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Soon, anybody will be suitable for political office in Uganda

Every time I visit this professor in his office, I am treated to insightful conversation with provocative questions. This time it was on the evolution of Ugandan politics, and what it says about the times to come.

We started with a discussion on the dialectical relationship between leaders and the led. He supported the idea that quite often leaders are a reflection of the society that produces them and lets them be. A broken society will most likely produce broken leaders, and vice versa.

Where a leader can stand before his people and tell them that he is not their servant and they clap back, this is not only a statement about that leader. Where people are jokers, they will elect fellow jokers. Where society is serious about its aspirations, they will vote accordingly.

Whereas in many ways I agree with this argument and the many examples cited in its support, I am hesitant to take it in general terms. First of all, it carries the assumption that people always have the power to determine who leads them – which is not quite the case in some situations. Even where there is everything to give a semblance of vibrant electoral systems, in hybrid regimes like Uganda, how these systems work is a curious matter.

On some occasions, the majority will put their vote on X, but Y still wins – and the courts confirm the victory too! Are these leaders also reflective of their societies? The professor still argued that the fact that these people can be stripped of their powers despite their big numbers says a lot about them. He didn’t exclude himself.

How about the violence that is meted out onto those that come out to protest bad leadership? Is it factored into understanding the silence of some who disapprove of the system? Then he would ask back; how about masses like in Sudan that sustain resistance despite state terror? Isn’t the powerlessness of the masses partly a failure by them to realise and invoke their power?

We went about these dialectical questions for a while until our conversation ended at a rather uncomfortable point in projection of what is likely to happen in Uganda if our politics continues to move in the current direction.

Where people actually select their leaders, this process is often determined by the former’s reading of the times and judgement on what kind of leadership is suitable and possible. It is not just about the manifestos of those who offer themselves for leadership. In some cases, these may not count at all. That is why the question; ‘what ideas does he/she have for the country?’ is sometimes redundant.

I recall the range of factors that used to inform our selection of prefects and class monitors in school. Sometimes, basing on the circumstances, we went for those whose promises were in line with our particular interests. In other cases, we deliberately elected those whom we expected to face up with school administrators without any fear – even if the former never came across as decent. Where we had administrators that only listened to confrontation, we strategised accordingly – all else became secondary.

Relatedly, it is not surprising to hear many people say that Gen Mugisha Muntu and Norbert Mao demonstrate admirable leadership attributes but for normal times. Having observed the roughness of the terrain, although unfortunate for our politics, it is realistically imagined that Uganda needs a challenger who can confront the incumbent’s aggressiveness.

The desperate fatigue arising from Museveni’s not showing any signs of letting go after all these decades in power is sagging deeper; aggravated by indifferent economic injustices and political suffocation. As such, the political bar continues to be lowered to accommodate as many possible challengers to the incumbent as possible – and it is only bound to get lower.

Many young people, especially the unemployed, who are tired of the perpetual appeal to history in justification of the status quo no longer care that much about policy alternatives of challengers to the system. The more the incumbent manifests an impression of impossibility to remove him from power, the more the public goes into settling for whoever shows potential of removing him.

Ultimately, apart from other achievements of his that he is undoing now, making the country so desperate as to practically dilute the credentials of leadership might be one of his worst contributions to Uganda. When the curtains of his reign eventually fall, it might take the country a long while to rehabilitate the diminished leadership bar.

Even if we took our eyes away from the presidency and considered other vital organs like parliament, the picture does not promise to get better. We have heard the president say at rallies in the past that even if MPs sleep, as long as they wake up to vote for NRM things, it is okay. He has also said that a sleeping NRM MP is better than an awake opposition MP.

Integrity and other capabilities are secondary to parochial party aspirations. Of course, this trend can as well be seen on opposition side. And this is not only about education levels and professions; we have as well seen professors, lawyers, and political scientists without substance – easily getting compromised into our patronage and rental politics.

When the public looks at the highly educated, the seasoned politicians, technocrats, and those who are arrogantly said to be unworthy and fails to see significant difference, then they wonder whether it still matters to front such credentials.

Some voters would now rather get all the handouts they can squeeze out of contestants during campaigns, for they don’t expect any meaningful representation, anyway. The political environment continues to become harder for composed aspirants with integrity and, sadly, it will surely kick most of them out.

jsssentongo@gmail.com

The author is a teacher of philosophy.

Comments

+1 #21 Akot 2019-06-30 20:05
...As it is, the only one to take Museveni's place is his military son & the family business will just go on!

How will any Ugandan from a tribal land defy Museveni again when Dr Besigye, mp Bobi Wine were left to fight lonely battles they could never win?

