KAMPALA, Uganda: The best thing one has to denounce in the present situation in Uganda is cutting the cost of living. With the biting poverty busy making everyone talking in tongues; others clinging onto God in both overnight and lunch hour prayers; you may think God forgotten Ugandans ages ago.
What is quite confusing is the fact that when you jump on a boda-boda (in case you can afford one), you see many walking. In fact I also used to think that those who walk are purely those who are making the pilgrimage to Namugongo Christian’s shrines. Actually, I have been on the wrong side of the story. Many of Ugandans are living on the poverty side of life which is too sad.
I have observed this for some time and in the last three days I have tried to sample many of them as well as walking with them to work myself. What I noticed at first is; seeing poverty walking! Even if its dark shadow following them, it beckons their every move… under the scotching sun and the moonlight; an astride in an alley beams with the same letters….P..O..V..E..R..T..Y…..!
The distance is quite long, the pain, the dust, the taxi touts and drivers with their unending hooliganism make one feel like for them, they do not care about the other road users. As you walk to town or work whatsoever, you pick on others and the number continues to increase as get nearer to places like Kireka, Banda, Kyambogo and Nakawa.
In a similar way, those using the railway line sides walk-through the stones and the slums of Kireka-Banda, Kinawataka, and Mbuya, stealthily end up in town. Many of them risk to the challenges of pick-pockets and the ‘kifesi thugs.’ They showed me those hotspots (not the wifi ones) which endanger them in a second especially in the evening and early morning.
There are two famous hotspots in Kireka and Kinawataka with many phone snatchers even during broad day light. The thugs also leave them to pass because of the fact that they also psychologically assess that these are poor chaps like them (but not like my size and adorable looks i.e., kalango for myself).
With the many walking like that, in my eyes, I only saw poverty running naked in the faces of everyone. We were all sweating and using all the necessary energies to get there. It is clear that each of these are trying to survive, sale something to earn a living or even send their children to school.
The only good thing (especially when you had a heavy supper or breakfast) is that you can easily keep fit and indeed in shape. Between Kireka and town, it takes one an hour but if you feel dejected at that, you can hop on the train in case you know the timetable. The worst though is walking on an empty stomach! My friends, do not think of that because you will get dehydrated and hurriedly leave to meet the Almighty Lord haphazardly.
Recently, many social media gurus argued of the case that actually January was 45 days or rather many are still in that month even though the month ended 20 days ago. It was laughable but again if you look at it in detail, you realize that it was poverty hand-in-gloves with everyone. That’s sad to take on but it’s the truth.
Hunger and poverty are conjoined twins leading to starvation of many Ugandans today. Recent reports indicate that about 18% of Ugandans stand at the whims of hunger and starvation. That percentage is much alarming and might lead to a bigger crisis no one is willing to drop into or ask how we got there.
Actually proof to this is that, yesterday I saw people in Isingiro fighting over the food given to them. That was one indicator that its now survival for the fittest for all of us in the geographically imbalanced country where, the government is simply in autopilot. That’s much disappointing than the thought of poverty and hunger combined.
For the last two agricultural seasons, there has been no harvest at all. No one has advised the farmers what to do with that. Beyond that, the poor or no-harvest has been caused by the persistent drought for all the one year and a half. The major question here is that; how come we have ended up in this disastrous point of life and the walking poverty?
Can we ignore the fact that the government has also made us get there? The policies the government is trying to implement are worse off to create this dilemma! We have no, or poor policies for agriculture and indeed the allocated budgets are always very small. Even when there is need for implementation, much of it is spent in the useless seminars and workshops. How come that even those of the wealth creation program has failed to yield anything? Is it that they are giving out seedlings in the wrong places?
One example we recently saw was in Busoga! How come that the poverty creation peoples gave out mango and orange seedlings instead of coffee and other crops based on the soil texture and profile. No one of them makes research but rather implement what they want but not what the people want!
The mango trees and orange trees have stunted for the last two years and they think they were working on solving poverty or creating poverty! Busoga and eastern Uganda in general are on the verge of hunger based on the persistent drought. If people have started fighting for the small food given to them in Isingiro; then those walking to town will have to continue and indeed tame their daily expenditures.
Any way forward or simply live within one’s means:
Just like what Charles R. Swindoll observed that, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it” is just enough for us as Ugandans to pick a leaf of ideas over the same. Many of us have glued ourselves in towns but the fact is that we can live in the basic standards of living. We have our country homes languishing in bushes but we seem to live in the 10% part of life. That’s so sad to believe. We seem never to wake up in this slumber and each day we walk in the path of poverty without trying to exploit our chances even in rural Uganda.
When you talk of cutting the cost of living in towns, we cannot see the worst predicament of spending 20,000 shillings instead of spending less than 10,000. If you have 20,000 on you why rush to buy a bunch of matooke when cassava is just 2,000 and beans at 3,000? That can make you less than 7,000 and push on to the following day with 13,000 shillings richer. We hate changing our deities but the problem with that is that you live in the bubble of poverty or surviving by accident. Many salary earners reach the 15th of every month completely broke and seeking advance on their salaries. That alone bridges poverty as one leads a life of seeking salary advance for ages yet they can change their lifestyle cutting expenses!
What’s funny though is that ‘we are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations’. Many of those who walk to town on a daily basis spend all the money they have received annoyingly. They forget tomorrow and interestingly get into the day asking what next. If such a trend doesn’t happen and we learn to save and live within our means, we will always sing, “Tusaba gavumenti etuyambe”. Lastly, buy what need not exactly what your heart wants. In the future you will accumulate that wealth you need.