The Current FACE of Ugandan POLITICS
A spade is spade. Ugandan Politics is… well, something else. Politics all over the world is full of wit, deceit a lot of the time, manipulation; rule bending and what have you! Ugandan Politics though… well, it’s still something else. It cannot be defined… at least not in a sentence. But let’s paint a picture for you. A picture of what of what Ugandan Politics is like today.
A brief history of Uganda’s today politics; will only go as far back as 1986. That is about 30 years ago. 80% of us the Ugandan voting population does not know who Ronald Regan was but he was the American President back in 1986. We think! Well what we are sure about is that the President of Uganda is still the same. Some of us know the cool Bill Clinton, his wife now wants to be the next President of America, Many of us know George Walter Bush and he was the ‘stupid’ president of America. Wait his father we hear was also called George Bush Snr. Ha! That one was a war mongering president we are told and ‘that’ he ‘commanded’ his ‘stupid’ son to fight the same stupid wars. But everybody that is going to Vote in Uganda in 2016 knows the ‘African’ or ‘Kenyan’ President of America who some of us in Uganda refer to as ‘neighbour’, Barack Hussein Obama. That one is the one we know as the greatest American President. In Uganda we know that even if America is not Uganda and we know their presidents, we the majority of the voting populace, only really know one President in our history and that is Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. We have read or heard about Idi Amin a dictator who started ruling Uganda over 40 years ago but it seems more people in America know the latter more than the former who is more current. This is just the picture; we are not saying that any country should be run by America’s standards.
So the history of the current Ugandan politics is that there is really no History. We have the same leaders for as far back as we can remember.
Now, let’s move on to the actual definition of the politics. There are a lot of things in Ugandan politics that we the voting populace keenly observe and mention in passing and not take it much further than that. That is the first major component in Ugandan politics.
The second thing is that Ugandan politicians can get away with anything and they know it. And that is because of the first thing about Ugandan Politics. Just don’t get confused yet.
So what are these things Ugandans observe and let go as there politician do them and get away with. Let’s now forget the first list we were coming up with and make it less confusing and move on to a second list.
First on the new list is that when the National Resistance Movement came to power. The leader, the current president made it clear that he did not want to stay in power for too long. All of us voters; young and old even those that were not yet born at the time, know the famous statement he made so no need to repeat it because it might make our bloggers seem inexperienced about that that they do. Anyway, Ugandans let that pass. 30 years later, he is still here after so many democracies have had a torrid (is that too heavy for some satire?) number of leaders come and go. We really never hold anyone accountable do we?
Second, the country’s current number one politicians realised years ago that Ugandans are subtle complainers and could only oust a ‘bad’ leader if the next person could take on the responsibility and they backed him or her quietly like they had backed him without directly breaking much of a sweat. In so doing, he quickly professionalised the army for that is where one likely hell of a rebel or rebels would oust him just in case people started thinking for any reason that he was bad. He also worked hard to set up a political system that would convince Ugandans just enough that he was actually (if any were suspicious) and indeed a nice person. This system was a one man merit system where a capable person was elected by the populace based on healthy credentials and when that person was put in the same room with those of his kind, they would discuss and deliberate issues candidly and honestly and that was a good thing at least while it lasted.
A democratic constitutional assembly, a presidential and parliamentary election and a political dispensation referendum later, the politics of Uganda were clear cut like diamond ready for a finger ring. People in Uganda were in love with their politicians almost everywhere especially the number one politician. Gun slinging Rebels in the country were and still are justifiably unwelcome. There is some obvious irony in that but that is a case for another day, probably yesterday. The now ‘professional’ national (resistance removed) Army has dealt with this and even gone a step ahead into peace missions some of which have been controversial in the past like the Congo-UN-Rwanda-Uganda debacle but moving along to success in places like Somalia and just till the last weeks in South Sudan. We will get back to Somalia later on in the chronology of undressing this picture of Uganda’s current Politics.
