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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 13:02 GMT
Corruption fears over new aid plan
By Martin Plaut
BBC News, Uganda

Sekanyo Misusela watches the clear syrupy juice of the sugar cane pouring from the crushing machine. The sugar is used to produce a truly lethal gin - called "enguuli".

It's popular, but so powerful that a bottle is said to be capable of leaving you blind.

Distillery in operation
Need for a new cash crop prompted the switch to distilling

The family sell it to merchants who come up from Kampala, to the family farm in the Mityana district, an hour and a half north of the Ugandan capital.

This was not Sekanyo's first choice of crops to grow, or products to sell.

Once he harvested a good crop of coffee. But plant disease and falling world coffee prices made this uneconomical.

So he went into cotton. But American subsidies to their farmers made that unprofitable as well.

Then there was vanilla. For a while this held out the hope of good money. But that was illusory as well.

Sceptical

"First we got 50,000 Ugandan shillings per kilo (about $20). Now it is just 10, 000 (about $4), " Sekanyo says.

Bigambo Festus examines coffee crop
Coffee used to be a good earner for small farmers

"It is very little money. I cannot assist my children and my family."

And with 20 children - some his own, some the children of dead relatives - to feed, clothe and send to school, Sekanyo is having a hard time making ends meet.

His son, Bigambo Festus examines the coffee plants that once provided this family with a livelihood.

He has not heard of Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, but he knows all about international aid. And he's sceptical about whether the aid will end up in the pockets of corrupt politicians.

"It would be nice, but will it reach us? That is the question," Festus says.

"And if it reaches us, will it be properly divided? Those big politicians, they are the ones who take the biggest part.'

Fears of violence

This belief that corruption is widespread is driving despair. And in Uganda disillusionment can be deadly.

Uganda has made huge strides but the rumbling war in the north undermines development efforts.

The country has a bloody history that only ended 19 years ago when President Yoweri Museveni came to power.

But even now a war still smoulders on in the north. Sekanyo is afraid that if poverty continues some people will turn to violence.

"That is a very big problem. Because if you suffer a lot, then comes the guerrillas. If people are very poor they look for a gun," he says.

It's a dire warning and seems a world away from the peaceful scene on the farm.

Need for prosperity

But Uganda has been ripped apart by civil wars in the past, and it cannot be ignored.

Sekanyo Misusela examines crushed sugar
Sekanyo's product is sold to merchants from Kampala

Africa is the one continent to have continued to slide in poverty.

The Africa Commission is backing policies designed to reverse this - to find what policies were needed to put African countries on a path that would end the poverty that blights the lives of 315 million Africans living on less than $1 a day.

Uganda has made huge strides since President Museveni fought his way to power in 1986, but the rumbling war in the north undermines development efforts.

If prosperity continues to elude the mass of Ugandans who still live in rural areas, then Sekanyo's prediction of wider violence could still come to pass.


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