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Notes on the Division of Revenue Debate: Five Points to Ponder

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The only human institution that thrives on self-interest is commerce. This should disabuse the Senate and the country at large of the idea that we can tinker with a formula until it pleases everyone.

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Notes on the Division of Revenue Debate: Five Points to Ponder
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The geography of economic potential: Myths from the “White” Highlands

At 67,000 km2, Marsabit County is Kenya’s second largest county after Turkana (71,600 km2). It is just under 12 per cent of Kenya’s land mass. Before the discovery of wind power resources, it was known only as an arid and semi-arid conflict-prone region dominated by pastoralism. But according to the Marsabit Statistical Abstract published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), almost a quarter of the county, 16,000 km2 km, is arable land which receives 1000 mm of rainfall per year, high enough for large-scale rain-fed mechanised agriculture. I know of a hi-tech operation in Laikipia that is producing 25 bags per acre of maize with 650 mm of rainfall a year.

Let us do some simple math. If we use maize to benchmark the potential at a price of Sh2,000 a bag, that works out to Sh240 billion a year (16000 km2 is equivalent to 4m acres) This alone would rank as the fifth highest county GDP after Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa and Kiambu.

Kitui County (30,430 km2) is one third larger than Israel (22,145 km2), and receives about the same amount of rainfall. Over and above being food self-sufficient in everything other than grain, Israel exports $8 billion (Sh800 billion) worth of agricultural produce a year, 70 per cent more than our total marketed agricultural production on last year (Sh465 billion) and more than our total exports.


Economic potential is not a fixed endowment. It is a variable that is determined by investment. And of course it is dynamic. Before wind technology became technically and economically viable, Marsabit’s strong wind did not count as economic potential. The basic laws of economics don’t change. This assertion was just as true in 1965 when the government adopted the policy of concentrating public investment in the “high potential areas” which were defined as “areas having abundant natural resources, good land and rainfall, transport and power facilities, and people receptive to, and active in development” as it is today.

It is not just the geography of economic potential that the architects of the Sessional Paper got wrong. They also got the economics of investment wrong. Let me illustrate with a numerical example. We grow maize in Kitale but we could also grow maize in Tana River, as we’ve been trying to do lately. The potential yield is 30 bags per acre in both places. In “high potential” Kitale the yield is presently 15 bags per acre. In Tana River it is five bags. Where should we invest to maximise national output? For simplicity, let’s work with one acre of land in each region; investing to maximise yield in Kitale raises national output to 35 bags, investing in Tana River to 45 bags.

Investment is subject to an economic law known as diminishing marginal returns. Think of growing a maize crop, and fertiliser as capital. Let’s say the recommended application is 50kg/acre. The table below shows a hypothetical relationship between different quantities of fertiliser application, yield, and implied return to fertiliser investment (Columns 1 & 2). Column 3 shows incremental yield and Column 4 the additional yield expressed in bags of maize per kilo of fertiliser. The fifth column converts the production into monetary value calculated at Sh2,000 per bag of maize and Sh50 per kilo of fertiliser. A farmer who applies no fertiliser may harvest 5 bags. Applying 10 bags increases yield to 15 bags, which works out to a bag a kilo. But increasing from 40 to 50 kg increases maize yield by only 3 kg. In money terms, this is a loss of Sh10 per kilo of fertiliser. The maximum return on capital is reached somewhere between 40 and 50 kg of fertiliser per acre.

Notes on the Division of Revenue Debate: Five Points to Ponder
Consider a farmer who has five acres of land, and enough money for only 50 kilos of fertiliser. She can apply 50 kilos of fertiliser on one acre as recommended and harvest 30 bags. If she ploughs all five acres and applies 10 bags on each acre, she will harvest 75 bags. Obviously, which is more profitable depends on the other costs such as plowing, weeding, seeds, etc. It is doubtful though, that these costs could offset the 45-bag difference. Returns to capital behaves the same way; the more capital employed, the lower the return.

The first decade of independence witnessed very rapid agriculture-led growth that seemed to validate Sessional Paper No. 10’s “to those who have, more shall be given” public investment strategy. But this growth came primarily from adoption of coffee, tea and dairy farming by African smallholders, hitherto the preserve of white settler farmers and by the late 70s, this “low hanging fruit” was exhausted. Kenya’s agricultural productivity stagnated in the late 80s. With the exception of export horticulture, there has been no new source of agricultural productivity growth since the 60s. Consequently, Kenya’s cost of producing food is now the highest in the region.

