Sunday, April 19, 2009

March's national political gaffe

The Ugandan state minister for planning Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu was recently quoted in the Ugandan media (read The New Vision) that the high population growth rate in Uganda was due to the electricity shortage, which compels to go to bed early.

I recall his statement on that Monday morning at the Colline Hotel in Mukono and how it threw the participants into rancorous laughter. Funny? Not to me. To others? Maybe. Especially those Ugandans who have the priviledge of accessing electricity. You see in Uganda, only nine percent of the country is lit by hydroelectricity from the Jinja dam. The people who filled the conference room that day were mainly civil servants who can afford to pay the monthly electricity bills.

To the other Ugandans who cannot afford, or who live in darkness at night, I thought the minister's statements quite insulting , especially those who have small families and live in the countryside.

If the minister had asked himself the co-relation between polygamy and electricity in Uganda, and why the Domestic Relations Bill has still failed to be passed in the Parliament. I for one, know a number of wealthy Ugandan men who have substantially contributed to the country's population, yet they have 24hour access to electricity.

Then, if the government programme for rural electrification ever attains its target of lighting 10percent of the country, will the population growth ever drop? Maybe we Ugandans are inherently sexual beings.

The minister seems to assume that with access to electricity, Ugandans will work in double shift and the country will develop. Is that right? No, presumptuous. How come those in Kampala City who have access to power do not work any harder?

Maybe it could mean that there will be more night clubs, video shacks to enable Ugandan fans of European Soccer to watch the Premiership, FA Cups, the French League, and the Spanish La liga. Because of the time difference between Africa and Europe, most of these matches are watched at night. Could that be the Ugandan version of night shift?

Already in some rural areas in the country that have benefited under the rural electrification programme, the power to households has been disconnected for failure to pay the electricity bills. This makes me wonder whether electricity is what Ugandan households need.

Is it not empowering Ugandans with income generating projects to enable them meet the monthly bills? This is why a number of enterprising youth have gone ahead to buy low kv generators to operate saloon business and video halls in the countryside. A saloon operating bloke will earn a shilling and use the money to woo the village belles and have a string of girls friends, with promises to trim their hair for free in exchange for affection. The result of this is pre-marital pregnancies. And is this related to lack of electricity?

Currently Uganda has an estimated population of 30 million people with a growth rate of 3.4 percent and measures 236,040 sq km. The UK has a population of 61million with a growth rate of 0.6 percent per year. At 244,820 sq km, the UK is slightly larger than Uganda.

Maybe it is was not for UK's high abortion rates, the UK would be having a population larger than 61million. So, would Kamuntu argue that UK has a power shortages or the night working shifts compel the English folks to abstain? Of course his statements were media fodder, but Kamuntu should not lift up his collar.

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