This week the police hauled in a gang of men and women who have been robbing taxi passengers of their belongings.
We have all been warned about boarding empty taxis. This gang would travel in a taxi and unsuspecting passengers would board the taxi finding their security in the numbers. The thought that all the passengers are all crooks would not have crossed their minds.
Minutes later, relieved of the weight of their valuables they would know better.
In the last 20 or so years Kampala has been the safest capital in the region. Visitors and residents alike felt safe walking the streets at any hour of the night and day.
A spate of crimes over the last few years – mutaingwa squad, car jackers, child sacrifice and now the taxi crooks, are all conspiring to put paid to our capital’s benign reputation.
The reasons for this upsurge in crime are not hard to see and are connected to another event that happened during the week.
Vice President Gilbert Bukenya finally appeared before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer queries related to his involvement in the preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that Uganda hosted in 2007.
The PAC’s interest in the subject was picqued by the Auditor General’s report billions of shillings intended for the preparation remain unaccounted for.
Bukenya in a classic case of blaming the messenger, lashed out at the media for attempting to bring his name into disrepute and informed us that averse headlines referring to him had caused concern around the world!
That maybe as it is but official corruption in government contracts as has been highlighted by the Auditor General and the revelations that have come out of PAC have a direct connection to the growing incidents of crime in Kampala.
Uganda has managed prodigious growth figures, which have seen Uganda’s economy doubling every eight years. Unfortunately most of this growth has been concentrated in Kampala, about 70% of the country’s GDP is generated here, but even this growth is concentrated among an even fewer numbers.
Our country’s growth has been driven by the financial, construction and services industries, all sectors that mostly service the urban areas and relatively little growth has been seen in the agriculture sector, where more than two thirds of our population derive a livelihood.
And it follows by the laws of heaven and compound interest that to those who have more shall be added unto them and to those who have nothing even the little they have shall be taken away.
A liberalized economy as we have, has been shown to be the most effective mechanism for wealth creation but woeful distributor of that same wealth. In a fully liberalized economy the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
And that is where governments are supposed to come in.
By taxing the productive sectors of the economy the state then distributes this wealth by building schools, health centers and transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructure. These investments by the state one, elevate the living standards of the people and two, allow them to not only get involved in the growth but also partake of it.
And this happened in this country before. There is a generation which went to school free, had employers prostrating before them as they stepped out of the gates of Makerere University, enjoyed free medical treatment and rode on smooth roads and all this was financed with tax payers money.
So the Uganda government has the apparatus to effect this model but it is not happening. And it is not happening because monies meant for schools, drugs and roads are being robbed at historically unprecedented levels.
The net effect of this is that an ever increasing proportion of the population is being shut out of the “Ugandan dream”.
More and more people are being relegated to the wretched of the earth because their education does not allow them to compete, because they cannot get their produce to market and because they do not live to see their fiftieth birthdays.
The restless youth of Kampala’s suburbs are hitting back and it has more to do with their economic condition than the quality of their moral fiber.
Published May 2010, New Vision