We have to fix the basics if we are to thrive as a region

When things seem to have collapsed almost beyond redemption, one of the best remedies is to get back to the basics. Those from the sports world know this quite well. Poor performance in a tournament will most likely result in the coach insisting that the players get back to the basics like working on their physical fitness and ball handling skills.

When things seem to have collapsed almost beyond redemption, one of the best remedies is to get back to the basics. Those from the sports world know this quite well. Poor performance in a tournament will most likely result in the coach insisting that the players get back to the basics like working on their physical fitness and ball handling skills.

This concept of going back to fix the basics is what comes to mind when I observe some of the things that seem to be ailing our societies here in the East African region.

 

The month of April marks a time, 23 years ago, when Rwanda sunk into a pit of destruction with neighbours turning against their neighbours in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. When the Rwanda Patriotic Front liberators brought the killings to an end, they were then faced with lifting the country from that pit.

 

A lot was and continues to be done in this regard but most of it is hinged on fixing the basics to create a foundation from which future endeavours can firmly emerge. Whether it is the cleanliness of the city that gets most visitors talking or the security, all are hinged on to what happens at the smallest community levels with Umuganda or Irondo which refer to the community cleaning and neighbourhood watch respectively.

 

When you have a trading centre hours away from Kigali that is neat and organised, then having a clean capital city is not as difficult. To have a neat city you not only think about how garbage is to be disposed, but also how it is generated and handled.

Kigali solved a lot in this regard by banning the use of plastic bags. We all know it is much easier to deal with paper bags than plastic bags. Kampala and Nairobi are yet to find the nerve to fix this instead of talking about it.

In the recent days, the security situation in parts of Uganda has been worrying. From the killings by gunmen on motorcycles to houses being broken in by thugs with sledge hammers slamming doors and heads and leaving with property and lives lost. The basics involve refocusing on the security of the ordinary person and property.

I am always troubled by the sheer number of personalities in Uganda that you meet on the roads with police escorts. To me this is proof that a lot of security resources are focused on protecting a few individuals at the top while the rest are left to their own means.

In Kenya, the big story of the week was the chaos that characterised the nominations by the parties for those seeking to contest for electoral posts in the coming August elections. In some places the election materials took forever to arrive which allowed tempers to boil while in other cases names of contestants were missing from the voting materials. Some of the aspirants stormed polling centres and beckoned their supporters to destroy voting materials in protest.

Eventually the whole exercise had to be called off in all the 21 counties by one of the contesting party’s Secretary General. What struck me is how disagreements during such situations are only solved by supporters rushing to destroy the voting materials. This says a lot about the basic conflict resolution methods at the disposal of the people. This also explains why mob justice is still a thing in some of our societies.

Of course the bigger question will be that if party primaries are this chaotic then how will national elections be held peacefully? I think the parties ought to admit their logistical and organisational challenges and work to fix them at the very basic. Instead of holding national primaries why not have three or four days to hold the same for given regions first.

The fact that the politicians are willing to spend more on T Shirts and helicopters to excite voters without bothering to fix the voting process says a lot about where our priorities are when it comes to democratic processes. Ideally these politicians ought to be selling to us their policies and beliefs not their flashy lifestyles. It is sad that politics is now viewed as the easiest route to riches instead of an opportunity to serve and uplift our people. Can we get back to the basics and fix this?

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