19 May 2017

Uganda: Turbulent Times - State - Inspired or State - Induced?

Photo: The Observer
President Museveni.

Within a short space of time, Uganda has witnessed a turbulent episode. The events have been shocking but instructive.

These have been: the assassination of Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi; the attack and assault of the children of Ambassador James Mugume and Gen Jim Muhwezi; the unprecedented wave of violent robberies; Dr Stellah Nyanzi's saga; the visit of a parliamentary committee to the president's office; and President Museveni's latest interview with the Al Jazeera.

To begin with, like in many countries, this is 'budget time'. In democratic and development-oriented countries, budget time is taken seriously.

This is when the leadership of the country, in government and in opposition, take stock of what government has achieved with the funds allocated to them the previous year. They account whether they have been able to appropriately utilise it - most important, how much of the funds have been able to touch the lives of the less privileged.

In Uganda, it is budget time too. Unfortunately, it is just a ritual. In Uganda, the budget is about the president's office, State House, the police and other security forces. To pick a line from Animal Farm, life in Uganda is about the "welfare of pigs".

Sadly, the turbulent episode the country is experiencing is closely related to the predatory culture of Mr Museveni's reign. First was the assassination of Afande Kaweesi. This left the whole country speechless. But when seriously examined, it is instructive.

The incident reinforces the many warnings by patriotic Ugandans that it is senseless to make violence a national currency - because if it is made so, then anybody can use it on anybody. Those who have been applauding violence should appreciate that when the monster (violence) gets loose; it devours anybody regardless of status, tribe or religion!

Then came the attack on the children of Ambassador Mugume and Gen Muhwezi. This was juxtaposed with a wave of unprecedented violent robberies in different parts of the country, including the capital Kampala.

For the simple-minded, these are isolated acts of some social misfits. But looked at seriously, it is very clear that the effects of the many years of social/economic injustice are coming to the fore. Unemployment, poverty and hopelessness have reached unbearable levels.

When many countries are closing their borders to immigrants, young people have decided to remain in the country; but not to die from poverty; they rob from those they think are privileged.

Again, it is a warning to all those who have exalted corruption that without an inclusive access to opportunities, those who have amassed wealth by excluding the majority of the citizens will not enjoy their loot for a long time.

And again, it will not only be a revolt of other animals against the 'pigs', but the 'pigs' themselves will start to kill one another as they fight for diminishing resources, as seems to be the case with us.

Then come the Dr Nyanzi saga. There is no doubt Nyanzi has resurrected Uganda's intellectual community, which has been dead for many years. The corrosive and coercive culture of Mr Museveni/NRA/NRM had deliberately weakened and subjugated the intellectual community.

In many countries, educational institutions, especially universities, are usually the source of intellectual discourse, focusing on identifying, debating and getting solutions to a nation's ills. But in Uganda, since 1986, the influence of intellectuals on the social/economic and political platforms has been mediocre.

Dr Nyanzi, like many intellectuals elsewhere, has used subtle devices to launch a vicious assault on a regime that has grown excessively insensitive, arrogant and shameless.

Dr Nyanzi has left the whole system looking hopeless and irredeemable. But on a serious note, it is a wakeup call to patriotic intellectuals to shed off their fear and join the forces to cause change. Our history informs us that the country needs the elites to be part of the change we desire.

Lastly, as we steer through the quagmire, the incoherent messages from Mr Museveni, both during his replies to the 'handshake' probe and to the latest Al Jazeera interview, are very instructive.

That for those who have hurt Uganda in the name of "instructions from above", you are in a fool's paradise; at the end of the day, each one of us will carry their own cross.

This country has been tortured, robbed, looted, mortgaged and impoverished. We are only waiting for that day.

The author is a Ugandan living in South Africa.


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