HIV/AIDS: THE WORLD’S BIGGEST REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH PROBLEM AFFLICTING YOUTH

Leave a comment

By Owachgiu Dennis

According to recent estimates1, young people between the ages of 10 to 24 numbered at a whopping 1.76 billion, constituting as many as 27% of the world’s population. The health of this significant demographic segment is highly crucial, since it is inextricably linked to their ability to receive education, participation in income generating activities as well as socio-economic dynamics in their respective countries.

Apparently, myriad health tribulations afflicts young people globally in dissimilar magnitudes, but one of the most outstanding youth-specific global health challenges centers on reproductive health. The greatest menace to young people, in term of reproductive health, is HIV/AIDS. By 20002, a staggering 12 million young people aged between 15-24 years were HIV-Positive, about three quarters of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Young people are predisposed to HIV/AIDS because of the heightened sexual verve that delineates the puberty and post-puberty period. Early age of sexual initiation, lack of protection, risky sexual practices, polygamy and commercial sex work are some of the life styles that puts young people at a higher risk of contracting the disease.

HIV/AIDS amounts to a gigantic quandary owing to the multi-pronged facets of its ramifications on the health of youth. Affected people are prone to sporadic episodes of opportunistic infections such as Tuberculosis and many other diseases. Once the virus had weakened their body immunity, even mild sicknesses can easily put them down.

The societal stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS is a perilous factor that potentially exacerbates chances of developing mental ailments. In some societies, HIV-positive people are secluded by the very associates who should stand with them in trying times- friends, relatives and workmates.

Living with HIV/AIDS necessitates considerable medical care, which further drains resources from the already economically constrained victims. It infers that situation resultantly impoverishes the victims and to some extent reverses whatever miniature gains some developing countries had began to realize in line with achievement of eradication of extreme poverty and health service provision.

Because of this pandemic, young people living with the disease are less likely to acquire further skills through education. It is not unusual for employers to sideline people living with HIV/AIDS in terms of skills development programs. Their career progression chances are greatly hamstrung compared to other healthy employees. The trouble is that some of the young people who can’t get jobs may opt for commercial sex work, another risky lifestyle that exposes affected persons to cross-infection while spreading the disease to many other people.

In most cases, HIV-patients are already unable to work productively on account of intermittent health complications. This translates into reduction of available human capital, thus substantially affecting economic growth in countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates.

Whereas HIV/AIDS prevalence is low among youth in developed countries, the degree at which many millions of young people are living with the disease in developing countries, and the rate which many more youth continue to contract the disease makes is a huge global health burden for the youth.

 

1NRC & IoM, 2005

2UNAIDS, 2000

Advertisements

Political Overview Of Uganda Over The Last 50 Years; The Challenges And Strategies For National Cohesion

1 Comment

Nearly 50 years after independence, Uganda typically finds itself bedeviled by myriad socio-political and psycho-existential problems, outrightly inhibiting national development and threatening its actual existence as a sovereign state. Unlike nation-states with peculiar and shared sense of identities, ours is fundamentally a multi-nation state, comprising of a variety of separate people with different languages who were eventually lumped together by an artificial colonial construct.

 

Uganda gained her independence on 9th October 1962, not through armed popular resistance which could have unified the masses, but as a negotiated political settlement. The pioneer post-independence leadership, under this arrangement, all but inherited a nation replete with colonial era structures, and highly divisive ones at that. The colonialists had meddled so much as to assign the jobs certain tribes should perform; the tribe should join the armed forces and police, and which tribes should grow particular cash crops. The newly independent Uganda inherited these very stereotypic generalizations in which other tribes felt they were better than the rest.

