6 March 2016

Uganda's Political Collapse Could Worsen Europe's Refugee Crisis


When you stand back a little, Uganda looks like it has the essential features of fascism already in place.

The cosmetically concealed authoritarianism, the brutal police militarism, the contempt with which any ideas that do not come from the ruling clique are regarded; these features are self-evident.

To defend these ways of expressing political control, and to spread the word among the masses that it is futile and even suicidal to resist them, the establishment has deployed some of the dirtiest mouths in the media business to work as its propagandists.

Did I hear regime sympathisers say that Uganda has too much freedom of speech and the media?

Well, strangers to this land would be shocked if they arranged for translations of the pro-NRM/Museveni vernacular programmes broadcast on our FM air waves.

Some of these programmes openly call on mobs to rip through the flesh and knock out the teeth of people perceived as undermining Mr Museveni's rule.

Nobody is spared. Any editor or media house operator who is critical, or not overtly supportive of the NRM/Museveni brand; corrupt government officials and businessmen who support different political brands; city officials who have not served NRM/Museveni populism; military generals who fought in the Bush War and became disenchanted; high profile citizens who have refused to hate their traditional/cultural leaders; all these are (or should be) for beating up.

And, if possible, much worse. So sayeth one of the mighty voices in Mr Museveni's media machine.

During the current standoff between Opposition politician Kizza Besigye and the police, several journalists covering the bizarre events at Besigye's home have been intimidated, beaten up, detained and tortured.

The response from President Museveni's loudest apologist has been that these journalists are idlers who are covering a non-event.

They should be beaten up even more thoroughly than they had been already, and they should absorb their pain and accept the attacks as "occupational hazards".

There is a phrase that one hears quite often nowadays, and it is uttered with sadistic glee. It goes: "That is how the State works."

Whenever a citizen struggling for justice is crushed or humiliated, we are reminded that this is how the State works.

The State is thus being characterised as a ruthlessly cynical and invincible monster in the service of Mr Museveni.

The message is that it is easier to kill a lion everyday than to confront this monster, especially if you have only the vote and your courage to take to battle.

Intriguingly, that message is conveyed most forcefully over none other than your Born Again Christian radio stations. Apartheid had the Calvinists.

But - pondered a Born Again preacher last Sunday, as he gave a stern warning that the White man cannot be trusted - why were Western government officials so involved in Uganda's recent general election?

Well, since God apparently did not explain the matter to the preacher this time, I might as well attempt a humble mortal explanation.

Europe is flooded with millions of political refugees and economic migrants from North Africa and the Middle East.

The pressure at many European ports and borders is threatening the cohesion of the European Union, already stretched by years of economic challenges in some member countries.

In short, Western Europe is completely fed up with people running away from countries that cannot govern themselves properly.

Meanwhile, there are signs of a southward and westward geopolitical movement of Middle Eastern militancy.

Uganda, which has been involved in so many conflicts in our sub-region bearing a "pro-West" tag, could become a target, and it could degenerate rapidly into chaos, if the lack of a credible established path for addressing the issue of her leadership lingers on.

That could spell the beginning of a chain of upheavals in the sub-region. The West will be indicted for looking on as Uganda lost its way, and it could also face a new wave of African and not-so-African refugees heading for Europe at a time when Europe is least able (and least willing) to absorb more refugees.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.


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