Monday, July 22, 2013
How Well Do You Know Your Money?
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB (Hons)–Mak; Dip. LP Candidate–LDC]
On Friday, last week, shortly after moots, a friend of mine approached and revealed to me an interesting observation, concerning our bank notes, issued by Bank of Uganda (BoU). He said that there was something government and BoU in particular, are not telling us. “What?” I asked. He stated that on the rear side of all our bank notes, on the top left corner of the Ugandan map, there is a human head, with a string-like image, tied around it – that is on the spot where you will find West Nile region, geographically. This sounded interesting to me. For avoidance of doubt, he asked me to get any paper money denomination, so that I can see it for myself. Remember that our paper money is in the denominations of Ugx 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000 and 50000. He assured me that whichever denomination I looked at, I was sure to see the head and string image on it.
So, I pulled out a nearby Ugx 20,000 note, from my pocket and asked him to show it to me. He did and I actually saw it. At this moment I recalled that sometime back I had also seen this head image on our bank notes, only that I didn’t pay attention to it, such that I hadn’t seen the string around the head. Since I hadn’t paid attention to the image, it didn’t matter to me, then. This gentleman asked me to write an article about this important issue and here it is, because I think it matters to me now.
For those who may not know the rear side of the paper money (at least for the new currency notes), this is it. Our paper money has two sides or faces: the front and rear sides. Unless I am wrong, the front of any denomination of your choice, is where you will find the court of arms, the Governor’s and Secretary’s signatures, the year in which the note was printed, the serial number and BoU’s statement of guarantee of legal tender, in capital letters, just below the huge phrase, “BANK OF UGANDA”. For instance, the statement of guarantee for the Ugx 10000 note reads that, “LEGAL TENDER FOR TEN THOUSAND SHILLINGS FOR BANK OF UGANDA.” On the other hand, the rear side is one where you will find the map of Uganda. This one is a constant for all notes, together with the head and string image. What follows are security marks and other identifying features, which distinguish one bank note from another. On this face, in the bottom right corner, you will also find the Kiswahili translation of the value of the bank note, just below the English equivalent. For example, the Ugx 10000 note reads as follows: “SHILINGI ELFU KUMI.”
Now, my friend noted and I agree, that the head and string image is common and notorious to all our bank notes. To his mind, therefore, unless there is something fishy, there should be absolutely no reason why BoU has failed to disclose the image as a key identification symbol of our currency, yet in the past the bank has described several features about it. It can’t be that they forgot. So, his philosophy (which I don’t share, for all its attractiveness and however much he seemed to be seriously convinced about it) is that BoU dedicated our money to the devil so that only those in government and their allies can benefit from it. He contends that this is the reason why our economy is generally not prosperous, in the sense that only a few people are gaining financially. I thought this was somewhat ridiculous. When I asked him why of all things he thought it is about the devil, he stated that, “What else can it be about? A culture symbol? No! Culture should be something to be proud of. Why would Bank of Uganda hide it? And why do you think there is rampant child sacrifice in Uganda today under this government? This is the devil’s work and all this is reflected in the money we use.” At this point, I was left a bit dumb and speechless.
Well, with all due respect, by and large, this gentleman’s analysis seems far fetched. You may agree however, that one would not blame him much because in a country, where government activities are shrouded in mystery and suspicion, lacking in public transparency and accountability, anything comes, sells and goes rounds. I think Bank of Uganda owes us an explanation on this matter.