AT Kampala, October 13th 2011, Ladies and Gentlemen of the media
We have declared next week starting Monday 17th 2011, a ‘Walk to Work Week.’ Activists from across the nation will once again be walking in a campaign to focus the attention of policy makers on the intensifying economic hardship caused by inflation, escalating cost of living and wastage of public resources. The campaign aims to highlight the two most pressing issues of the day: the economic crisis and corruption. The economy is in crisis, with soaring inflation, escalating unemployment, and rising fuel and food prices. It is becoming harder and harder for Ugandans to feed their children and provide for their good health and education. Meantime we are overwhelmed with scandal after scandal of unmitigated loss of public resources through government’s negligence and outright theft by public officials.
When we started protesting in April 2011, the annual inflation rate was at 14.1 per cent, it is now at 28.3 per cent. The shilling has depreciated to an all-time low and is now trading at UGX 2850 to one US dollar from UGX 2170 to the US dollar last April. Yet as you know there has been no adjustment in the salaries for workers to cater for inflation. The purchasing power for middle class Ugandans and workers has diminished drastically yet the increase in cost of essential commodities like household goods, fuel, health care and education is unrelenting. In April petrol was UGX 3,400= per liter, it now goes for UGX 3,900=. Sugar was UGX 2,800/- a kilo, now it is UGX 6,000/=; charcoal was UGX 25,000/= a sack, now it is UGX 75,000/=.
Government has responded to our appeal for austerity measures with arrogant denial of the harsh economic reality. It has chosen instead to brand those of us who speak up as ‘terrorists.’ There have been no serious policy interventions that match the seriousness of the current economic situation. The cosmetic attempts at lowering taxes on kerosene and sugar in the 2011/12 budget have had no impact on escalating food and fuel prices.
As Ugandans struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living they learn of billions of shillings lost in shoddy government contracts every day. Parliament has helped to expose serious fraud, embezzlement and bribery among senior members of the government. Taxpayer’s money is stolen and it ends up in private accounts of government officials and in their bedrooms. When teachers went on strike for increased salaries, government’s response was that there is no money, but a week later Parliament was presented with a supplementary budget of 190 billion for State House and soon thereafter, billions of shillings went missing from State House vaults!
Government continues to encroach on taxpayers resources through secretive deals like the sale of shares in Kinyara Sugar Works and oil deals whose magnitude we are yet to fully grasp. We pay special tribute to those who have worked tirelessly to expose the rot in government. Government’s attempt to whitewash corruption and wastage through selective prosecution and resignations of senior cabinet members, is ineffective and an affront to the people of this nation. The President has stated that he has had complete oversight of all oil contracts and we demand a thorough and open investigation of the President and his Cabinet in the oil-gate scandal. The Prime Minister should follow the cue of his colleagues and resign immediately. In fact the whole Cabinet should resign because we are not convinced that this government can lead the fight against corruption.
Our appeal to you, the media, is that you speak up loudly and clearly when we resume the Walk to Work campaign this month. Your voices will strengthen advocacy for the ordinary people of Uganda who are robbed in daylight as they struggle to cope with the economic crisis. We invite the public to participate in the campaign and show solidarity with the increasing number of people who walk to work every day; people who can barely afford a meal a day or health care and education for their children even as billions of shillings are being siphoned by conmen from public coffers into foreign accounts. For a long time, our patience and tolerance have been abused and mistaken for weakness. Let us take seven days to peacefully demonstrate our outrage at the gross mismanagement of our country. We urge you to park your vehicles and boda bodas every day starting Monday for a week and walk to work and to worship.
Thank you for supporting the cause for economic justice and responsive government.
Hon. Mathias Mpuuga (MP)
National Coordinator, A4C