Anyway, certain things in the current politics started to occur. A few Ugandans started to apply more of their ‘potential’ to get a ‘piece of the cake’. The political space in Uganda was opened and is still open up to now for everyone with the brains or should I say scruples as well to participate. Some politicians like the so called original movement wanted to contribute genuinely while others saw an opportunity of misunderstood capitalism! The ‘corrupt’, as they became known. It’s however not even so clear who the corrupt politicians since 1992 have been because the accusations never stand ground. It is until recently that the politicians have stuck the blame, with damning evidence on the Technocrats (Of Kazinda, Obei, Lwamafa, etc Sagas in the Prime Minister’s office and Public Civil Service Pensions). None the less a lot of government funds over the last 20-something or so years has gone unaccounted for and for Ugandans that leaves every other politician who bore a lot of power (not any more but that is another few paragraphs later) as our brutish suspects. Let us save ourselves the bother of listing the lost funds and sagas involved because it’s only the third element of the current politics and a tiny winy part of the bigger picture of Uganda’s politics. But do not ignore as indicated in the second element that this third element in Uganda’s politics might or might not have cropped up unexpectedly around 1992 as the powers that be became comfortable about what they thought they were doing to secure their power.
It is arguable but maybe they were too busy realising what one of the PAST Presidents said, “Entebbe ewoma!” Every voting Ugandan today has an inkling of what that ‘bon-a-fide political Luganda proverb’ now means. In context, it’s that the seat of power is highly addictive. All Ugandan’s therefore know that power makes one blindly corruptible and it’s always a matter of time. Have it long enough, you might turn a blind eye to the evil around you just to stay with it. Power!
As the painting goes on, there is the saying that a fish starts rotting from the head. In Uganda, the political head at any level always claims that they are the ones trying to fight corruption, but the tails they have come to find that they are the corrupt ones and not the heads. Scientists who based on facts or Biologist and marine biologist to be exact, have a field day laughing at Ugandan Politics because they must have been the ones that came up with the fish proverb. But since Politics is an art as well, when we watched a ‘nice piece of drama’ that was aired on one local private corporation television station where one of the political heads of our beloved nation stood in the back yard of a neighbouring political head on official or personal visit for that matter and said that his country Uganda was so full of thieves, true he was. But there in it was the paradox, a situation that remind us of a kindergarten story (those of us who managed to get some decent schooling even when the nation was in harder times), ought to remember the story of Alibaba and the Forty Thieves! You will find the link to that story at the end of this article for reference. But take this with you, Uganda deserves a Morgiana, she is in that story. We were supposed to keep going. Sorry! On to the fourth element in Uganda’s current politics.
Admit this. Politicians in Uganda are a mixture of … and we will be candid about this… very brilliant individuals, those that think they are brilliant and the stupid ones. And this is where it gets complicated, very complicated indeed.
I will start with the Stupid ones; there is no complication about these after all. It’s true; they say that a leader is a reflection of who the people are. A lot of us Ugandans… I said I was going to be candid… are gullible enough to believe that the leaders we are choosing are genuinely there for our concerns, our lives. Or we are too complacent, well knowing what that they are not one bit honest and are only coming for a piece of the pie or maybe two pieces but could really care less either because they might enrich us as well if we hang around them. But most of all we have cultured the fungi of corruptness in our thinking that we intentionally allow our leaders to fertilise us with mostly 28 cents on the dollar today or 1,000 Ugandan shillings, which is the average take for a desperate Ugandan to vote for you and grant you the power you need to steal millions of dollars. Stupidity! That way we allow some stupid leaders who bare the some down low characteristics of some (not all) Ugandans that are ill-educated and fickle minded and uncultured.
On realising this, the political leaders that thought they were brilliant, figured that it benefited them have ‘colleagues’ who had no merit whatsoever because that way they would be held high in a maverick’s manner. Pretty darn selfish if we might add! To understand such politicians is only through their actions, they formed and developed words like Cadres… referring to younger politicians who would take on the ideology of revolutionist. Well like expected this also sounded nice. They visibly were aware that a multi-party system is not the democracy set for a developing society as some have clearly admitted especially at the top most but instead of educating the masses, that chose the system, it enable them to capitalise on the system selfishly. This is what brought in the fifth element that is strongly intertwined with the forth and the third elements making them the most lethal cocktail of Uganda’s current politics.