 

The colonialists did not only relinquish a fragmented unit; they exacerbated most of the crumbling themselves. Stripped bare, colonialism, just like slavery that preceded it, was a system of divide, conquer and rule. Their masterpiece tactic of divide and rule created fresh psychological rifts and in some cases re-ignited old animosities. Tribes were pitted against each other, for instance, the infamous, violent and enslaving enforcement of cash crop cultivation was designed in such a way that collaborators from one tribe would be assigned to harshly supervise other tribes. This carefully crafted ploy did not only make it hard for natives to unite against the oppressors, but also planted some of the seeds for conflict and mistrust among our people that persist to this day.

 

The political parties in post-independence Uganda had their roles clearly cut out: integrating the diverse constituent communities in to a cohesive political unit. Most of the parties were, however, not up to the task because of their coherent similitude of internal flaws: Inadequate institutionalization, inept structural organization and weak links to the society they purported to represent. Concomitantly, the political parties were reduced to mere narrow ethnic and personal power-machines of their founders. The ideological aridity in the parties midwifed the erroneous sectarian sense of alignment; a case of Protestants siding with Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and Catholics siding with Democratic Party (DP).

 

The political maneuvers orchestrated in the run up to independence were to impact on Uganda’s political trajectory over the years. For instance UPC, which had all along opposed Mengo’s demands, opted to enter into agreement with the Kabaka Yekka party for purely convenience purposes. The ‘Lost Counties Question’ in 1964 was a test to that alliance, with Obote backing the referendum and Mengo opposing it. Obote had received votes from Bunyoro because he had promised just that: the return of the lost counties of Buyaga and Bugangaizi. Were it not for the complexities of post-colonial politics, this was an obvious case scenario that did not even require a referendum. The British simply had no authority to give out what they did not own in the first place. In the end Bunyoro got back her counties.

 

A lot of shoddy politicking took place in between, culminating into the infamous 1966 crisis, when Army Commander Idi Amin coordinated an attack, not on a rebel group, but an estranged political ally, the Kabaka of Buganda. The 1962 constitution was henceforth abrogated and the 1967 pigeon hole constitution promulgated. Far reaching damage had been done, Amin had leant a foul lesson in regards to applicability of military means as a remedy to political complexities, which inspired him to subsequently topple Obote in 1971. Power had been personalized. No wonder in the aftermath of 1966 crisis, some disenfranchised citizens frustratingly demanded that Dr Milton Obote should take the seat of “his” government to his home area.

 

The already weakened sense of cohesion, after the 1966 crisis went as far as constraining national security because members of the armed forces began to divide themselves along tribal lines. When Obote found his way back to power via 1980 elections, his generals Bazilo Okello and Tito Okello, both Acholis, staged a coup that ousted Obote’s second government. In both Amin’s 1971 and the 1985 military Junta coup d’états, the plotters alluded to tribalism tendencies of the toppled regime as justification for their actions. For Amin’s case, Kampala streets were full of jubilant people, who initially praised Amin as the best thing that ever happened to Ugandan. While he achieved more in terms of infrastructures than many other presidents, Uganda was a terrestrial hell with gross human rights abuses under his watch. And that is the agony the nation found itself in as a result of sectarian politics.

 

Ethnocentrism, a sense of superiority of one’s culture in comparison to others has been singled out as a high ranking detrimental factor to national cohesion, having aided in solidifying avowed deep-seated inter-ethnic prejudice. Being proud of one’s culture per se can’t and shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. It is the attending intolerance that is the enemy of cohesion. In the world of relativity, as a matter of obvious case, different tribes can be ahead of others in one sphere or another, depending on the parameter of the comparison. The only bit of problem is attaching so much importance on things that shouldn’t weigh much.

For instance, some groups still bask in the 19th century glories of expeditionary conquest of other tribes. In a world already threatened by highly advanced missiles, isn’t it practically naïve for a tribe in some random case poverty stricken, highly indebted banana republic to continue marveling at their spears-and-arrow sense of bygone military superiority?

