By Ian Ortega
The year is 4000 AD, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been dead for over 1500 years. Kizza Besigye too has been dead for almost the same time. However, like all great leaders, these two leaders only died in their physical structure, but their philosophies have lived on, having taken on the body of beliefs, and doctrines. Every January 26th, the followers of Museveni gather at the Holy Grounds of Luwero to celebrate the victory of their god; they are also expected to go on a pilgrimage to Kyankwanzi once in a lifetime.
On the other hand, we have the believers of Besigyeism. Their religion is in complete ‘contradiction’ to that of Musevenism. In fact, the two sects can’t see eye to eye. On the surface, the two are reflections of one another with just a difference in the names of their gods. The followers of Besigyeism are expected to celebrate the day their god was first imprisoned, they are expected to sacrifice all they have in life and to never get stained by associating with the Musevenists. It is Haram for a Besigyeist to be seen talking to a Musevenist. This alone can cause ostracization from the group.
Pause a moment, the year is not 4000 AD. The year is 2017 and for the many neutrals, Uganda’s left and right has been set. We have the rise of two religions, Musevenism and Besigyeism. For over 15 years, these two religions have carefully, directly and indirectly crafted their paths, philosophies, beliefs and doctrines much to the extent that their own leaders, have become prisoners of these systems. Museveni has become a prisoner of Musevenism, most of his faults can be attributed to a system he created, only for it to become larger than him. Besigye on the other hand has his hands tied by Besigyeism, even though he may be unaware. Behind these two leaders are their millions of followers; each confessing to these beliefs, making those proclamations daily, as humble religious servants of their gods. We have the far right (Besigyeism), not open to dialogue, viewing criticism as treason and longing to right things through revolution. We also have the far left (Musevenism), arguing for things to stay as they are, chanting about the great gains of the revolution and somehow open to criticism.
The battle lines seem to have been drawn. It is now the fight of ‘good’ versus right or evil. It is the ‘devil’ versus the ‘Lord.’ What wonderful times to be alive to witness the birth and rise of two Ugandan religions-Besigyeism and Musevenism! Yet time and again in history, isms have always come with faults. There is always danger in the excesses. No wonder Aristotle always argued for the golden mean, for in there, virtue found peace and comfort. I write this as a warning signal of what will befall our country when it succumbs to the excesses of revolt, mine, is a revolt against the excesses of revolt, whether it be on the far right (Besigyeism) or far left (Musevenism).
For a long time, I have felt like a prisoner considering that most of my friends have always subconsciously subscribed to these two religions. Whenever I put out a single criticism of Besigye or praise of Museveni in the midst of FDC apologists, I will be followed with a mammoth of insults, I will be viewed as the worst of sinners, a man to blind to evil, siding with the devil in the fight for good. On the other hand, when I am with the Musevenists, I am expected not to genuflect, I have to parrot the line of the day. I am expected to cite the awesome economic growth figures even when growth has only been concentrated in the hands of a few. The difference however is that the Musevenism group is a little more accommodating, even though they may view my criticisms as simply signs of frustrations of a man who’s far off from the cake at dinner. They argue that it’s because I am not eating, that’s why my mouth is talking. How I wish they were right on this!
It is becoming a very lonely uncomfortable place as a neutral in this country called Uganda. Both religions carry the same tag; “you are either with us or against us.” To them, there is no mid-ground. But how shall they find virtue, when they each, have closed their houses to criticism, both internal and external?
Scott H Young, a young blogger notes; “’Isms’ develop as a way to separate people into distinct tribes. The downside is that tribal logic isn’t rational. Instead of trying to decide which belief system is true or most pragmatic, people defend their tribe at all costs. The damage of ‘isms’ is obvious in politics. Instead of rationally trying to decide on the best way to govern, most effort is spent on partisan battles.”
But as with all isms, they usually end in self-destruction. In evolutionary psychology, we always speak of ‘group think.’ Group Think was coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972). It occurs when “a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.”
On one hand, the god Museveni is surrounded by people who can’t open his eyes to the realities of the day. He is surrounded by praise singers. After all, gods can’t be critiqued, they are just praised and worshiped. None tells him about the soaring unemployment rates, the ever increasing economic disparities, the ever-evident nepotism and tribalism, the fact that most big positions in government are filled by one region, the fact that one region has grown faster than two others. He is also not told about the increasing dissatisfaction over a 30 year rule. All he is told, are his achievements and the constant reporting of the economic statistics as compared to 1986, as though all these were Bible verses in the book of Musevenism. I also understand he is now a prisoner of Musevenism. He’s created a system so big that those who feed off the system, the status-quo can’t even imagine their survival without him at the helm.