The “high potential areas” now cry foul about cheap imports of everything that they produce, pleading to be protected from Ugandan maize and eggs and milk and Tanzanian vegetables. Expensive food translates into poverty and loss of international competitiveness. At Sh3,000 per bag (Sh30/kg), Kenyan maize costs close to double the world price ($160 per ton or Sh16/kg), while the factory gate of sugar ($800/ton is two and half time the world price ($280/ton). When food is expensive, people have less disposable incomes to spend on other things. It also makes the country’s labour expensive vis à vis competitors where food is cheap, for example South Asia where $80 (Sh8.500) is a decent wage for EPZ workers. We keep asking how it is that we fell behind East Asian countries; the flawed trickle-down economics of Sessional Paper No.10 is one of the reasons.

The free loading bogeyman: Who pays what tax?

The inaugural county economic data published by the KNBS last year put the 2017 Gross County Product (GCP) of Nyandarua and Kwale at Sh245 billion and Sh86 billion respectively, that is, Nyandarua’s economy is about three times as big as Kwale’s. But Nyandarua’s economy is one of the country’s least diversified, with agriculture accounting for 86 per cent. Kwale’s on the other hand is quite diversified; agriculture accounts for 47 per cent, the rest being tourism-related services, mining (titanium), quite a bit of manufacturing, construction and real estate services.

The national tax yield is currently in the order of 15 per cent of GDP. If Nyandarua was to pay its fair share, based on an estimated 2019 GCP of Sh296 billion (obtained by adjusting the national nominal GDP growth rate), it would contribute Sh44 billion to the national tax kitty. It is hard to see where this tax would come from. It is doubtful whether there is a single entity which pays Sh500 million in taxes in Nyandarua. I would challenge the Kenya Revenue Authority to show that it raised Sh5 billion in direct taxes in Nyandarua last year.

Base Titanium’s 2019 annual report shows it paid direct taxes to the tune of Sh2.5 billion (Sh1.5 billion in royalties and Sh1 billion in income tax). Including indirect taxation such as payroll tax and taxes paid by suppliers, the total is over Sh3 billion. Tourism generated Sh200 billion last year, and about 40 per cent of that (Sh80 billion) is tax. The Coast accounts for 43 per cent of hotel occupancy. If we apportion Kwale a third of that, we arrive at an estimate of Sh10 billion in tax. Add income taxes paid by other industries (sugar, steel, construction, real estate) and wealthy residents and we are will be approaching Sh15 billion.

Kwale is also more populous, with 867,000 people compared to Nyandarua’s 686,000 as per the 2019 census. Average household expenditure is comparable in both counties, with Kwale at Sh6,470 and Nyandarua at Sh6,690 per person. If we were to factor in indirect consumption taxes paid by households, such as VAT, Kwale still comes out ahead at 25 per cent more. It is thus likely that overall, Kwale, with an economy a third the size of Nyandarua pays three times the taxes.

Central Kenya counties are not owed more money by the rest of the country. They do not contribute more tax, and may even contribute less than their equitable share. If they have evidence to the contrary, they should table it. In addition, the country’s highest economic growth potential lies elsewhere. There is no rational economic or social development criteria that would justify redistributing money to central Kenya.

Where does the National Government money go?

Since coming into being seven years ago, county governments have—excluding last financial year (up to FY18/19)—secured Sh1.66 trillion of nationally raised revenue. County governments are mandated to spend 30 per cent on development projects, which they seldom do (it’s a bad policy but that’s another matter). This means that the maximum they could have spent on development projects is Sh500 billion, an average of Sh11 billion per county. Over the same period, the national government’s development expenditure is Sh2.94 trillion. In effect, the national government has spent at least 11 times more than the counties on development projects (the National government’s total expenditure comes to Sh11.4 trillion).

We should be seeing at least ten times the impact of national government development. Makueni County government’s Sh140 million women and children’s hospital ought not to be the talk of the county, and the country. Makueni people should be seeing the equivalent of 70 projects comparable to this hospital build by the national government. It is doubtful that there is any county that can show more national government projects than county ones, despite the national government spending 10 times the money.

Where are these national government projects? We do not know. What we can say for sure is that northern Kenya is not getting its fair share. If population were used as a criteria as proposed, and north-eastern counties (Mandera, Garissa, Wajir) had received their rightful share based on their share of national population (5 per cent), the national government would have spent Sh147 billion there. How many kilometres has it tarmacked? To the best of my knowledge, zero.