 

The competition for scarce resources, including employment has forced people to take solace in ethnic ties to secure employment opportunities. Perplexingly, contrary to nominal expectation that access to education automatically neutralizes these bedrock tribalistic tendencies, the poor national cohesion framework gave birth to a new crop of elites more entrenched in the realms of ethnocentrism than an average illiterate. In some cases, however, it hasn’t actually been a case of marginalization in employment per se, but it is a case of disparity in levels of academic accomplishment between regions. We can’t give every tribe the same jobs, if they don’t have the requisite qualification to begin with.

 

In a broader sense, tribalism is not in itself the problem, but only symptomatic of bigger underlying factors, notably greed, which mars distribution of scarce resources even amongst people of the same tribe. Inter-clan cattle rustling within the same tribe in Karamoja, the Kyabazingaship deadlock in Busoga are noteworthy exemplifications of differences occurring within the same tribe. Isn’t it mind baffling how Somalis, people of the same race, tribe, religion, culture and language have been effective in systematically ruining themselves? Back home, in some communities, land distribution was skewed in favour of traditional chiefs or few influential families, owning square miles of land in comparison to the common men who own next nothing. It is against this background that others have elected to habitually demonize other tribes in order to psychologically divert attention from internal squabbles. Mob justice and violence has already been the face of landlord-tenant relationship when it comes to eviction.

 

The wide spectrum of diverse dialects spoken by different groups marked a superficial boundary and effectively shaped the levels of interaction amongst groups. English, the official language and the defacto alternative medium of communication, fell short of penetrating all strata of the societies primary because of illiteracy and partly because it is elitist and a relatively hard-to-learn language. The other widely spoken local languages like Kiswahili and Luganda are yet to gain national appeal. One thing about language is that it is demand driven and can’t be enforced, which is why even when Amin elevated Kiswahili into a national language during his reign, it wasn’t embraced wholesomely across the nation.

 

Corruption, the nation’s deadliest cancer of the modern times, has acquired a tribalistic orientation lately. Plunderers of national coffers simply hoodwink their tribe mates that “it is their time to eat”, a fallacy that keeps tribal loyalty intact despite the obvious weaknesses of particular leaders. No wonder, top leaders implicated in corruption scandals are able to scoop landslides repeatedly in parliamentary elections. And he reverse has been true. Even if some government chanced and did something good, it is not uncommon to hear daily complaints from rival tribes.

 

The pertinent question is who will champion this renewed need for cohesion? Certainly, the present breed of leaders can’t be expected to accomplish this task. Some political bigwigs have, through their overt or covert stance, proved themselves to be architects of the precarious situation the nation finds itself. The youth, who will bear the brunt of inheriting a fragmented and dysfunctional state, should own up the responsibility of preventing further damage in the path of national cohesion. Plagued by widespread poverty, which obviously doesn’t discriminate people based on tribe, there is urgent need to work together to alleviate this quagmire.

 

To curtail the incongruity of ethnicity in electoral politics, Ugandans must start holding their political leaders accountable by insisting on the conception of viable, ideologically coherent political parties that prioritize issues and policy frameworks that address the problems of the people, rather than parties that champions for the narrow interests of a distinct society. This is an undertaking that requires concerted efforts from both the populace as well as the leadership.

 

We must strive to create institutional structures that will allocate and ensure the sharing of resources equitably. Upon this realization, it wouldn’t matter who becomes president or Prime Minister. The people deserve and expect equal share of national resources, jobs and infrastructural development without any regard to their race, ethnicity, gender or religion. In the short term, the streamlining and strengthening of the Equal Opportunities Commission, guided by a clear legal terms of reference, can potentially reverse acrimony between groups. In the long term, government programs such as Governments Sponsorship Schemes for enrolment in Public universities should be adjusted to benefit a representation of the entire society.

 

The media, as the fourth estate, should venture to erase the defective notion that one’s tribesman needs to be elected President or appointed to a high-level national position as a prerequisite for an individual, or community to have access to opportunities such as employment, good roads, schools, hospitals and other amenities.

 

Religious leaders (Bishops, Pastors, Sheikhs), whose congregations or formal club of followers cut across various ethnic groups are well placed to use the pulpit to preach national unity, love and fraternity among the various ethnic groups in their respective jurisdictions.

