Uganda’s largest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has launched a non-partisan pressure group to champion a non-violent campaign against the spiraling cost of basic needs, government opulence and hunger in the country.
The high prices of commodities, including food and fuel, in the country have seen a rise in inflation since January. Last week, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) announced that the annual headline inflation rate for the year ending March 2011 rose to 11.1 per cent from 6.4 per cent, indicating a highest inflation rate since November 2009.
Among the activities the pressure group -dubbed Activists for Change (A4C) – will engage in, beginning Monday is the “Walk to Work” campaign.
The pressure group, according to Dr. Kiiza Besigye, the president of FDC, is a platform set up by people from all walks of life; politicians, members of parliament, civil society, religious leaders, workers and students.
“The main purpose of the platform,” said Besigye, “is to protest some actions of the government that are causing problems in our community.”
He cited the run off inflation in the country that he said was triggered off by the opulent spending of public money in the last election and the abuse of public resources. “Now, Shs 3 billion (US $1.3 million) has been lined up to be spent on Mr. Museveni’s swearing in ceremony.”
The FDC president said that during the recent campaigns US$ 750 million was spent to buy fighter jets, without parliamentary approval, that the country can barely afford when people are starving, lack medicine, shelter and other social services.
He reiterated that the pressure group will exert pressure on government so that there are reforms that can address this kind of crisis.
The government has said it does not have the capacity to control the current high inflation rate which hit double digits last month.
Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko told journalists at the government media centre on Friday that the current inflation, which is driven by surging food costs, is largely generated by external factors which government cannot control.
But Besigye dismissed as ‘nonsense’ government’s explanation that blamed the current rise in inflation on factors in the international system.
“We are aware that the price of petroleum products has gone up due to some problems in the Middle East,” he said, adding that that doest explain why fuel should be more expensive in Uganda than in Rwanda and Burundi where they incur more transportation costs.
“There is high taxation in Uganda and these taxes of the people are drained from society and then abused through corruption and misuse,” he explained.
Besigye denied that mass demonstrations are planned as claimed by the Uganda police. “The activity we intend to participate in tomorrow (Monday) is only to walk to work rather than drive.”
He said the purpose was to express solidarity with the so many people who are already walking to work because they cannot afford transport (sic) or other basic needs of life.
Besigye described as ridiculous the reported warning against the walk to work campaign by the Uganda Police boss. “The police boss can’t determine the mode of transport of our citizens.”