Ugandan Diaspora News | Letter from the Editor | May 2015 | Let’s Protect Workers Rights

Posted May 4, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Editorial ~ 5,849 views


Dear Readers,

It’s May the month we celebrate International Labor Day (the US being a notable exception). But for some retired civil servants back home in Uganda the day served more as a time of reflection if not lamentation following the disappearance of many of the workers savings and benefits in what has now become Uganda’s biggest corruption scandal. To me this was also personal because among those fleeced by this grand scheme was my late Dad a former employee of the East African Community. Not even my late Mother many years after my Dad had passed could secure these benefits after giving nearly 30 years of service to the East African Community.

This pension scandal exposed the level of greed among Uganda’s civil service and law enforcement personnel. Those accused of misappropriating the pension fund managed to bribe their way out and will get away scot-free thanks in part for the failure of the DPP’s office to prosecute. It is believed that some of these men stole so much money that most of the land titles still available for sale in Kampala are now tied to their names. Another missed opportunity by our President to publically address this issue and order the re-arresting of those found culpable during his May Day speech did not happen as some had hoped but instead more medals were passed out. And so with the next election round the corner and workers MPs doing little or nothing to redress the many workers inequalities one is left wondering who Ugandans should turn to for justice if the politicians and workers representatives have all been compromised.

It is this state of affairs that has led many to develop a feeling of indifference and a lack of patriotism. For how long this miscarriage of justice should be allowed to continue only God knows. We have heard the story before of how so many talented and qualified Ugandans will end up frustrated in jobs were those with more powerful connections are rapidly promoted. What, if  anything can we do to help rebuild trust and the feeling of Nationalism among Uganda’s work force. We also need an open debate on the treatment of Ugandan workers by foreign investors. what steps if any is our government taking to protect workers rights from exploitation and poor wages.

Down south our brothers have been experiencing a new wave of Xenophobic attacks. Following the Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini’s utterances, calling African immigrants lice and accusing them of taking jobs belonging to indigenous South Africans.  The new wave of black on black attacks started to spread resulting in the death of about 7 African migrants. And so, strange as it might seem, after ending apartheid South Africa seems to have done little to address the ever growing unemployment rates among its young people many of who are now deemed worse of than the pre apartheid era, apart from those with links to the ANC ruling party the average black South Africans have not seen much economic potential a pre-cursor for anarchy. Crime is on the rise in SA and unemployment of South African youths at an all-time high with President Zuma’s government doing little or nothing to address the inequalities. This latest Xenophobic attack came as a surprise to many since SA economy is now intertwined with most African economies given the existence of companies like MTN, Multi-Choice, Shoprite, Banks and other manufacturing sectors with links from South Africa. And so against this backdrop many Africans interpreted the latest attacks as a sign of betrayal, given the support many African States accorded them to help defeat apartheid. Watching the demonstrations I could only imagine how Nelson Mandela would have reacted had he still been alive! Our prayers go out to those who were affected by this violence.

The other developing news story out of Massachusetts is a gathering of Baganda in the Diaspora, a two-day event that aims to bring unity and hope among all Diaspora Baganda communities. And so come May 22-23 all progressive Baganda, including the new representatives of the Kabaka in North America, will meet at the Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough outside of Boston for the first annual Buganda Bumu conference that will be attended by the Katikiro as guest of honor and Nalinya Nkinzi, the Kabaka’s sister, who will deliver the King’s speech.

Back home the long awaited electoral reforms needed to conduct a free and fair poll remain a mirage as the ruling political party has neither fully addressed the proposed changes or implemented any major reforms. Nigeria and Kenya got it right after appointing independent electoral bodies. Uganda should be able to learn from the recent unrest in Burundi and DR Congo to do the right thing. In as much as we have made progress under this regime we need to be safeguarding the democratic gains and opening up political space instead of moving constitutional goal posts.

Meanwhile the opposition and general public awaits John Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s (JPAM) announcement that he will run as NRM flag bearer or perhaps try his lack for Uganda’s highest office. The former PM has kept many guessing about his political future and recent remarks attributed to him have left the ruling party in jitters as this would potential split the NRM vote in favor of the opposition. The most recent remarks included  — “a few pronouncements that will change Uganda’s political landscape”. This and other comments have some waiting to see if he or coalition among Uganda’s opposition parties can unseat a leader who controls both the military and financial resources of the entire country.

On a sad note the High Court of Uganda stayed the ruling to send hundreds of doctors and nurses to Trinidad and Tobago, even though they are desperately needed at home. I posted this on my FB and remember a comment by someone that these workers were also seeking greener pastures. Nothing personal here but if and when our government encourages a mass exodus of our healthcare professionals working in a country were the ratio of patient to doctors is so wide who is looking out for the interests of the peasants and poor people of Uganda who cannot afford the private hospitals charging hefty fees for treatment. With our healthcare system lacking and many of these medical personnel trained at tax payer expense, it is clear that our leaders do not have Ugandans’ well being at heart in this and other decisions which have left Ugandans at the mercy of a poorly funded and understaffed healthcare system.

As I conclude I will also briefly talk about an issue that is dear to me as someone who once served on the UNAA Board of Directors for two terms and volunteered more than 6 years of my time to this great institution.  It has particularly been disappointing reading the facts surrounding LAWSUIT brought against UNAA and her leadership and the dirty linen this process has unearthed. A once vibrant organization has been compromised and used by some to fight proxy wars. There is no sign that the impasse will be ending soon as we saw in San Diego this year we shall also have two Ugandan conventions one in New Orleans and the other in New York. Uganda’s politics too has not spared UNAA as the $100,000 dollar pledge by the President has been received with mixed feelings on intent and purpose.  The government should have been more interested helping broker a peace deal among UNAA’s warring factions.

My question to fellow Ugandan Diaspora members for how long are we going to sit back like folks back home as the UNAA constitution is continually violated by a few people whose constituencies don’t represent the majority views of all Ugandans in North America. It is clear to me by now that changing our constitution exacerbated current impunity and divisions in UNAA and that reverting to the 2010 that had preserved UNAA for 25 years would help preserve the institution. The wise thing to do would have been to set up a transitional administration that would help restore UNAA’s existence but the recent actions will only bury UNAA and split it for good. We shall be publishing details of the UNAA LAWSUIT brought against UNAA leaders in Massachusetts soon for you our readers to be the judges and determine how well you have been governed thus far!!

Finally, let me wish all our moms a wonderful Mother’s Day this month. We are grateful to you all for all the sacrifices through the years.

A Mother’s Love — Your arms were always open when I needed a hug. Your heart understood when I needed a friend. Your gentle eyes were stern when I needed a lesson. Your strength and love has guided me and given me wings to fly.

 Enjoy the summer holidays!
Ronnie Mayanja
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About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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