The not so brilliant leaders now use the cultured corruption to prove that it easily weakens the principals of multi-party democracy. They choose or pick a desperate cadre, a fake protégée and finance (bribe) the new comer’s way into a party position during Party primaries. Once the party has voted their leaders, the race is over. The party whose popularity is rooted among the voting populace during any general election with the ideology of ‘the viable option’ or ‘best alternative’ always takes the day. That party is now the one that rules and makes legislation or rules by numbers. These numbers help sustain the numbers all most making it appear like the political system is a one party system but this time with no merit. The people the party presents to the general populace don’t come with merit hence leaving the incorruptible Ugandan voter without viable options for representation. Hence, now creating the sixth element of Uganda’s current politics; disenfranchisement.
Politics is not for the good in Uganda. This has never really said out loud but has been expressed in many ways in Uganda. Who are the good people or citizens of Uganda? The peace loving, hard-working everyday man/woman with mouths to feed those to educate and keep healthy without waiting for money filled envelope or patronage coming from some political maverick. These not so brilliant leaders are killing work ethic of a nation that had a GDP growth rate that was four times that of the Asian Tigers in 1969. Yes, every fairly well educated voting Ugandan somehow gets this information and passes it on to those that might miss it. None the less, the third elements always blows many Ugandans’ morals into the wind and the cycle of bad politics plays to the advantage of what I will call the patronising maverick politician. Aggravating but true!
As for the Brilliant Politician, these are the ones that bring in the Seventh element. The Lucky number seven! But by bad luck, this element comes in three ways. We could call these ways the juxtaposition of those in power and those that are not in power. Now this is where it really starts getting complicated. But stay with me, we will break it down as gently as we can.
Of the brilliant politicians we have the first. Those that realised a long time ago that things were beginning to go wrong in Ugandan politics after so much work had been put in, said it and then outlived their usefulness. Some of these are dead. No one is going to discuss any controversies or conspiracies because where we should be or not be concerned is that there is no evidence. Those that are alive, some feel they did their part and feel that it’s time some younger patriotic Ugandans do their part now but the question here is are there any younger patriotic Ugandans or only politicians for hire? Well if they are there, then those are the ones we shall conclude this whole digression with.
The third among those that have lived their usefulness are the ones still in politics. I will explain these ones here too. The very old ones that the head politician is still using either to draw in regional balances or any form of political equilibrium that cements his own power. No need to mention names but ask any Ugandan that can vote, they will give you a name to the type. These are not necessarily bad politicians they are more of a cushion form bad politics.
Still among the outlived, are those ones pretending to be alive and well and vibrant. These are some firebrand politicians we all know and some love and some love to hate as well but even if they speak the truth a lot of the time and still might like and not like the way they politicize, their tactics and resilience has been worn thin that no expectation of gaining any political mileage to make effective change in the terrain will be made by them. Somehow these keep stubbornly showing up even when they keep bowing out all the time. We don’t know which is worse, a stubborn politician who will not leave power or one who says they no longer want it any more but keep looking for it anyway. Annoying!
That is it for the Brilliant Politician without relevance. And now this is it for the relevant politician. In a society where it has not grown to matter yet, they still hold their ideals in high standing. Whether we think or portray them as good or bad, they simply don’t falter or alter based on our opinions of them. These politicians have always been around but Uganda for a while has been such an adolescent that hardly ever recognises principles and their principals. These are the politicians Ugandans are not ready for. As Ugandans you might not know them but hey are there. If you start looking, you might find them or not. So we cannot say these are our favourites yet.
We finalise this seventh element with this last Ugandan Politician who is brilliant. They want everybody else to leave power but them. We have all just laughed at the description but that is who most of them are. They show they know everything, yet they are always uninformed, they tell us everything we should hear and teach us that we can get away with not keeping our promises. They blame everybody for everything going wrong but them. They are the summation of the face of Uganda’s politics. Look around you, they are everywhere. Look at you.