Wednesday July 27th 2011, Kampala, UGANDA
Early last month we took a decision to pause our activities and give government a chance to respond to the people’s cry for help in a distressful economic environment. We hoped that government would respond to some of our demands through the budget for the new financial year even if the downward economic spiral could not be resolved in one budget speech. Nonetheless we decided to give government a chance to demonstrate its concern for ordinary Ugandans.
We are now in the last week of July, the budget was read but the band aid solutions to address escalating cost of food and fuel were not enough to seal the gaping wound in the economy. A cut in taxes on sugar and kerosene was not enough to lower food prices because the price of diesel to transports food and essential commodities to the market has continued to rise. The inflation rate hit 16% in July 2011, as the shilling depreciated very fast against the dollar reaching UGX 2700 to USD$ 1 at one low point. The impact has been devastating on individuals and small businesses. More families have stopped buying sugar and many more are getting by on only one meal a day. Small businesses are closing at an alarming rate because their capital was eroded by the skyrocketing inflation rate and depreciating shilling.
A4C may have stepped aside to give government a chance to respond to the economic crisis, but we had already set in motion a process of citizen engagement and defiance that spread to different groups. Soon after phase one of our ‘Walk to Work’ campaign, different civic organizations took nonviolent, defiant actions against government to defend their interests or the wider interests of society. Women in civil society organized a peaceful demonstration over the rising cost of living and against wanton state brutality. Uganda Law Society organized a demonstration and petitioned the Chief Justice over state brutality against peaceful protestors and innocent citizens. Free Uganda Now organized actions like the rally in Nsambya to promote free and fair elections but its leaders were blocked and flashed back into Uganda House with powerful water hoses.
KACITA, a traders association; turned Kampala into a ghost city when they defiantly implemented a two-days shut down of their shops to protest the rising cost of doing business. They were joined by importers and exporters who demanded that government stops the downward spiral of the shilling against real currency. Shortly thereafter, taxi drivers and conductors under their umbrella organization defied government and UTODA to stage a stay at home strike that made walking to work the only option for many people. Teachers have become more determined to get a pay raise to the point of rejecting government’s half-hearted responses to their demands.
We watched these events with pride and excitement, observing that Ugandans are becoming more assertive and holding their rulers accountable. Government has been on the defensive for the last three and a half months and they have failed to come up with plausible excuses or credible interventions to avert further economic crises. The situation is about to become worse as international relief agencies warn of drought.
We have used the interlude to get better organized and plan new activities for civic engagement and defiance of bad governance. The threat of detention without trial is looming over our heads but we shall not let that threat detract us from the suffering of our people. We intend to carry on with our campaigns regardless of what new punishments the government plans. We are well aware that even as politicians debate this proposed travesty of our God given rights, some Ugandans will die today for lack of a meal or medicine. We are putting that ordinary Ugandan’s need for nourishment and health ahead of our own need for security and freedom. To that end we have planned a series of new activities to start next month.
But first we will be honoring those innocent people who lost their lives during the campaign. We will launch the national campaign in Masaka on August 5th 2011, to mourn Baby Juliana who became a symbol of state brutality against innocent civilians. We shall hold an open Mass in Nyendo Town and we invite you all to join us in remembering those who were slain by our security forces when we came out in peace to campaign for the needs of the ordinary person.
Let’s light a candle and remember:
Dan “Musa” Wasaga, Charles Odur, Adoni Mugisu, Baby Juliana “Gift” Nalwanga, Ssemugga Kanabi, Sam Mufumbiro, Frank Kizito, Wilber Mugalazi, Augustine Guwatudde, James Mukiibi and other unknown, innocent Ugandans who died at the hands of the State.
For God and my Country!
Hon. Mathias Mpuuga (MP)
National Coordinator, A4C