8 February 2013

Uganda: A Military Coup? Give Ugandans a Break!


One, they say is an incidence; two is coincidence but three is a commitment.

The UPDF Commander in Chief, Gen Yoweri Museveni, the minister of Defence, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, and the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, have one after another recently repeated the message about the possibility of the army taking over the government!

Is this the legendary 'wheel coming full circle', from the ragtag army that preached a fundamental change, through sham elections and now back to military rule?!

What has incensed 'Mzee' and his clan Generals so much that they are left with no option but to resort to the long-forgotten and internationally-derided military coups? Previously, the regime has done so well using patronage, dishing freebies and chopping up districts to enhance divide and rule. Have all these failed?

All the three who spoke have insinuated that the army would take over if Parliament turns the country into anarchy. Just for the record, about 75% of MPs of the 9th Parliament belong to the ruling party.

The same ruling party emptied the treasury during the 2011 elections to enable their MPs buy their way into the House. Is that the reason Museveni is shocked and angered that the 'idiots' whom he spent so much money on to have them fixed in Parliament should be giving him such a hard time?

But the President should not exhaust himself and his store of insults with threats of military takeovers. He only needs to be reminded that today's so-called party indiscipline was actually bred and nurtured by him through the then famous 'individual merit' system!

On his arrival, Museveni castigated parties, saying they were divisive. He encouraged individualism that was dressed in the beautified language of individual merit. Now the very system he nurtured is coming back to haunt him. Recently, as NRM legislators ate and danced away the nights in Kyankwanzi, the party should have used this time to exorcise its members of the 'evil spirits' of individual merit!

But also, one needs to ask: why doesn't the executive ask the hard questions as to why its MPs are behaving in such a manner? This reminds me of Daniel Goleman's word cited in Stephen Covey's The little Big Things. Daniel Goleman said: "How can a high-level leader like...be so out of touch with the truth...? In fact the higher up the leader climbs, the less accurate his self-assessment is likely to be. The problem is an acute lack of feedback, especially on people's issues."

The reason MPs have severally disagreed with the executive's position could be that they have a more accurate feedback about people's issues. The so-called 'rebel' MPs are more popular because they represent what the ordinary person feels. Look at the grief that was poured out when the late Cerinah Nebanda passed on!

And why wouldn't MPs go against the executive when they are the ones feeling the heat from the populace?

I read about a proposed constitutional amendment to ensure MPs do not freely speak against their party. I think that if such a law is passed under the current framework, the MPs will be in a precarious position. Rather, the Constitution should be amended to replace constituency MPs with Proportional Representation (PR) ones.

PR will enable Museveni have a firm grip on all his MPs since it will be the party that will have selected members to represent it in Parliament. The party will also easily recall any member without fear of the risk of losing that constituency. Finally, PR will wave off the pressure on MPs who sometimes have to act in the interest of their constituents since under proportional representation, the electorate vote a party not an individual.

That is the way to go, not the old-fashioned coups.

The author is a political activist.

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