This week a former rebel who deserted the ranks of the rebel Allied Democratic Forces’s in the Democratic Republic of Congo revealed that revealed that the force is alive and kicking and recruiting systematically all over the country and even in Kampala.
The reaction to these revelations have been mixed.
The cynics have dismissed it as a ploy by government, security agents to beef up security budgets. Others see it as a vindication of their analysis that this is a wildly unpopular government. And yet others see it as proof that government has so frustrated the rebels that they need to resort to deception and operate outside the country to retain their relevance.
And we probably agree or disagree with them to varying degrees.
The history of our part of the world means that armed insurrection may always hold an unhealthy fascination for certain fringe elements. So the challenge for us is to deny these types recruitment grounds among the youth.
This is not rocket science. If the youth are allowed to be idle, denied of hope and basically allowed to their own devices it is more likely that their energies will be channeled into unproductive endeavour.
Uganda’s economy has been growing at an admirable clip for the last two decades. But unemployment levels seem to be rising even if official statistics show there has been a dramatic reduction in the proportion of the population leaving in abject poverty – on less than a dollar a day.
The contradiction is easily resolved when you understand what has been driving this growth , mainly construction, services and some industry. Agriculture which provides a livelihood from two in every three Ugandans is not growing to reflect this disproportionate importance in the livelihoods of Ugandans.
The truth is if the world thinks the Ugandan economy has been growing at a fast pace it can grow even faster if agricultural growth can be triggered.
But beyond the anemic growth of the agricultural sector is the near failure of government service delivery.
Education is the great social equalizer. The better educated you are the better income you can attract. While health increases worker productivity by reducing days absent from work and generally ensuring workers are in a good state to work.
Many of our leaders today would not have climbed the social ladder were it not for a better than average education and health system during their formative years.
The two main reasons for government failure are clear; Corruption, which is concentrating public resources in a few hands. A disproportionate share of government spending going to public administration rather than to infrastructure or marketing Uganda abroad.
The detrimental effect of corruption is self-explanatory but the even more insidious role of misplaced budgetary allocations is not as well understood.
President Yoweri Museveni used to argue, but not lately, that he would rather incorporate opposition leaders in government as it was cheaper than having to fight them as rebels. This logic seems to have extended to general public administration with an unwieldly parliament, more than twice the number of districts from 30 years ago and a battery of ministries some of whose existence as standalone entities is dubious.
Public administration is critical but is the most likely area where government spending can balloon out of proportion.
Every shilling spent on public administration, which is mainly spent consumption, is a shilling denied to education, health, agriculture, roads, railways or electricity generation, which are investments in the companies ability to produce.
Wealth and income disparities will not be solved by lining up the masses and dishing out money but by investing in the countries productive sectors so that the ease of doing business in this country is improved creating investing opportunities and jobs for more and more people.
The youth gainfully employed in making a living and who can see a bright future ahead are less likely to be recruited or conscripted into the rebel ranks.
But this government should know that, given its history as a rebel movement.