It is often suggested that northern Kenya counties ought to reduce dependency on the more developed south by developing their own revenue base. It is even suggested that pastoralism is an antiquated mode of production and it is time that the region abandoned or modernised it.

Livestock production (cattle, sheep and goats) contributed Sh115 billion to the economy last year—the second largest agricultural sub-sector after export horticulture (Sh145 billion) although ordinarily it would be third after tea, which went down from Sh127 billion to Sh104 billion in 2018. Livestock production was more than three time the value of cereals (Sh36 billion), seven times sugarcane (Sh17 billion) and more than ten times the value of coffee (Sh10 billion). It is also worth noting that northern pastoralists do not receive subsidised inputs or regular bailouts that some of these other high potential producers receive on a regular basis.

The most readily available strategy for northern Kenya to develop its revenue base is to add value to livestock. Few agricultural products can match the value addition potential of livestock —at least eight times the value of a live animal. On current output, this is potentially a Sh800 billion livestock industry. And according to analysis by the government policy think tank KIPPRA (Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis), the livestock industry leads in employment generation potential. But to unlock this potential, northern Kenya needs the physical infrastructure linking it to market so that instead of trekking live animals to be slaughtered near the market, they can be slaughtered at source so as to retain the hides for processing.

The Constitution of Kenya established the Equalisation Fund for this purpose, for the national government “to provide basic services including water, roads, health facilities and electricity to marginalised areas to the extent necessary to bring the quality of those services in those areas to the level generally enjoyed by the rest of the nation”. The Constitution stipulates that 0.5 per cent of revenue be put in, and retained in the fund. A decade on, the Fund has not been operationalised, even though a provision is dutifully reflected in the budget every year. If indeed the money is set aside, the fund should have upwards of Sh50 billion.

The evident resolve to take away money from northern Kenya, while at the same time withholding money that is the region’s constitutional entitlement, begs the question whether the true intention of the one-man-one-shilling formula is to increase the money flowing to central Kenya or to keep northern Kenya poor and marginalised.

Land or people? Why money should follow function

Kirinyaga (Pop. 610,000, 1,478 km2) and Nyamira (Pop. 605,000, 913 km2)) have about the same population and are equally small and so, on both population and area, they’d come out about even. In Kirinyaga, 52 per cent of households have piped water in their compounds. In Nyamira only 7.7 percent do, as per the Integrated Household Budget Survey (IHBS) 2015/16. Similarly, Migori (Pop. 1.12 m) and Murang’a (Pop. 1.07m) are in the same population bracket, but 35 per cent of Murang’a households have piped water. In Migori, it is 1.6 per cent. Busia (Pop. 890,000) might feel it has a leg up on Nyeri (Pop. 759,000) population-wise, but the IHBS 2015/16 puts Busia’s poverty incidence at 69 per cent against Nyeri’s 19 per cent. Busia’s interests in terms of how money should be allocated are more aligned with those of their northern Kenya poverty peer group.

Why then would Busia, Migori or Siaya for that matter conclude that their interests are aligned with those of equally populous counties as opposed to those with which they share needs? Residents of these and other counties in a similar situation are owed an answer to this question. Population per se is not a criteria for allocation of revenue. It has been used as a proxy for the cost of providing services. If Kirinyaga County had only one hospital located at Kerugoya, every resident would be able to access it in less than 45 minutes. To provide the same quality of access in Marsabit would require 45 facilities, and roads leading to them. Obviously, it is difficult for Marsabit to equip 45 facilities to match Kirinyaga’s one hospital. Population density also matters. Incidence of poverty matters. Climate (e.g. malaria incidence) matters.

On revenue sharing by formula

Consider a Ward with three villages allocated NGCDF (National Government Constituencies Development Fund) money for one project. One village proposes a secondary school, the second a dispensary and the third a tarmac road. How to choose? An economic axiom known as the Arrow Impossibility Theorem posits that there is no win-win solution for this problem and thus problems of this nature are solved by give and take. Formulas such as rates of return are helpful for illuminating discussion but they are not of themselves a solution. There is no scientific method of adding up and subtracting the continued suffering from lack of healthcare and the income loss on produce that fails to get to market during the rains from the happiness of having a secondary school. The only human institution that thrives on self-interest is commerce. This should disabuse the Senate and the country at large of the idea that we can tinker with a formula until it pleases everyone. This impasse is political, and not politics of the best kind. Put the formulas aside and return to reason.

