12 April 2011, UGANDA Kampala

New Idea for Citizenship

“The Ugandan event planned by New Idea for Citizenship (NIfC) didn’t go all well. The country is locked up in several controversies, and the Police was reluctant to grant permission even to stage a 2 km walk, let alone public gatherings to talk about issues of military spending. The timing of the GDAMS is set amidst a heated debate on the Uganda government’s decision to buy six Russian-made Su-30 MK2 fighter jets for 1.7 trillion shillings ($740 million), which translates into about 4% of Uganda’s GDP at 40 trillion shillings. The 6 jets should cost only $35 million at their estimated actual price, meaning the Ugandan government’s allotted funds could purchase at least 20 jets. Critics say part of the money being spent on the said fighter jets could be a cover-up for for something else, after the precedent set in the late 1990s: then, the government purchased junk military choppers from Russia at four times the sale price, and it was later revealed that the deal benefited military officers with ties to the regime. Now, with soaring inflation and the long drought from December 2010 to March 2011, the cost of food and other essential items has hit an all time high, making it difficult for many households to get enough food. In a related development, the price of motor fuel escalated by over 40% in the last three months making transport within the country a costly undertaking. To this end, opposition politicians and NIfC partner, Activists for Change (A4C), called on a “walk to work campaign” 11th April that police described as illegal, resulting in the arrest and prosecution of several opposition politicians. Among them were presidential candidates from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and the Democratic Party (DP) who ran against incumbent president Yoweri Museveni in the elections of February 18th 2011. They wanted to identify with the suffering masses by walking to work. Given the police crackdown on the walk, we instead held meetings in two separate events in an upcountry location.”

Check out news clips here and here from Tuesday April 12 to learn more about the issues described above.