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Ugandan MPs self-indulgence not new

Ugandan MPs self-indulgence not new

Uganda, still in the grip of a second and more dangerous wave of the new coronavirus pandemic, is like a group of malnourished wanderers in the desert. They lie down to rest their exhausted bodies. Their breaths, shallow and barely enough to sustain life, do not register sounds. Their mouths, dry and sore, have not encountered food or water in days. Their eyelids, heavy and tired, can hardly keep the flies at bay. 


Death is upon them, but they remain hopeful. A watering hole may be just beyond the sand dune. The cactus tree in the distance may be the edge of a farm in harvest. That shiny line in the distance may be a life-giving river. The mirage triggers a faint smile. Imagination sustains the heartbeat. Hope is all that’s left.  


A kettle of vultures, 529 of them, spy them. They circle overhead, their songs at once terrifying and deceptive. There is fearful hope that the vultures will take pity on them. Surely, even the vultures have a conscience, don’t they? The wanderers watch. They wait. Helpless. Hopeful. 


Some vultures land a short distance away from the people. These vultures are in committee. Those that remain in the sky prepare for the kill. They are well practiced. Their descent has the precision of advanced spacecrafts. Their beaks are sharpened by practice. They are oblivious to the wanderers’ desperate need to live. Yes, to live just like them. Just like other creatures. 


Soon they begin their wake, feeding on the wanderers without shame or apology. Such sentiments belong to their victims’ species, a luxury from which they are spared by their rules of engagement. 


Some of the humans utter feeble protests. Others summon ebbing energy to mount faint cries that even they cannot hear. The vultures pick at their victims. Death is agonizing for most, only swift for a very lucky few. Within hours, all that remains is a grizzly site, with carcasses strewn in the sand, their skeletons the only clue that their owners once lived in a distant land unknown. 


The vultures are at peace. Their bulging crops announce a most satisfying meal. Their slow movements signal sleepy satisfaction. The pain of their victims’ families is a language foreign to them.


The Ugandan citizen wanders in his land, at the mercy of his captors, people in power, many of them vultures with no qualms about feeding off weakened fellow citizens. The latest act captures the country’s emotions, shocking the victims as though it is unexpected. 


I speak of the land’s members of parliament, 529 of them, the last time I checked, who have reportedly received handsome gifts of Sh. 200 million ($56,000) each, to buy themselves cars. A quick calculation reveals the total to be Sh.105.8 billion or about $30 million, an obscene amount even by Uganda’s traditional standards of greed.


Speaking of greed, a Ugandan friend, currently visiting Toronto, took issue with my declaration of the parliamentarians’ latest feeding frenzy as greed. “This is not greed my brother,” he told me. “Go back and revise your English. It may be something like satanic heartlessness.”


My friend got me thinking a bit more about this. The Devil is at work in the land. No surprise, of course. We read in Job 2:1-2 – “On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”


 The Devil seems to have deprived the country’s rulers of all empathy and care for their neighbours and relatives. The desperately inadequate health care services, including lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for doctors and nurses, do not register sympathy from the peoples’ representatives. It is a disconnect that would be shocking if it was new behaviour.


This self-indulgence is not new. I still recall with great clarity the way so-called returnees from exile in 1979 awarded themselves public money simply because they had returned to their war-ravaged homeland. Uganda has since been robbed by a succession of people who have seen political power as a ticket to feed their insatiable appetite for luxury and trinkets.  Every parliament since 1996 has displayed self-indulgence that makes the vultures in the desert appear kind and considerate to their victims. They seem to get bolder and greedier every five years.


The protests on social media and other forums will soon fade. The parliamentarians will get their new wheels – all imported of course. Their constituents will hold thanksgiving services to honour God for having looked upon their representatives with great favour.  The dance of the victor and the vanquished. The Stockholm Syndrome on full display.


The rot is deep. The beneficiaries of the loot sleep soundly because their victims will do nothing about their shameless exploitation by their putative representatives and rulers. The victims look to their exploiters for crumbs, not for their rights of citizenship. Why, in 2026 they will troop to the polling stations to vote for the very people whose satanic greed is directly linked to the inexcusable lack of essential health care and other social services.


Uganda needs redemption through spiritual revival, such as that which swept through East Africa eight decades ago. Short of that, our cries in the news and social media will make no dent in the armor of those whose agenda is to leave the carcass stripped of all meat and tendons. 


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