Then we have Besigye who for over 15 years has defied Museveni’s rule and has claimed to always win the elections only to be rigged by the electoral body. He sees himself as the fighter for all the forgotten and hurt Ugandans, one who was sent to take them to the Promised Land. He too has created the “Besigyeism” cult of which he is a humble slave. He can’t even objectively realize that his strategies are wrong at many a times and thus need a renewal. The gospel of Besigyeism is inked in stone. Museveni, the corrupt devil, must be overthrown and the glory of good shall shine all over Uganda. Anyone who by any chance speaks ill against Besigye is believed to be infected by the devil. For Besigye, he is not led by convictions, he has become the conviction.
For majority Ugandans, Besigyeism and Musevenism is now an identity, and there’s so much to fear about things when they evolve into identities. Secondly, the two religions have fallen prey to reductionism. Besigyeism has reduced all Uganda’s problems to Museveni. They argue that ‘take out Museveni and all will be well’ all too blind to notice that problems are always complex and failure to notice this is a recipe for self-destruction. These isms also devolve into a sickening condition known as “Group Think.”
On the Wikipedia Page about ‘Group Think’, it is written; “Groupthink requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the “ingroup” produces an “illusion of invulnerability” (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the “ingroup” significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the “outgroup”).”
In that one paragraph, the whole dilemma of Ugandan politics as its stands is explained. And with it, we sorrowfully, heads bowed in sadness welcome the arrival of Besigyeism and Musevenism. As we stand on the walls, wearing out neutralism coats, we stand to be swallowed by either ism as they mistake us for belonging to either side. If these groups can’t ever tolerate people who will freely air objections and doubts, it is clearer that sooner than later, what we are about to have in this country is political dystopia. Things indeed shall fall apart, we hope to come out alive then.
2017 was an interesting year in the banking industry, 2018 promises to be even more exciting.
By Wilbrod Humphrey Owor
As the period for publication of bank financial reports gets underway, it is a good time to start sharing reflections on the year 2017.
The year began with continued slow credit growth resulting from spillover effects of slow economic activity and high non-performing loans whose share to gross loans stood at 10.47 percent in December 2016. The high non- performing loan (NPLS) ratios were also partly attributed agricultural shocks, delayed payment of domestic arrears, slow down on growth of the real estate sector, continued instability in South Sudan and Eastern DRC and an overall tough economic environment among others. From preliminary results, total assets of the banking industry increased by 12% from Ugshs 23.7 Trn to Ugshs 26.5 Trn over the year to 31st December 2017.
All banks met the minimum regulatory capital adequacy requirements as at end of December 2017 and aggregate core capital and total regulatory capital ratios were at 21.1% and 23.4 % respectively.
Customer deposits grew by 12% from Ugshs 16.2 Trn to Ugshs 18.2 Trn but gross loans hardly grew by a marginal 1.5% from Ugshs 11.5Trn to Ugshs 11.7 Trn reflecting challenges in the credit space inspite of the monetary easing championed by the Central Bank during the year.
The key sectors of manufacturing, trade & real estate which constitute 12.6%, 18.7% and 20.5% of total industry lending respectively suffered heavily with trade & commerce registering a decimal growth of only 0.1%, while manufacturing and real estate actually slipped downwards by 1.1% and 2.9% respectively.
Banks exercised a lot of caution during the year and this effort dropped NPL ratios from the 10.5% of 2016 to 5.6% at end of December 2017.
The excess liquidity arising from the above is reflected in the liquid assets to total deposits ratio which increased from 42.5% to 54.6% over the year 2017 most of which was in investments in Government & Bank of Uganda Securities.
Bank holdings of BOU securities (Repos & deposit facility scheme) grew by 204.1% to Ush 2.5Trn. Overall the banking sector’s profitability improved significantly and average return on equity (ROE) and return on assets (ROA) improved to 16% and 2.7% respectively.
The major banking industry event of the year however, was the timely resolution of the Crane bank issue by Bank of Uganda without loss to depositors or contagion to the rest of the banking system. The Purchase and Assumption agreement entered between Bank of Uganda and dfcu bank guaranteed smooth transition and integration of customers into dfcu bank who were able to access their deposits seamlessly, did ensure continued stability in the industry. dfcu bank’s ability to mobilize USD50m at short notice to finance the transaction, followed by a successful rights issue, with 96% uptake, is a clear testament of the confidence investors have in Uganda’s financial sector.
It is this stability and confidence in the sector brought about by a combination of factors including consistency in monetary policy and regulatory frameworks, that must continue to be applauded and reinforced. The conversations today would be very different if depositors were unable to access their money and the exposure by other banks in the interbank lending market crystalized leading to what is called contagion (the communication of disease from one person or organism or institution to another by close contact).
The financial sector is in a way similar to blood pumped by the heart across the body. An infection can be dangerous, poisonous and can bring infection to other body parts, an un-coordinated policy direction be it monetary or fiscal can lead to numerous un-intended consequences of catastrophic proportions. Our own country has been through this path, and as a nation or group of institutions driving growth initiatives in the country, working together and harmonizing approaches must be the leading light ahead of us all the time.
The financial sector is a confidence industry that takes time to build and is measured by its resilience in the ability to absorb shocks. It however depends on the millions of silent depositors who oil it with savings and turnover from various businesses, taxes, transactions collections, payments and a combination of instruments etc. As policy makers or implementers, we must therefore constantly be alive to the impact of a policy signal to the financial sector.
Developing economies like ours must particularly be aware that we start from a very disadvantaged terrain with very low financial penetration and literacy levels anchored on a poor agrarian base.
The number of accounts in commercial banks increased from 4.5million in June 2015 to 7.4million in June 2017. Although this represents a decent growth, it is low considering Uganda’s population of nearly 40million people and is a far cry from the number of mobile phone accounts which is estimated to be over 23million.
Our efforts must therefore be towards encouraging and bringing on board the biggest proportion of our population into the formal financial sector where monetary policy can be transmitted effectively by initiatives that increase access to financial services, financial penetration, increasing access to credit, productivity, and markets which automatically widens the tax base to finance further development.
The financial sector is adjusting to these priorities by adapting technologies that deliver services to previously underserved or completely unserved markets and segments of the population.
Banks are increasingly sharing infrastructure (creating synergies) to enable them lower costs of delivery by pooling resources and reducing redundancy and its attendant costs. This allows for scalability, while focusing on introducing more and more services and products to address the needs of the various segments of the population. This process is journey that requires many travelers and partners to join hands.
The new developments such as Agent Banking will go a long way in expanding financial services, lowering costs of delivery and bringing services closer to customers, most importantly those that are currently financially excluded. In addition, Banks in collaboration with the regulator (Bank of Uganda) are working hard at increasing financial literacy initiatives and efforts to help reduce this barrier to use of banking and other financial services.
We call upon all stakeholders to join hands in ensuring financial sector stability, and its intended outcomes of penetration, deepening and growth.
As an industry, we embrace and will continue to support the national strategic objectives and vision therein and remain keen to work with the various agencies of government contributing to the development of the Country.
The writer is the Executive Director of Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) and also represents contributing institutions at the Deposits Protection Fund Board.
StarTimes announces it will broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
StarTimes has today confirmed it will broadcast all the 64 FIFA World Cup matches live and in HD. StarTimes acquired media Pay-TV broadcasting rights for the Sub-Saharan Africa to broadcast the World Cup and the theme will be “ALL 64 MATCHES IN HD AND LIVE”.
StarTimes Vice President also Brand and marketing manager Aldrine Nsubuga stated “Our current market leadership with close to 1.4 million subscribers guarantees that the 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP RUSSIA will now be enjoyed by many more households than the previous ones. This is excellent news to millions of television owners in Uganda who couldn’t watxh the World Cup due to high cost of acquisition and subscription.”
The world cup will broadcast on StarTimes on four dedicated channels which are World Football, Sports premium, Sports Life and Sports focus.
StartTimes was launched in 2010 and is now the leading digital TV operator in Uganda with 1.4 million subscribers.
Uganda Little Hands Go Green To Celebrate Earth Day With Conference
Uganda Little Hands Go Green, an organisation that champions keeping Uganda “Green” through young children so as to keep its pride as the Pearl Of Africa is set to hold a conference on Sunday April 22, 2018 as a way of celebrating Earth Day.
This year’s conference will run under theme End Plastic Pollution,Restore Wetlands,Protect the Future from 8 Am to 4PM where children will be provided with information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change on human attitude and behavior about plastics, interactions, discussions, Kids Challenges and Exhibitions.
The International Children’s Climate Change Conference will be held at the Ntinda School For the Deaf, it will have participants from different schools in Uganda like Otim Tom Memorial Primary School from Lira District and neighbouring countries like Rwanda. Uganda Little Hands Go Green is partnering with KCCA, Mixakids, Java House, NEMA and Round Bob.
Inorder to make the conference known to children, the Go Green team led by Joseph Masembe have been visiting schools around Kampala planting trees and teaching children about environmnental conservation.
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