Busoga region, currently under the cultural headship of “Obwa Kyabazinga Bwa Busoga” is one of the four constitutional monarchies in present-day Uganda under the stewardship of a young charismatic king, his royal highness William Wilberforce Gabula Nadiope IV. It covers a land space of 10,318 km2 (3,983.8 square miles). It is boarded by Lake Kyoga in the north, Victoria Nile in the west, Lake Victoria in the south and River Mpologoma in the east. Busoga is endowed with one of the best fertile soils in the country, freshwater bodies, gifted with numerous tourist sites and a variety of minerals.
Busoga had a very sounding economy, particularly between 1920-1970 and it gained rapid importance due to cotton production, railway completion, the Owen Falls Dam and the serenity of its people. This attracted industrial development and Jinja became the country’s industrial hub/ town. By 1986, Jinja was home to 70% of the country’s industries and one of the most prosperous commercial towns in East Africa. Subsistence farming diminished with the population turning to economic production. This enabled us to generate more revenue and construct durable infrastructures. It should be noted that Busoga’s economy skyrocketed to the extent that Busoga government once lent money to the government of Singapore. Similarly, the education system was very strong coupled with a vibrant health sector. Due to political turmoil and insecurity in the country between 1971-1986, there was a minimal decline in the general economy of the country, Busoga inclusive.
However, since 1986, when the general of the world took over power, there has been collapse of our region. A once powerful and proud Busoga is a mere sham and fodder for ridicule. we are currently identified with a new empirical foundation of jiggers and chapati making. Unequal distribution of economic resources’ impact coupled with legacies of a nepotic economic structure has manifested grossly on us occasioned by some sort of power struggle and superiority complex amongst the native sons and daughters of Busoga. The general of the world of late shamelessly referred to Busoga as a hub of stinking poverty. This was demoralizing and clearly shows that our recovery is a bizarre dream.
Busoga is currently ranked among the poorest regions in the country. Majority of the people in Busoga can hardly afford two meals a day coupled with an increase in school dropouts, gender-based violence and child abuse. Cotton and coffee which greatly boomed our economy in the past were deliberately brought to a standstill and apparently, Busoga mainly grows sugar cane whose price is uncertain. Some regions have fully funded programs like NUSAF, KACHEP etc and line ministries but all that is a myth in Busoga. Industrial development, which was particularly known for Jinja has deliberately shifted to other regions leaving us with biting unemployment with nothing impressive to curb it. Our children have resorted to slave labour-led export business to the Arab world caused by despair at home.
The region which boasted of high education standards with once powerful education institutions like Busoga College Mwiri, Namasagali College, Busoga High School, Wairaka College, and Kiira College Butiki, among others were deliberately killed. Namasagali University was reduced to a mere Busitema University branch and up to date, we are still struggling to get a functional public university.
The quality decline in our education sector compared to other regions, moreover those which were far below us, is a dissembled subtle fiend. The health sector has decayed. The once-strong hospitals and health centres are in a sorry state. Bugiri Hospital is rotten, Kinawampere health centre in Kamuli district, which was one of the strongest health facilities and vital in the treatment of people with leprosy alongside Buluba is almost a kraal today. Jinja regional referral hospital is dilapidated with worrying services. The so-called built health centre IIIs and IVs have shoddily built structures, insufficient drugs and inadequate staff.
The Busoga railway line which bolstered trade in Busoga from Tororo through Namasagali to Jinja was deliberately killed and eventually vandalized. Similarly, Busoga has one of the worst road networks in the country. Our roads are impassible, full of potholes. For now 38 years, there is only one major upgraded road ( Musita- Majanji-Busia) from Murram to Tarmac. The other major roads such as Amber court-Kamuli-Bukungu and Iganga-Kamuli have been read in various budgets and included in NRM manifestos for the past 30 years but nothing has been done. Instead, it has been used as bait to get votes for the ruling government. Jinja City, Busoga’s capital roads are full of potholes and the town is full of dust and mud.
The impact of income inequality has gained a major impetus with the seminal contributions in the sub region. This marginalization of Busoga looks to be pretty surreptitious and our economic glory was whittled. Our hospitality, silence and calmness is taken for granted and it’s the reason they mock us as people who attain wisdom at the age of 45 years. We lack patriotic leaders and influential technocrats.
The majority of them are self-seekers, arrogant and nepotistic. They are defined by egoism, bickering, accusations and counter-accusations amongst themselves characterized by fierce boastful speeches more than necessary. It’s quite disheartening that there is no influential figure and unity to drive the Busoga agenda forward although I can attribute this to the divide-and-rule policy which looms large in the general’s leadership and administration. What startles me, however, is that there is no practical remedy.
Busoga seems helpless in laurels of denial. Our cultural institution is toothless. Though steered by a young educated and well-respected king, the general of the world has a firm grip on it like other kingdoms. Busoga’s cabinet is weak, disunited and opportunistic with the majority of the ministers based in Kampala and detached from the locals. We need to set up a team to be more about the values of an inter-generation with much enthusiasm to overturn the misfortunes we are undergoing and overcome the unimaginable stereotype obstacles. To you people of Busoga, much as the axe’s handle is made of wood, it doesn’t qualify it to be part of the forest. The forest is shrinking but the trees Keep voting for the axe. We need to open our eyes, form a critical mass and start rethinking our approach to probably vote for a change to a government that will value our worth.
The writer is a Jinja-based researcher, senior teacher and NRM mobiliser.
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