Letter to the President
By Dr. Richard Kalungi Mr. President, I greet you.
I wish you to start by congratulating you and your team upon crafting a great Campaign slogan – ‘Securing Your Future’ and even as I struggle to fathom whose future is being talked about here, I will give it up to you!
There is no single doubt in my mind that you surely know 1 or many things about securing a future, both as a Ssabalwanyi who fought your way to power and now enjoys a daily state house budget of 500 M UGX, but also as a 77-year-old (at least from available records) who has enjoyed over 50 years of a secured future for self, and loved ones.
Back to me, Mr. President, I am 31! 46 years, let us say 50 years your junior! I am a trained medical doctor, 6 years out of medical school now, but still struggling to secure my present – the future, not yet. I will tell you about it in a moment! I am a son to semi-illiterate parents who are hugely proud to have me as their son, first medical doctor in the family, both nuclear and extended.
They have a lot of hope in me, not because they did all they could, went out of their way to take me to school, but because it has always been imagined that becoming a medical doctor is the thing.
I may not be the best of writers but I thought I attempt to say a couple of words to you, words close to my heart. My views may sound off because I am a villager- an inexperienced poor villager but please lend me your ears. I hope that we could discuss the country Uganda, away from Museveni, NRM, DP and the like.
When you say that the opposition are weak and not credible, it only shows that 35 years down the road, you have not inspired and mentored anyone but yourself to lead Uganda. That then defeats the prosperity you have always preached to us.
You have an Equal Opportunities Commission, but with nothing like equal opportunities in the country. You have a Human Rights Commission but with total disregard of human rights in the country. You have a Justice “system” but with lots of injustices and health “system” that equally needs to be treated.
And if I start talking about graft and theft in this country, Mr. President, I may end up boring you with over 10 pages of what you already know.
Mr. President, after 35 years in power, what will be your legacy? Will it be crack down on your opposition, kidnaps and arrests, extrajudicial killings and unexplained deaths, internet and mobile money blockage and denying livelihoods for many, high electricity tariffs and poor electricity penetration in a country that produces electricity, unemployment? when is it about Uganda? When will it ever be about Uganda? Should we blame the Constitution that makes a very powerful President?
You have largely been praised for fighting for peace and freedom. You pride yourself in bringing political stability to this nation but Mr. President, 35 years later, are we really at peace? And as intimidation and injustices become norm, should we say it is negative peace? That we must keep in fear and uncertainty because we have an election coming up?
That political opponents and/or their civilian supporters shall be arrested and arraigned in military courts? That our parents shall caution us never to involve ourselves in politics because it is apparently not safe? We are warned never to say a word and watch which political positions we seek to occupy, because it may annoy some people. Mr. President, is this the future?
We have seen government monies – tax payers’ monies, being paid out to political players, public vehicles being used for political activities, police officers and officials from the army as well as the Electoral Commission making regrettable and painful statements – statements that paint doom and anarchy. President, this is worrying but again not sustainable.
We have been told that closing off an anus does not stop a diarrhea, and equally covering up a massive hemorrhage with a simple piece of cloth, does not stop the bleeding.
Like earlier said, I am proudly and passionately a medical doctor who lives in Uganda. I have since chosen a path in health awareness and advocacy, both out of conviction and need.
I did not get a job as a doctor until 6 months after my training, and did not get happiness even while at the job – the pain of a broken health system, and being paid peanuts for working so hard and spending long nights awake. This you know so well, Mr. President as your government pays a qualified nurse less than $100 and a doctor, about 3 times that.
We are at that point where having a job as medical doctor is equally not obvious either, and those that opt to open small clinics die out almost immediately because of lack of capital. Ironically, Uganda has one of the worst doctor: patient ratios in the world (1: 25,000) but we still can’t avail a system to recruit and support medical doctors. The situation is not very different for our non-medical colleagues – could be worse.
It is now normal that graduates fly out to the middle east to do odd jobs under hard conditions. It is now easier for a graduate to live off chapatti making, betting and boda boda cycling than find a proper job.
We are a boda boda economy where it pays much more to ride passengers than perform a lifesaving surgery on a bleeding pregnant mother or start out as a lawyer at some law firm.That is Uganda, Mr. President. That is the future that you wish to secure.
Mr. President, when I see you giving crime preventers 14 billion and several billions to many other groups, when so called Front-line health workers haven’t received their weekly 80,000 shs UGX (less than $10) for the past 6 months, I wonder what the future looks like.Intern medical doctors and Senior House Officers (graduate medical doctors in training) who are the back bone of this country’s public health system earn less than $500 per month and they have to keep crying out before they receive it. These same workers do not receive personal protective equipment and other supplies as they should. Mr. President, is this the future?
That a trained medical doctor can’t afford decent accommodation or take their child to a good school but some individual will paid 1 billion to torment the opposition and sing Mzee Pakalast, Mzee Abeewo. Mr. President, when will it ever be about Uganda? Why set up Ugandans against each other? What exactly is the future? When shall we finally invest in the country and the people of Uganda? When does our money start helping Ugandans? Many people out there looking for startup capital of 50,000 UGX and can’t find it, or are passionate about agriculture but won’t access land.
Mr. President, it looks like not even the pandemic could open your eyes to the ugly reality of a broken health system. With billions of money passed to manage COVID-19 in this country, where are the ‘COVID-19’ hospitals constructed? Where are the facilities set up? Your own men and women (of the NRM) has since died in Mulago, while fighting for dear life.
This National Referral Hospital has eight (8) functional beds in the Intensive Care Unit. 8 for all of us 40 million Ugandans. I will not go through the pain of accessing ambulances, dialysis services, CT scans, just to mention but a few, services that are meant to be essential but are practically non-existent. It is therefore not surprising that even Honorable Members of Parliament have died on the floor and in the corridors.
I wish you good luck in the fourth coming elections, where you will be participating for the sixth (6th) time. And as I write that, I equally wish that I was instead wishing you a beautiful retirement and a great time with your family and friends as you watch over the Uganda which you fought so strongly for and mentor leaders for the future.
*Dr. Richard Kalungi*@rkkkalungi