 

Rather than laboring to transform the rigid minds of the top national leadership, we should instead focus on shaping the plastic mentality and outlook of the young ones. In a decade or two, these well molded, ethical and progressive young ones will be our fishing ground for top leadership positions. Parents and lower level teachers have this role to play. No child will call fellow children from other tribes “mukooko” (Runyakitara for animals) if their parents didn’t condition that derogatory mindset. Parents shouldn’t oppose their children to intermarry other tribes, if their children so wishes, as this creates cohesive bonds. Additionally, excursions of students and voluntary work camps, or national service programs for that matter, can prospectively facilitate interaction between various ethnic groups.

 

In a nutshell, nobody can lose his/her much cherished ethnic identity just by co-existing peacefully with counterparts of different tribes. More so we are so economic interdependent that progress by one group has a trickle-down effect that benefits other groups as well. We should celebrate our diversities, bearing in mind that no particular group holds monopoly of knowledge, hence having a wide pool of ideas from various ethnicities should actually be an asset – The power of SYNERGY.

 

WHO WILL SAVE POOR CHRISTIANS FROM EXTORTIONIST PASTORPRENEURS?

Leave a comment

Giu Dennis

It is exceedingly mind-boggling to observe that some hitherto highly regarded members of the society –pastors- are paradoxically transforming into a fully fledged “rogues gallery”. Upon curious circumspection, there exist enormous volumes of evidence suggestive of the fact that SOME of our contemporary pastors are actually entrepreneurs in disguise. Precisely, they are the profit-seeking individuals who masquerade as pastors for the sole aim of acquiring wealth.

To a pastorprenuer, opening a church is like opening any other business like a bar. Any avid radio listener must have noticed the mounting wave of pastors advertising their churches on radio stations, as though churches were conventional businesses competing for customers. One pastor in Luzira has taken the game to a whole new level by initiating a self-help-type session dubbed “Raising Billionaires for Christ”. And guess what? Instead of teaching people to work hard, here people are taught that “sowing seeds” is the sole prerequisite for getting wealth. For starters, “sowing a seed” is money you give to the pastor to accompany your prayer request. Different pastors offer varying [irrational] justification for “sowing seeds”.

To set the record straight, it would be imprudent to imply that all pastors are money minded. I am in no way making a sweeping generalization on all pastors; I am merely dissecting the rot perpetrated by the BAD pastors. It is a proven fact that conmen find it easier to defraud people if they masqueraded as people who are ordinarily above suspicion. It is however not difficult to spot a pastorpreneur. The modes of operations of pastoprenuers substantially differentiate them from genuine pastors. Pastorprenuers are perpetually preoccupied with prosperity gospel, so much that their sermons are far divorced from the realms of growth of an individual’s faith but are rather more inclined to the direction of materialism, just like get-rich-quick seminars. Basically, they are much into fund-raising than faith-raising. In other words, a sermon from that band-wagon of pastors sounds much like a presentation from a promoter of TelexFree or such other ponzi Schemes.

It shouldn’t therefore elicit surprise when a pastor like Kiweede gets convicted for theft because most of them defraud their flock in broad day light. Neither do I get surprised if a pastor’s lake-side house is used on more than one occasion to illegally smuggle wine in the country. I don’t get surprised because I look at them as any other businessmen who are merely masquerading as pastors. One other peculiar characteristic of pastorprenuers is that like other businessmen, they are so keen on developing connections with top politicians. In fact there are others who quintessentially qualify to be categorized as gangs of “Organized Crime” because “obtaining money by false pretense” is a chargeable offence according to the Penal Code Act.

Most pastorpreneurs are extravagant people who lead a luxurious lifestyle. Ordinarily, there is absolutely nothing wrong with leading a luxurious lifestyle. In the case of pastorprenuers however, they wish to live a luxurious lifestyles but the cost of this lifestyle is largely financed by the already poor members of their churches. Nigerias’s Oyadepo for instance has up to 4 private jets, way ahead of Nigeria’s president who has only one official presidential jet-Eagle One.

