Monday, February 23, 2015

Andrew M. Mwenda — What can YOU do for YOUR country?

Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan libertarian  journalist and founder of The Independent, argues in his latest piece that "we should stop complaining about what our country has failed to do and ask what we can do".

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Andrew Mwenda is a Ugandan journalist, founder and owner of The Independent, a current affairs newsmagazine. He was previously the political editor of The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan daily newspaper and was the presenter of Andrew Mwenda Live on the KFM Radio in Kampala, Uganda's capital.

It is very hard to get things done, even at the smallest level. But it is very easy to sit and complain about things. Reading social media, one gets the sense that we have increasingly become a complaining nation, not a doing nation. Everywhere complaints abound of our failing healthcare and education system, of corruption and abuse of office. But one hardly reads a story of what those complaining are doing to change the situation. Are we waiting for intervention from God?

Two caveats: First, complaining is okay if you are doing something about the problem. As Kwame Nkrumah said, “organise, don’t agonise”. Second, accusing our elites of turning Uganda into a complaining nation may be an unfair indictment of our people since social media may not represent the majority of our citizens. It is possible that those who keep complaining on social media are idle (which is another way of saying they are doing nothing). So they have a lot of time at their hands to complain. By implication this means that people who are busy doing things don’t have time to quarrel, heckle, complain, and insult others on social media.

So it was with great inspiration that I read an article in Daily Monitor of January 28, 2015 by Silver Mwesigwa, the speaker of Isingiro district council. Mwesigwa, a holder of a masters’ degree was working with an international NGO and earning good money. He is widely travelled across Africa and the world. But each time he went to his home village, he was saddened at how bad public services were. In 2011 the district had produced only two students in First Grade; most pupils were failing PLE, if they had not dropped out of school. The local health center had little or no drugs while medical personnel were reporting for work late, if at all. There was no clean water.

Like most Ugandans, Mwesigwa could have taken to social and other media to complain about the sorry state of his home district. He would have denounced President Yoweri Museveni and his NRM for their corruption and incompetence. And at one point he did. But none of this would have solved the problems of his community. So he asked himself: what can I do about it? He decided to enter politics and use it as a vehicle for progress. He joined FDC and hit the villages to mobilise people for change.

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