I went to Kenya a formed man in exile although I had visited it before as a teenager during Mzee Kenyatta’s time. I taught there, but in second world school in Mukureini, where the Ugandan elite could not dare send their kids.
Let me tell you without naming names that some of the Ugandans we encountered in Nairobi especially the elite were the most snobbish you could come across. On many occasions, we attended the same church service, but they were not interested in even saying hello to those of us who visited from Mukurweini. Even when we shopped for matoke in the same place in Westlands, they were not interested. But we got our revenge with time.
Oh, yes elite Ugandans were snobbish. You could mingle with multimillionaire Kenyans or their children but rarely with Ugandans. The only question many asked us: why don’t you go to the bush to join Museveni. Hell No.
There was a nice Ugandan family from Masaka that employed me to teach-not trained as a teacher but that is what we could do-their kids who went to International school near UNEP. They got me a job so I left Mukurweini for Nairobi.
Funny, Ugandans in Uganda are actually better with people. Not those outside!
Yes, the law can work in Uganda. Remember that Kenyans also had or went through what Ugandans are going through: feelings of entitlement. I had been ordered out by then but I learned that Kenyan actually fought kifuba over FORD KENYA. Raila Odinga, yes that one felt entitled to led it after the demise of his father Mzee Jaramogi Odinga. The Luhyas said no and fought over it. I understand the situation was so bad-Mr Moi could care less-that many suffered multiple injuries.
Defeated, democratically-not enough delegates to back him-Raila left to left to hijack another parry then called NDP. From there he made a deal with Mr Moi, joined KANU and cabinet until Mr Moi pulled a fast one on all the pretenders when he threw his weight behind Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and famously reminded the pretenders that KANU had its owners.
When YKM told off those pestering him to name his successor that none of the current pretenders have what it takes, he reminded me of Mr Moi, blunt and politically incorrect, a trait both share. They also do not drink chaanga and of course like mbessha too much.
It took the courage of the woman from Gichugu, Hon Martha Karua, to reign in the political parties. Forced by law, most parties had no choice but embrace internal democracy. Those that thought that she was joking were caught off guard and are now in limbo. Needless to say political parties are not private entities.
But it is not just me obsessed with Kenya. Kenyans now rule the top echelons of the corporate sector in Uganda and even Vice Chancellors. Why is that the case?
Last night, I reflected on this taxation matter and some of the problems threatening order in Uganda and how such problems could be solved through taxation.
Just imagine if the land owners-large land holders-could call for a press conference in Kampala and declare that they were prepared to pay taxes on their land holdings. Just imagine if they had such wisdom.
We are not talking here about peasants/squatters/tenants paying taxes but the owners of the land. The more I thought about it the more I came to the conclusion that only taxation can ironically prevent land fragmentation now being witnessed in Uganda. Only land taxation hold the potential for large scale farming which is touted in the modernization of agriculture. Absent land taxation, land fragmentation will get worse and gone with it any hopes/aspirations for mechanized agriculture.
Moreover land taxation would be efficient. But would it be equitable? Well. The land tax would be progressive. For example all Ugandans would be exempt from paying taxes on the first 5 acres they own. For a husband-wife family, that would translate into 10 acres of exempt land.
I do not know the average land holding in Uganda, but I am willing to guess that it is not near 10 acres. So, all Ugandan families that own 10 acres or less would pay no land taxation on their land. What happens to the likes of Minister Rukutana Mwesigwa with 4 wives? Should they be entitled to 20 acres exemption? That can be sorted out.
Additional land from 11 to 29 acres would be taxed at rate to be determined
30 to 49 acres-taxed at different rate
50 to 99 acres-taxed at a different rate
100 acres and over taxed at the highest land tax rate.
Notice that this is similar to the way we pay income taxes. The marginal rates rise with income beyond the personal deductions.
The land tax would solve the land wrangles. The big question is this: what would happen to the tenants? The govt would try to give incentives to land owners who agree to sell some of their land, no more than 5 acres which would be the personal exemption. It would not matter whether the tenants/squatters occupy more than 5 acres. in the vent where they were able to buy more than the tax exemption acres they too would be subject to a land tax.
Because the government is not willing to consider taxation, it has created real chaos in the land sector. Actually there are no winners, but only losers today.
The govt wants to move the country towards modernization, but is not willing to embrace modern tools in the form of land taxation!. The crude tactics (read fallacy) of trying to empower tenants/squatters by force is actually counterproductive.
Let the land owners come out and demand to be taxed instead.
Institutions per se will not help Uganda. Ugandans must have a stake in their country. How can they become effective stakeholders? You and I argue that through some form of direct taxation. That may not be popular but is the best way.
Today, the very few taxpayers in Uganda are well facilitated. They are actually happy. Those who do not pay direct taxes are also happy so who is going to fight for what us-the elite-treasure.
I am watching the situation in Iran with interest. Things may boil over in that Persian country.
But the folks in the media who are always urging the opposition to unite should re-think their message. Instead they should urge Ugandans to embrace direct taxation if they expect to make progress. From my angle, a country or people who do not pay taxes cannot aspire for great things including democratization, decent health care services, housing, social services, education, and yes accountability, running water, police services etc.
UAH member in Newyork