The problem here is not about the numerous jets the Pastorprenuer owns, but the crux of the matter is that the money spent on these luxurious procurements was solicited from already helpless poor people. In fact some members of his church are too poor that they can’t even afford to buy bicycles for themselves and Oyadepo wants them to contribute tithe and offerings which he can then use to finance his merry-go-life. Why should an already rich man solicit money from poor people for his own personally luxury? While the flock thinks they are ideally giving money to God, in reality they are merely giving money to finance the luxury of one man.

The more desperate the flock, they easier it becomes to extort money from them. Credible research shows that many people remember to become intensively prayerful when they are faced with some excruciating situation. It can thus be deduced that a poor or troubled person has a higher chance of falling victim to church con-artists. In Uganda today there are pastors who now charge consultation fees for any person who wishes to see them for “counseling” sessions. Typically such pastors are now behaving just like witch doctors – because the bible says salvation is free.

Some of the prophesies by these pastors are actually everyday common sense. And yet it such prophesies that compels the desperate folks to dig deeper into their pockets. “The spirit tells me there is a young man in this church who has been looking for a job for four years. The Lord tells me your break through is soon” the pastor would proclaim. But clearly with Uganda’s sky-rocketing youth unemployment rates, it is a matter of commonsense that in any gathering of more than 20 young people in Uganda, there certainly must be some unemployed people out there. That is simple logic. Recent studies put youth unemployment way above 70% .

Today almost any social problem is a potential goldmine for a pastorprenuer. Some Pastors now perform brokerage services such as dating match-making between male and female members of their church, a service for which they earn a commission if the two members agree to marry each other. A pastor starts by making a “prophetic” declaration like “There is a lady here who has been abused and disappointed by man men. In the name of Jesus, I decree that the lord will bring you a man who deserves you”. This is another commonsense. The many single mothers we have today shows you many people are having a rough time in relationship. Well, I can say pastors are merely using improvised rudimentary psychology.

Throngs of poor people have already fallen victim to the machinations of these church fraudsters, with frustrating consequences. Some of the dubious schemes of pastorprenuers are basically similar to those of bonafide conmen. Last year, The Kampala Sun reported that a pastor solicited and received $500 from a female member of his church, with the promise that he would pray for the lady would get a visa to USA. As fate had it, the lady was denied a visa and that when she sought to expose the pastor in the media.

One may ask: why are we concerned since these Christians are willingly giving out their own money to their extravagant pastors? The answer is that the activities of these pastors have far reaching economic consequences. First of all, richer people (pastors) are collecting money from poor people (church members). The implication here is that this invariably adds to the already appalling income inequality status quo. By contributing to impoverishment of the masses, they are distorting the purchasing power in the economy. Poor people consume less goods and services, hence the poorer the people become the lesser the demand they have for goods and services.

In addition, the extortionist approach has a great bearing on wealth generation. Generally, low income earners do not have enough money to invest in new productive ventures. The only way they can accumulate enough capital for investment is through saving. With pastors getting smarter in the art of skillfully extorting money from them, most of these people are not saving anything. The money they should have saved for future investments ends up financing acquisition of the newest range of luxury vehicles, apartments and

The impunity bad pastors enjoy is simply extraordinary even when they are evidently fleecing their flock. Even when the bible forewarned Christians about false prophets, any voice of reason warning Christians about the un-Christian conduct of these pastors is often either ignored or even ridiculed. Most of the time the naïve victims will merely claim whoever is pointing at the flaws of the pastor is “being used by the devil to bring down a man of God”.

To rational thinkers, dealing with money minded-pastors is a very simple undertaking – deny them the money they badly need. If Christians opt to can enforce strict accountability standards, most of these false prophets will be weeded out of their Church businesses and we shall remain with real pastors.

owachgiu@gmail.com

Older Entries