested in competing with his country for fame, but he hasn’t. Yes, there are pictures of him all over but concentration is on marketing the country.
The position of UN General Assembly chairman is not such a big office but it can be creatively used to market and promote a country. I know for a fact that there are oil-rich sheiks in the Middle East that have refused to meet Museveni. But with Kutesa at the UN helm, this is pretty possible now. Unfortunately, it is an opportunity we may never see or use.
That takes me to the final point. I think Olara Otunnu built his presidential campaign around it – ownership of this country. I don’t want to suggest that our leaders suffer from double or multiple loyalty but they behave like their hearts are elsewhere.
I can tell you if it was Erias Lukwago returning, that journey would have taken eight hours. The population has, either out of class differences or something else, started looking at the Kutesas as alien. They no longer represent their aspirations and that is very dangerous for Uganda.
To develop a country, you must define what you want to achieve and rally everybody around it. What the Kutesas did was to take a line of personal pursuits, more or less like the Mobutus or Abachas.
The country sees their achievements not as national but personal. And maybe, even they see these achievements as personal. If they were still young, I would recommend patriotism lessons but I think retirement is what will do.
The author is Kyadondo East MP.
Source : The Observer