In Summary

  • Review. The closure of Crane Bank in 2016 came as a shock to many observers, given the power that Sudhir Ruparelia enjoyed in the country and his connections with the political elite.
  • That Crane Bank story continued well into 2017 and by late June it seemed that Ruparelia had much more to lose, Timothy Kalyegira writes.

Uganda announced it would be pulling its peacekeeping troops from the Central African Republic.

On the international scene, Uganda made less news than it usually does. An Al-Jazeera TV interview with President Museveni during his visit to Qatar had a few people talking but that too was soon off the news agenda.
The single biggest news story for the first half of 2017 was the shocking murder in March of the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, and two of his aides.

The story, the arrests of suspects, speculation over who might be behind the murders and suspicion that the official version of what might have happened was not telling the public the whole truth dominated the news cycle and public debate.

The economy continued to feel the effect of what is clearly a slowdown.

Nakumatt, the Kenya-owned supermarket chain, closed three of its prime outlets in Kampala and Entebbe, signalling that even in the higher end of the market demand was as weak as in the lower segment.

Talk of reviving Uganda Airlines, the former national air carrier, briefly engaged the media and political class before vanishing from the radar.

The closure of Crane Bank in September 2016 came as a shock to many observers and in the public, given the power that Sudhir Ruparelia enjoyed in the country and his connections with the political elite.

That Crane Bank story continued well into 2017 and by late June it seemed that Ruparelia had much more to lose before the saga finally came to an end.

The question of the proposed lifting, or rumoured proposal or possibility of lifting the presidential age limit of 75 years became the dominant news toward the end of May.

The population was resigned to the possibility that just as the presidential two-term limit had been lifted by Parliament in 2005, the presidential age limit would go too and it was just a matter of how and when, not if.

There was some cheer across much of the country at the landslide parliamentary by-election in Kyadondo East by the afro-pop and dancehall singer Bobi Wine.

It was one of those victories so popular that both the ruling NRM and the main Opposition party the FDC heartily congratulated Bobi Wine.

There was little to add to it except to view it as a clear statement by the public.
In the media, the Daily Monitor and NTV became the first two Ugandan media brands to get over one million Facebook likes, a reflection of their continued appeal with the public.

The government’s perception of the Daily Monitor and NTV as “anti-government” is the very thing that gives them legitimacy among the increasingly disillusioned public, although many hardcore critics of the NRM government often accuse the Daily Monitor of being soft on the State.

In music, the popular singer Irene Ntale announced in January her departure from the Swangz Avenue record label and that had mentored her.

And, of course, Bobi Wine the musician made the transition to Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu the Member of Parliament.

The veteran playwright and actor Charles James Ssenkubuge of Bakayimbira Dramactors embarked on what he said was his farewell series of stage appearances, although in the past he has announced a similar farewell tour.

Several prominent Ugandans – former DP president general John Ssebaana Kizito, former DP national chairman Boniface Byanyima, Lawrence Mukiibi of the St Lawrence schools, the socialite Ivan Ssemwanga, the former UCB official and past rotary district president Sam Owori, the head of the presidential commission during the 1980 Military Commission administration Joel Wacha-Olwol and others – died during the first six months of 2017.

By the end of June, Uganda’s brief re-appearance in January at the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament after a 37-year absence was long forgotten and there was next to no public discussion of it.

The biggest sporting event on Ugandan soil came in the IAAF World Cross Country championships in Kampala.
This really was a significant event but because athletics is dwarfed by football in national popularity, it was lost on many Ugandans.

The drought of mid to late 2016 was followed by the traditional rainy season from April to May and then for some reason temperatures started to drop in mid-June and an additional season of rainfall got underway.

This extended rainy season was good news to the millions of rural farmers dependent on rain for their livelihood.

Uganda was a country looking for direction and hope but did not appear to see either on the horizon.
The feeling of being a country increasingly stale, stagnant and frustrated was palpable.