Uganda, the ostrich republic where heads are buried in the sand

Moses Odokonyero_closeup pix

An ostrich is a gigantic bird with great legs. So just imagine how ridiculous it would look with its powerful legs bent, its tiny head buried in the sand and its massive backside jutting in the air.

To ‘‘bury’’ one’s ‘‘head in the sand’’ is a popular idiom dedicated to this queer ostrich  behavior in which, it is said,   the massive bird sinks it’s tiny head in the ground in the mistaken belief that its entire body is hidden.

Uganda is in many respects an ostrich republic. The managers of our public affairs like to bury their heads in the sand in the mistaken belief that an unpleasant situation will simply go way.

The most recent case to illustrate this point is the threat to suspend nurses from Abim hospital for stating a fact about the woeful state of the dilapidated facility. For their honesty, and for taking presidential candidate Dr Kiiza Besigye around the facility, Abim Chief Administrative Officer Moses Kabila threatened to sack the nurses for revealing ‘‘unauthorised information’’(Daily Monitor, November 27).

Mr Nandhala was likely acting ostrich to cover his own back for fear of a sack, ‘‘katebe’’ or being transferred to a place worse than Abim. The threat to sack the nurses was therefore not meant for the nurses but Nandhala’s bosses to prove to them that he (Nandhala) was furious. The reversal of his decision by Dr Asuman Lukwago, permanent secretary ministry of health is the cover Nandhala needed.

For years president Museveni openly expressed his dislike for civil servants and the police.  Then he ‘‘sorted out’’ out the police by stuffing it with his cadres and rewarding the force with  a fat budget, but civil servants still remain a ‘‘problem.’’ Indeed about two weeks ago, only days before the Abim incident, Kasule Lumumba, the NRM Secretary General proved that she had caught her boss’ bug when she accused civil servants of being liars (The Observer, December 8). ‘‘As a government official, I must say we are disappointed in our civil servants,’’ said Lumumba. A day before, on December 7, the Observer had another story ‘‘Civil Servants Ordered to ordered to defend Museveni, NRM.’’

The civil servant in Uganda is besieged by the NRM and lives in fear of what I call the ‘‘police effect’’ –were with the stroke of a pen or even word of mouth, officers are swung about in endless transfers that have ceased to make sense to the logical eye.

Even if the Abim nurses had not said a single word during Besigye’s visit, it would have been impossible for Besigye, a trained doctor to miss the glaring inadequacies in the health facility. Missing it would amount to failing to see a vacant plot in a slum.

Health facilities have become a no-go-zone for Besigye and Amama Mbabazi since the former’s Abim visit. NRM handlers say the duo are intent on misrepresenting the state of affairs of Uganda’s hospitals. Even if it were so, deploying police at hospital gates is like burying one’s head in the sand. It does not take away the reality that Uganda’s health sector is limping and in need of urgent improvement. Mbabazi and Besigye are running for office to provide alternative leadership in the management of our public affairs. They can do so by showing Ugandans what the NRM has failed to do and how they intend to address the problem. The NRM should concentrate on countering Besigye and Mbabazi with the good it has done without resorting to using the police to bury its head in the sand because anyone with eyes can see the backside jutting in the air.

Mr Moses Odokonyero has interest in media development, communications & public affairs