KAMPALA- As President Museveni this afternoon ascends the rostrum at the Kampala Serena International Conference Centre to deliver a State of the Nation address, one can envision a pile of pressing issues in his in-tray and another partly cleared one.
It is our country’s state: unresolved intractable political and economic problems with a sprinkling of gains by the government over the past year alongside a mix of successes and hurdles regionally and internationally.
After the Supreme Court validated his win, President Museveni began his fifth elective term with gusto, baptising it as “kisanja hakuna muchezo”. In other words, a new mandate in which bureaucrats playing games would not be tolerated.
As he has done in his past report cards on the state of Uganda, Mr Museveni declared war on graft, the Achilles heels of the government he has led for 31 years.
Today, he can point to the arrest and on-going prosecution of State Labour minister Herbert Kabafunzaki and two senior Finance ministry officials on charges of soliciting bribes from foreign investors, as evidence that he is serious about stamping out corruption.
The President considers attracting and retaining foreign investors, his pet subject, as a panacea to the country’s worsening unemployment problem and wobbly economic journey.
The International Monetary Fund last month lowered Uganda’s economic growth for the ending fiscal year to between 3.5 to 4 per cent, down from 5 per cent.
Massive crop failures due to prolonged drought have resulted in widespread famine, increased food prices and inflation.
And the government’s intervention to help food-distressed families with relief food, while blocking supplies by the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change party, has courted controversy and whining in the countryside.
This afternoon, observers will scrutinise the President for his body language, what says and, importantly, what he omits.
Many things have changed a year since he issued the 18-point directive to help his cabinet to lift Uganda to a middle-income country by 2020.
The construction of Karuma and Isimba hydro-dams with Chinese funding are on course as flagship infrastructure projects to add some 783 megawatts of electricity on the national grid to the expected relief of manufacturers.
However, the planned Standard Gauge Railway project has remained wet in the wings.
Kenya, a cooperating country under the regional Northern Corridor Infrastructure project, launched its modern version of the train transport last week to the discomfiture of Ugandan leaders.
This is not Mr Museveni’s only albatross at home. Proposed dialogue with his political rival, Dr Kizza Besigye, under planned Swedish mediation is moving slower than expected.
A bloody November 2016 onslaught on the palace of Rwenzururu king Charles Wesley Mumbere, the subsequent torture of royal guards taken into custody as well as the crippling brutality visited by security forces on suspected killers of the former police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi, have sullied the reputation of the government at home and abroad.
A chorus of condemnation by rights groups and Parliament prompted the President to direct security agencies to use “scientific methods” to find information, and not torture to extract confessions from suspects for self-fulfilment.
The bold killing of civilians by attackers who issue prior warnings to victims, increased burglaries and theft of vehicles in urban neighbourhoods and the continuing targeted elimination of Muslim leaders is eroding citizens’ confidence in Museveni ability to protect them as they sleep. So, security of Ugandans does not appear guaranteed and the President acknowledged in March that criminal elements have infiltrated security agencies, particularly police responsible for protecting life and property.
This means the President, surrounded by cheering ministers, should look up in the mirror and question whether or not he is losing the grip on the country’s security.
Similar problems remain on his laps in the context of the unresolved Burundi political impasse, for which he is the official regional mediator, and continuing strife in South Sudan that has pushed nearly 1 million refugees into Uganda.
A silver lining lights the edges of that dark cloud. Uganda is gearing up to host a solidarity conference on refugees which will provide an international stage for the country to project both its altruism and diplomatic clout.
Paying companies Give $58m (Shs205b) to the Ugandan companies that supplied the Government of South Sudan with goods.
As of March, the government had paid only $10m (Shs35 billion).
Bill to protect consumers Draft a bill to protect consumers from unethical practices by some moneylenders and commercial banks.
Parliament enacted the Moneylenders Act, 2015.
Seedlings. Give two million of Uganda’s 7.3 million households coffee, orange, mango, pineapple and tea seedlings to cultivate.
To use the words of one of the Auditor General’s reports, there are doubtful deliveries of exact quantities.
Sugar Bill. Bill, 2016.
The Sugar Bill, 2016 is before the Cabinet.
Refinery. Build a gold refinery.
The African Gold Refinery has been established in Entebbe.
Fishing Act: Amend Anti-illegal Fishing Act to provide for a jail term of five years for anyone involved in illegal fishing, transporting young fish, buying or selling them.
Not yet amended.
Electric car. Fund the electric car (Kiira), the bus (Kayoola), the muhoko and ekiboombo products.