David Ndii
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David Ndii is a leading Kenyan economist and public intellectual.

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What Kenyans Have Always Wanted is to Limit the Powers of the Executive

As Kenya’s political class considers expanding the executive branch of government, no one seems to be talking about restricting its powers.

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The tyranny of numbers, a phrase first applied to Kenyan politics by one of Kenya’s most well-known political commentators, Mutahi Ngunyi, was repeated ad nauseum during the week of waiting that followed Kenya’s 2013 general elections.

In ads published in the run-up to the 2013 elections by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), people were told to vote, go home and accept the results. Encouraged by a state that had since the 2007 post-electoral violence dominated public discourse and means of coercion, the military pitched camp in polling stations. Many streets in Kenya’s cities and towns remained deserted for days after the polls closed.

According to Ngunyi, the winner of the 2013 elections had been known four months earlier, that is, when the electoral commission stopped registering voters.

In a country whose politics feature a dominant discourse that links political party and ethnicity, the outcome of voter registration that year meant that the Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto-led coalition, the Jubilee Alliance, would start the electoral contest with 47 per cent of the vote assured. With these statistics, their ticket appeared almost impossible to beat. For ethnic constituencies that did not eventually vote for Uhuru Kenyatta – the Jubilee Alliance presidential candidate in 2013 – a sense of hopelessness was widespread.

For them, a bureaucratic, professionalised, dispassionate (even boring) discourse became the main underpinning of the 2013 elections.

This was not the case in 2017.

Uhuru Kenyatta, pressured by opposition protests and a Supreme Court ruling that challenged his victory and ordered a re-run, met with Raila Odinga – his challenger for the presidency in the 2013 and 2017 elections – and offered a settlement. It became known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

In his 2020 Jamhuri Day speech, Uhuru reiterated that the purpose of the BBI process is to abolish the winner-takes-all system by expanding the executive branch of government.

As he explained it, the challenge to Kenya’s politics is the politicisation of ethnicity coupled with a lack of the requisite number of political offices within the executive branch that would satisfy all ethnic constituencies – Kenya has 42 enumerated ethnic groups.

The revised BBI report that was released on 21 October 2020 (the first was published in November 2019) has now retained the position of president, who, if the recommendations are voted for in a referendum, will also get to appoint a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers and a cabinet.

Amid heckles and jeers during the launch of the revised BBI report, Deputy President William Ruto asked whether the establishment of the positions of prime minister and two deputy prime ministers would create the much sought-after inclusivity. In his Jamhuri Day speech, the president conceded that they wouldn’t, but that the BBI-proposed position of Leader of Official Opposition – with a shadow cabinet, technical support and a budget – would mean that the loser of the presidential election would still have a role to play in governance.

One could not help but think that the president’s statement was informed by the fact that Odinga lost to him in both the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections –  this despite Odinga’s considerable political influence over vast areas of the country.

The 2010 constitution’s pure presidential system doesn’t anticipate any formal political role for the loser(s) of a presidential election. Raila held no public office between 2013 and 2017, when he lost to Uhuru. This did not help to address the perception amongst his supporters that they had been excluded from the political process for many years. In fact, Raila’s party had won more gubernatorial posts across the country’s 47 counties than the ruling Jubilee Alliance had during the 2013 elections.

While Raila’s attempts to remain politically relevant in the five years between 2013 and 2017 were largely ignored by Uhuru, the resistance against Uhuru’s victory in 2017 wasn’t.

The anger felt by Raila’s supporters in 2017 following the announcement that Uhuru had won the elections – again – could not be separated from the deeply-entrenched feelings of exclusion and marginalisation that were at the centre of the violence that followed the protracted and disputed elections.

The reading of Kenyan politics that is currently being rendered by the BBI process is that all ethnic constituencies must feel that they (essentially, their co-ethnic leaders) are playing a role in what is an otherwise overly centralised, executive-bureaucratic state. This is despite the fact that previous attempts to limit the powers of the executive branch by spreading them across other levels of government have often invited a backlash from the political class.

Kenya’s independence constitution had provided for a Westminster-style, parliamentary system of government, and took power and significant functions of government away from the centralised government in Nairobi, placing significant responsibility (over land, security and education, for instance) in the hands of eight regional governments of equal status known in Swahili as majimbo. The majimbo system was abolished and, between 1964 to 1992, the government was headed by an executive president and the constitution amended over twenty times – largely empowering the executive branch at the expense of parliament and the judiciary. The powers of the president were exercised for the benefit of the president’s cronies and co-ethnics.

