Tempers Flare at Meet on Hunger in Kampala

1583 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The dialogue, dubbed State of the Nation STON, was organized by Advocates Coalition on Development and Environment ACODE to discuss the severe food shortages in the country affecting an estimated 13 million people.

Tempers flared at a public dialogue on famine held in Kampala Friday.
The dialogue, dubbed State of the Nation (STON), was organized by Advocates Coalition on Development and Environment (ACODE) to discuss the severe food shortages in the country affecting an estimated 13 million people.
The panelists included, among others, state minister for disaster preparedness Musa Ecweru, Dr. Okasai Opolot, the Director of Crop Sciences who represented the agriculture minister, Eng. Achong who represented the minister of water and Maxwell Kabi, the Coordinator Forest Utilisation at National Planning Authority.
It all started well with Ecweru and fellow panelists lining out the state of affairs and what they intend to do about them.
Dr. Opolot, in particular explained how in the short run they will distribute fast maturing seeds and plantings in order to avert the food shortage in about three months' time.
While discussing the presentations, former head of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Dr. Henry Aryamanya Mugisha, challenged the policy makers and technocrats to walk-the-talk, adding that there should be sanctions on those who do not deliver.
Dr. Mugisha said it is strange that starvation keeps recurring yet there are policies in place. He said the various policies need to be implemented.
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The panelists went on and on for four hours as the participants listened patiently but with many itching in their seats.
As soon as the opportunity was given to contribute to the debate, Agnes Kirabo, the Executive Director of Food Rights Alliance, wondered why the government is not living to its constitutional commitment to make the country food secure.
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Kirabo warned that food insecurity is a security matter and proposed that the huge unclassified defence and security budget be used to boost agricultural production. She said in the coming budget government has unfortunately not factored in how to deal with food insecurity.
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Kirabo also wondered why government keeps building new dams for water storage instead of de-silting the existing ones, adding that it is as if there are no water engineers in the country.
Next was former ethics minister Miria Matembe who went a notch higher wondering why the government officials were lining out their intentions and wishes instead of concrete actions they have taken.
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Not done yet, Matembe wondered why the government is saying the situation is so bad with no immediate actions.
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The Resident District Commissioner for Butambala, Fred Bamwine, said the ineptness of policy makers and technocrats is so obvious that it could lead to regime change, a situation he dreads and does not want to happen.
Bamwine defended the idea of cracking the whip on technocrats who do not deliver goods and services to the people.
Abim RDC, Mpimbaza Hashaka, said while the centre has good technocrats, the grassroots have serious governance issues which need to be sorted out.
Speaker after speaker wondered what the government and its technocrats are up to, citing how food is being ferried from Uganda to South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania while ordinary Ugandans are suffering.
Some wondered why there is a ministry for disaster preparedness as others questioned the role of Minister Ecweru in dealing with famine in his own backyard of Teso.
In his response, Ecweru defended the government arguing that it will continue to perform in the interests of the citizens.
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Eng. Achong wondered why Matembe, who referred to him as "that gentleman from water" questioned his integrity in public instead of privately talking to him since they even go to the same church and at times sit on the same pew.
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Dr. Arthur Bainomugisha, the Executive Director of ACODE, said government must ensure the good policies on agriculture and other issues are implemented.


About the author

David Rupiny
In his own words, David Rupiny says, "I am literally a self-trained journalist with over 12 years of experience. Add the formative, student days then I can trace my journalism roots to 1988 when as a fresher in Ordinary Level I used to report for The Giraffe News at St Aloysius College Nyapea in northern Uganda.

In addition to URN for which I have worked for five years now, I have had stints at Radio Paidha, Radio Pacis, Nile FM and KFM. I have also contributed stories for The Crusader, The New Vision and The Monitor. I have also been a contributor for international news organisations like the BBC and Institute for War and Peace Reporting. I am also a local stringer for Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

I am also a media entrepreneur. I founded The West Niler newspaper and now runs Rainbow Media Corporation (Rainbow Radio 88.2 FM in Nebbi). My areas of interest are conflict and peacebuilding, business, climate change, health and children and young people, among others."