In the last few weeks, the tailspin nature of Ugandan politics has taken on an uglier outlook. The deterioration is evident.
The man who aggressively superintended politicisation of the Uganda Police Force and allowed the festering of criminality inside our chief law enforcement agency was dramatically arrested.
Earlier, some of the criminal elements he recruited and armed too had been arrested. But the criminalisation of the police and its politicisation, which greatly undermined the capacity to police, were undertaken in the service of Mr Museveni.
Now, we have runaway insecurity and targeted assassinations, over which the ruler himself remains adamant, downplaying what is at stake and casually vowing to end it all. What he remains blithely unaware of, given his deluded belief that he has God-like powers, is the deeper political crisis festering around him and smouldering fire that may become unstoppable.
As day follows night, the ultimate reality is that the Museveni regime has run its course. It is only a matter of time that it will come down crumbling, one way or the other. The course of history has its own logic and random modus operandi for which we human beings can sometimes have little to do about.
Yet, as the pressure mounts on a regime that is evidently in panic mode and a ruler who has become inordinately paranoid, there is a pathetic attempt to resort to threats and intimidation.
Well, of course, there is the old business of deploying force and violence, which remains at the centre of the toolkit. The threats and intimidation are now especially directed at Ugandans in the diaspora who have become the easy target for denigration by regime spokespersons and the army of apologists especially on social media.
The intention is to silence critical and intrepid voices that are casting the spotlight on the decay and dysfunction characteristic of the authoritarian regime running Uganda today.
Perhaps as testimony to just how out of their depth some of the individuals speaking for the regime are, they really would know that issuing threats of arrest of diaspora-based Ugandans upon returning home can seldom silence many out there.
Their self-serving and cheap charge is that of offensive communication and inciting violence. Well, those in power can just resign if they feel offended by legitimate criticisms!
As to inciting violence, surely the millions of Ugandans facing intractable economic hardships, while the rulers loot public resources, do not need another Ugandan so far away to incite them.
Ugandans everyday hustle to get ahead. They toil under dire economic conditions. They have very meagre incomes but face enormous material needs. They live with a broken healthcare system, mediocre schools, runaway fuel prices and an ever-weakening national currency.
The vast majority of young graduates are either totally unemployed or hopelessly underemployed. They face torrid conditions trying to forge a career or fighting to find a breakthrough in small businesses.
The business environment is hugely harsh with very high costs of credit, poor physical infrastructure, low-quality yet very expensive information and communication services. The list is endless.
These are real economic hardships that people confront on a daily basis. While grappling with litanies of problems, they see an inept government, a bloated cabinet of more than 80 largely redundant ministers and a huge parliament with very low value to the country.
Ugandans know all too well what happened in the 2016 elections. They don’t need a foreign-based compatriot to tell them that Mr Museveni was neither validly elected nor did he fairly win that election, making him an illegitimate president.
The routine brutalities of the armed forces and the unprofessionalism of security personnel is broadcast to Ugandans directly. There is no need for third-party interpretation or amplification from afar. Social media has made it possible to expose the excesses of the regime in real time and the callousness of those wielding the levers of power.
Statements issued by the ruler himself about events rattling the public, transmitted through the same social media he said should be taxed because it’s used to gossip, are laced with the arrogance of power, glaring misinformation and betray a ruler out of touch with reality.
So, targeting the diaspora to blame for whatever transpires in Uganda is a nonstarter. Like many compatriots, I am a member of the diaspora. But more importantly, I am Ugandan, with the same rights and duties as any other citizen. I have the civic duty to tell the emperor that he is naked.
If expressing such a view and playing my citizen duties qualifies me to be arrested, as police authorities have recently threatened, so be it. But Ugandans, whether in the diaspora or at home, will not be cowed into silence because of police threats of arrest. No.
The same diaspora being singled out for ridicule plays a critical role to what is otherwise a weak and fragile economy. Without the financial remittances by diaspora Ugandans, Uganda’s foreign exchange situation and the shilling would be in a worse state.
With a corrupt, nepotistic and highly inefficient government, diaspora Ugandans have been invaluable in subsidizing social services and shouldering a disproportionate social burden.
The author is an assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University.