Kampala’s dishonest public intellectuals

Artistic impression of Lubowa hospital

Artistic impression of Lubowa hospital

In March this year, parliament approved a guarantee of $367m for the construction of a world-class hospital in Lubowa.

The money was released by Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank. By May, Shs 140bn had been stolen. Earlier, Abdu Katuntu’s COSASE report noted that Bank of Uganda, for 30 years, was run like a mafia and had irregularly closed and stolen from seven banks.

Before winding our heads around this BoU gangsterism, we have been hit by another series of crimes – printing more than contracted currency [Is this the first time?]. Mafia-like robberies are common on Kampala streets nowadays – implicating security operatives.

Mid last year, soldiers entered parliament and beat up legislators who, strangely, still had the energy to return the following day and debate on the same bill for which they had been crushed. Women are systematically abducted and murdered in and around Kampala.

Journalists are beaten and media houses constantly threatened for reporting obvious stories. Suspects detained for unknown reasons are released by courts, and re-arrested, gangster style, by “unknown” casually dressed gun-wielding men, who we later learn are from “sister security organizations.”

The list of scandals and absurdities above is incomplete. Even when I enumerate events of the past 12 months alone, it remains terribly short. See, only in September last year, a senior police officer – Muhammad Kirumira – was assassinated after a long-running duel over exposing the dirt in the police force.

Two months earlier, NRM legislator Ibrahim Abiriga had been assassinated same style. No explanation whatsoever. Activist and academic Stella Nyanzi is in jail for writing strong anti-government poetry. As this pile of absurdities continues to grow, how does one make this world above comprehensible?

Regime-leaning analysts, such as Morrison Rwakakamba, Andrew Mwenda, or government spokespersons such as Ofwono Opondo and Chris Baryomunsi, will quickly pivot their listeners towards Uganda’s roads. 

Oh, we have become a country of infrastructures. What a country with good roads. Then you will see pictures captioned, “this is not New York, but Arua…” or some rhetoricism, “where do you think this is…?”

Other times, Kampala’s traffic mess is the reason to celebrate Uganda’s rise. Oh, wait, we also recently bought two new planes, and more are coming. You will then be bamboozled by a patchwork of figures on economic growth – and how you are second fastest-growing economy in the world!

For human rights and other legal-related issues, you are challenged to go to [their] courts. But these are government spokespersons, and should not be begrudged for doing their job. Recall the philosophical puzzle between public and private use of reason? Yes, these comrades are faithful to the private use of reason, and public idiocy.

But there is a section of supposedly “middle ground” “objective” analysts [who, by the way, hate being identified as opposition-leaning] who read the world captured above as mere technical mistakes. 

These include mostly our so-called economists, pollsters and some wacky legal practitioners.  Although BoU has been ruining commercial banks for the last 30 years, a clear indication the central bank is deliberately managed like a modern shrine – because that is how power wants it to be run – our analysts read the now well-advertised crises as technical mistakes – needing alternative technical approaches!

The murders or human rights abuses are actions of rogue elements in security forces who need a little sorting. Because courts have given them favourable verdicts on matters of civil nature (domestic violence or insignificant political victories, say over an uneducated NRM legislator), they are convinced the same courts will be impartial on matters of a great political significance especially involving President Museveni tenure.

In truth, besides seeking to avert the increasing irrelevance of their professions under Museveni [and all other professions, for sure], and also garner some fame, they are either ignorant or acutely blind to power.

They are ignorant about how power often cultures chaos as a way of reproducing itself. Sadly, you will find these dandies hanging out with the mighty and powerful like they were in a science-fiction movie of British politics in Kampala.

These are the most dangerous to public debate in Kampala for they enjoy a fake appeal of intellectual balance. There is one favourable group of mine who see raw power in its seams. They know that chaos is a mode of government, and reason and logic cannot explain Museveni’s Uganda.

To understand Museveni’s Uganda, one has to find meaning in chaos – because chaos is culture. Robert Kalundi Serumaga, Semujju Ibrahim Nganda, Moses Khisa, Ssemakula Luttamaguzi, and Kiiza Besigye are examples here. However, they still lack tact and strategy to move the center.


The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd