About three months ago, I received very sad news of a death that has to me, become reminiscent of the cancer that is eating away our African governance organs. Nakato aged 35 at the time of her untimely demise, was my classmate at the elementary level.The determined, intelligent and focused African beauty had great dreams not only for her country Uganda but also for Africa and the world at large; dreams that did not live to see the beauty of actualization.
On that fateful day, Nakato was admitted in Mulago National Referral Hospital in Uganda purposefully to deliver and hopefully to be a mother. Little did she know that by her entry into the Hospital compound, she was signing her own death sentence for the popular crime of “attempted procreation” . There i
n the revered National Referral Hospital, she laid, assured of a successful medical procedure which unfortunately never materialized because negligence had conspired with fate to robe her of her dear life. The course of death was recorded as “excessive bleeding during delivery” and satan not the system stood accused of this death that would have otherwise been prevented. Nobody was held accountable and probably many after her have succumbed to and will continue dying of the same fate in scenarios that are swept under the carpet of such platitudes as “we have greatly reformed our medical institutions.”
Maybe it is the pain of losing a friend or the respect with which I practice my profession as a medical practitioner that has driven me into writing this piece of work. Or perhaps it is my impatience with the mediocrity with which most of our policy and governance issues are addressed here in Africa. I’m completely deficient of any logical justification to the horrendous experience of having to lose a mother as a result of over bleeding in National Referral Hospital of a Nation which is wealthy enough to spoil its politicians with extravagant and exploitative affluence.
Recently, my attention was drawn to a loud outcry of citizens in our neighboring countries; Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya about the gluttonous and stubborn refusal of their legislators to exercise restraint in their expenditure and to stop the impunity with which they embezzled public funds while at the same time, allocating themselves huge salaries. Debates, Hullaballoo and theatricals revolving around the demand by legislators to raise their salarieshave taken center stage evenas many people continue to die of poor healthcare. The gravity of this matter left me no other option, but to do surveyabout the salaries of legislators in 5 Countries within the Great Lakes Region. On a monthly basis, Uganda pays each of its 378 legislators a salary of 6,100 USD, Tanzania’s 375 and Kenya’s 447 law makers each takes home 7,000USD and 6,300 USD respectively.Burundi pays its 107 legislators 1,500 USD and Rwanda’s parliament (both senate and Chamber of Deputies). From this data, it is correct to argue and rightfully so that Uganda is economically stronger than my own Country Rwanda, but a comparison between the two states, reveals a completely different scenario.
After the 1994 genocide committed against the Tutsi which claimed over 1 Million lives, Rwanda was left in complete desolation. The infrastructure was extremely in bad shape, the institutional structures across the nation were deformed, infant mortality was very high and the security situation was precarious. But 20 years later, from those shackles of doom, Rwanda has made tremendous progress in key sectors of the economy to emerge as one of the most desirable countries in Africa. In Healthcare for instance, each of the 30 Districts of Rwanda has a well-equipped and functioning District hospital with two Emergency Ambulances. In addition, each of the 416 Sectors has a functional Health Center and the Government has ensured that every Citizen has access to affordable and reliable medical insurance. The Infrastructure of Rwanda has greatly improved, assured security, good road networks, sufficient street lights across the nation, clean and organized Capital, towns and neighborhoods among other things can be mentioned of the visible change in Rwanda but one would have to be a very brazen liar to list similar achievements in some of our countries, most of whom, have had no major conflicts that have had a negative impact on their economy.
So what magic or rocket science technique has been applied in Rwanda?
It is all about leadership and the choices that leaders make. Let us do a little arithmetic. If by all standards of decency, the Ugandan legislature took an unpaid Christmas holiday, one particular December of their choice and made a legislation authorizing that the money be used in the construction of a State of the Earth Referral Hospital, How far would they go in solving such problems as the one whose pangs, I’m currently addressing? That will be 375 MPs each donating 6,100 USD for a worth course, tell me people; won’t 2,287,500 USD be sufficient enough to construct and equip such an Hospital? And remember, that will be in just one short month! No External aid will be needed and the donors might for once take a break.
It is very worrying that while their people succumb to preventable deaths, these legislators take most of their time discussing about their pay raise. Must a multitude of ordinary citizens carry pigs into parliament to demonstrate the greed of legislators (as was recently witnessed in Kenya) before a solution can be offered? Or will many more continue to die before we can begin to treat human life seriously.When the negligence of leaders begins to cause deaths and destruction across our nations, we must be worried because the impacts will spread to affect generations to come. Politicians must not be allowed to be what Ernest Benn described so eloquently, that 60 years down the line– The lack of vision in most of our leadership is aptly defined by his assertion that “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.”