By 2010 there was not a meaningful decentralised system of government. The executive, and the presidency at its head, continued to survive attempts at limiting their powers. This has continued since 2010.

As Kenya’s political class considers expanding the executive branch of government, no one seems to be talking about restricting its powers.

Beyond the minimum of 35 per cent of national revenue that the BBI report proposes should be allocated to county governments, it is less clear whether the country’s leaders are prepared to decentralise significant powers and resources away from the executive, and away from Nairobi.

Perhaps the real solution to the challenges of governance the BBI process purports to address is to follow the prescriptions of the defunct Yash Pal Ghai team – it went around the country collecting views for constitutional change in 2003-2004.

According to a paper written by Ghai himself, the Ghai-led Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) had no doubt that, consistent with the goals of the review and the people’s views, there had to be a transfer of very substantial powers and functions of government to local levels.

The CKRC noted – much like Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga now have – that the centralised presidential system tends to ethnicise politics, which threatens national unity.

Kenyans told the CKRC that decisions were made at places far away from them; that their problems arose from government policies over which they had no control; that they wanted greater control over their own destiny and to be free to determine their lifestyle choices and their affairs; and not to be told that they are not patriotic enough!

Yes, the BBI report has proposed that 5 per cent of county revenue be allocated to Members of County Assemblies for a newly-created Ward Development Fund, and that businesses set up by young Kenyans be exempted from taxation for the first seven years of operation. However, this doesn’t amount to any meaningful surrender of power and resources by the executive.

In emphasising the importance of exercising control at the local level, Kenyans told the CKRC that they wanted more communal forms of organisation and a replacement of the infamous Administration Police with a form of community policing. They considered that more powers and resources at the local level would give them greater influence over their parliamentary and local representatives, including greater control over jobs, land and land-based resources.  In short, Kenyans have always yearned for a dispersion of power away from the presidency, and away from the executive and Nairobi. They have asked for the placing of responsibility for public affairs in the hands of additional and more localised levels of government.

This is what would perhaps create the much sought-after inclusivity.

But as the BBI debate rages on, the attention of the political class is now on the proposed new positions within the executive branch. And as the debate becomes inexorably linked to the 2022 Kenyatta-succession race, questions centring on political positions will likely become personalised, especially after the political class cobbles together coalitions to contest the 2022 general elections.

Meanwhile, ordinary Kenyans will be left battling the aftermath of a pandemic, and having to deal with the usual stresses brought on by a political class seeking their votes for another round of five years of exclusion.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Democracy for Some, Mere Management for Others

The coming election in Uganda is significant because if there is to be managed change, it will never find a more opportune moment.

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Democracy for Some, Mere Management for Others
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Western powers slowly tied a noose round their own necks by first installing Uganda’s National Resistance Movement regime, and then supporting it uncritically as it embarked on its adventures in militarism, plunder and human rights violations inside and outside Uganda’s borders.

They are now faced with a common boss problem: what to do with an employee of very long standing (possibly even inherited from a predecessor) who may now know more about his department than the new bosses, and who now carries so many of the company’s secrets that summary dismissal would be a risky undertaking?

The elections taking place in Uganda this week have brought that dilemma into sharp relief.

An initial response would be to simply allow this sometimes rude employee to carry on. The problem is time. In both directions. The employee is very old, and those he seeks to manage are very young, and also very poor and very aspirational because of being very young. And also therefore very angry.

Having a president who looks and speaks like them, and whose own personal life journey symbolises their own ambitions, would go a very long way to placating them. This, if for no other reason, is why the West must seriously consider finding a way to induce the good and faithful servant to give way. Nobody lives forever. And so replacement is inevitable one way or another.

But this is clearly not a unified position. The United Kingdom, whose intelligence services were at the forefront of installing the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) in power nearly forty years ago, remains quietly determined to stand by President Yoweri Museveni’s side.

On the other hand, opinion in America’s corridors of power seems divided. With standing operations in Somalia, and a history of western-friendly interventions in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and even Kenya, the Ugandan military is perceived as a huge (and cut-price) asset to the West’s regional security concerns.

The DRC, in particular, with its increasing significance as the source of much of the raw materials that will form the basis of the coming electric engine revolution, has been held firmly in the orbit of Western corporations through the exertions of the regime oligarchs controlling Uganda’s security establishment. To this, one may add the growing global agribusiness revolution in which the fertile lands of the Great Lakes Region are targeted for clearing and exploitation, and for which the regime offers facilitation.

Such human resource is hard to replace and therefore not casually disposed of.

These critical resource questions are backstopped by unjust politics themselves held in place by military means. The entire project therefore hinges ultimately on who has the means to physically enforce their exploitation. In our case, those military means have been personalised to one individual and a small circle of co-conspirators, often related by blood and ethnicity.

However, time presses. Apart from the ageing autocrat at the centre, there is also a time bomb in the form of an impoverished and anxious population of unskilled, under-employed (if at all) and propertyless young people. Change beckons for all sides, whether planned for or not.

This is why this coming election is significant. If there is to be managed change, it will never find a more opportune moment. Even if President Museveni is once again declared winner, there will still remain enough political momentum and pressure that could be harnessed by his one-time Western friends to cause him to look for the exit. It boils down to whether the American security establishment could be made to believe that the things that made President Museveni valuable to them, are transferable elsewhere into the Uganda security establishment. In short, that his sub-imperial footprint can be divorced from his person and entrusted, if not to someone like candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, then at least to security types already embedded within the state structure working under a new, youthful president.

Three possible outcomes then: Kyagulanyi carrying the vote and being declared the winner; Kyagulanyi carrying the vote but President Museveni being declared the winner; or failure to have a winner declared. In all cases, there will be trouble. In the first, a Trump-like resistance from the incumbent. In the second and the third, the usual mass disturbances that have followed each announcement of the winner of the presidential election since the 1990s.

Once the Ugandan political crisis — a story going back to the 1960s — is reduced to a security or “law and order” problem, the West usually sides with whichever force can quickest restore the order they (not we) need.

And this is how the NRM tail seeks to still wag the Western dog: the run-up to voting day has been characterised by heavy emphasis on the risk of alleged “hooligans” out to cause mayhem (“burning down the city” being a popular bogeyman). The NRM’s post-election challenge will be to quickly strip the crisis of all political considerations and make it a discussion about security.

But it would be strategically very risky to try to get Uganda’s current young electorate — and the even younger citizens in general — to accept that whatever social and economic conditions they have lived through in the last few decades (which for most means all of their lives given how young they are) are going to remain in place for even just the next five years. They will not buy into the promises they have seen broken in the past. Their numbers, their living conditions, their economic prospects and their very youth would then point to a situation of permanent unrest.

However, it can be safely assumed that the NRM regime will, to paraphrase US President Donald Trump, not accept any election result that does not declare it the winner.

Leave things as they are and deal with the inevitable degeneration of politics beyond its current state, or enforce a switch now under the cover of an election, or attempt to enforce a switch in the aftermath of the election by harnessing the inevitable discontent.

Those are the boss’ options.

In the meantime, there is food to be grown and work to be done.

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Uganda Elections 2021: The Elephant Website Blocked Ahead of Poll

For about a month now, some of our readers within Uganda have been reporting problems accessing the website. Following receipt of these reports, we launched investigations which have established that The Elephant has been blocked by some, though not all, internet service providers in the country.

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Uganda Elections 2021: The Elephant Website Blocked Ahead of Poll
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Dear Readers/Viewers,

For four years now, The Elephant has been one of the premier online sources of news analysis in the East African region with a fast-growing readership across the African continent and beyond.

For about a month now, some of our readers within Uganda have been reporting problems accessing the website. Following receipt of these reports, we launched investigations which have established that The Elephant has been blocked by some, though not all, internet service providers in the country.

We have further ascertained that the directive to do so came from the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) and was implemented beginning 12 December 2020, when we noticed a sudden traffic drop coming from several providers in Uganda, including Africell and Airtel. A forensics report, which provides technical details on the blocking, is available here.

We have written to the UCC requesting a reason for the blocking but are yet to receive a response.

The Elephant wholeheartedly condemns this assault on free speech and on freedom of the press and calls on the Ugandan government to respect the rights of Ugandans to access information.

We would like to assure all our readers that we are doing everything in our power to get the restrictions removed and hope normal access can be restored expeditiously.

As we do this, to circumvent the block, a Bifrost mirror has been deployed. Readers in Uganda can once again access The Elephant on this link.

Thank you.

Best Regards

John Githongo
Publisher

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