Dr Besigye/Bobi Wine were treated as terrorists, & any other who will defy/oppose Museveni will under go the same hell, while Ugandans;

- provide tax poney for Museveni in peace,

- tribal leaders remain silent but ensure the tribalistic system is solide & Museveni will never be replaced by a Ugandan from a tribal land,

- army/police teargas, harass, arrest defiant Ugandans to ensure Museveni is unchallenged,

- mps/parliament debate Museveni's age, their salaries/term in office,

- Court handles those who defy Museveni with perfection, even Dr Nyanzi is locked away for comments on the Ugandan god...
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0 #22 Akot 2019-06-30 20:23
Ekelot, agreed, but,

The country belongs to Ugandans who gave home to Museveni & not the other way round, right?

Once tribal leaders stand down or declare their tribal lands Independent States, who will Museveni use to teartas-harass-arrest our people?

UNITY of Ugandans goes with accepting just 1 of their own as National leader, just to ensure Museveni is out!

Lack of that 1 common opposition leader has bogged down Algerians/Sudanese while those who worked with Boutefika & Al Bashir hang on as there are no alternatives to them!

Ugandans MUST UNITE to throw Museveni out, then go seperately immediately or reform the republic!

It's sickening that 'tribalism' is keeping Museveni on, in a country he has no tribal land, but owns tax money, enslaves ALL, uses Ugandans against one another!
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0 #23 Remase 2019-07-02 16:10
"Where a leader can stand before his people and tell them that he is not their servant and they clap back, this is not only a statement about that leader."

Fellow Ugandan, we are better than that. I believe that even religious and cultural leaders have played a big role and/or failed the led. For example, Bishop C Lwanga came out and revealed that he received a call from a person with a western accent and that person threatened him that he will be killed like the way Bishop Luwumu was killed. a week or so thereafter, M7 called Lwanga and gave him a handshake of 500m!

M7 never apologized and/or stated that whoever did it will be brought to book! Guess who was the chief guest when M7 was celebrating his 33 years autocratic rule, Lwanga!

I have told you about the triple M. We all know the sorry state of our health system and Gen. Muhwezi looted it naked. Guest who is one of his best friends, Nabagereka! It's clear like day and night that, 33 years of M7's autocracy are enough.
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0 #24 Remase 2019-07-02 16:51
"How about the violence that is meted out onto those that come out to protest bad leadership?"

Instead of distancing himself from those who mete violence on us, our beloved Sabasaja Kabaka Mutebi not only keep visiting M7, a self proclaimed and proud most violent person, he welcomed him in his palace! WK put it best, " No chicken ammends and extends its 21 days regardless of whether a few eggs have not hatched. A chicken is smart enough to know when to cut losses and move on."

But what do our beloved Katikiro Mayiga do? He passionately congratulate M7 for rigging elections and further urge the nation to accept them!

Then when M7 lifted the last impediment of life presidency, Mayiga urged those who are after power to have a dialog with Sabalwanyi M7!

Hong Kong's current protestsare about an extradition bill which they are fighting against. M7 lifted the age limit from the constitution to rule for life! Mayiga says, no problem, awangale ai Sabalwanyi M7! Just have a dialog with him.
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0 #25 Remase 2019-07-02 17:41
"When the curtains of his reign eventually fall, it might take the country a long while to rehabilitate the diminished leadership bar."

Not only that it will take decades to recover, if at all, from the ruins M7 has sunk the country into! Indeed our children and grandchildren will never forgive us to knowing leave behind such a leadership quagmire!
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0 #26 Remase 2019-07-03 15:52
Fellow Ugandans, this what we are up against, a military rule! Read this, "UPDF officers to head 4 top police positions."

This is what the Prof. asked, in reference to how Ugandans have failed excise their power and get rid of the military rule, "how about masses like in Sudan that sustain resistance despite state terror?"

The Sudanese have mounted a formidable resistance.They know what they need and deserve, a civilian govt. Period. Fellow Ugandans, I hate to say this, we are in deep shit! Forget about Trump calling African countries "Shitholes."

For 33 years M7 has dug us so deep in shit and continues to deepen us as a military ruler! It's insurmountable to overcome a military rule, especially when "the majority will put their vote on X, but Y still wins–and the courts confirm the victory too!"

And Mayiga passionately congratulates M7 for stealing elections and also urge the nation to accept them! Then Lwanga celebrates 33 years of autocracy! How do we overcome that?
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0 #27 Remase 2019-07-03 17:55
Fellow Ugandans, this is what I'm talking about when it come to military rule, "More than 100 civilians killed in fresh S. Sudan violence, says UN!"

A Violent army doesn't value lives. What do we expect from a military, autocratic, ruthless and most violent individual like M7?

If people are killed in MPs' elections and insignificant protests, how about if we were to go the Sudanese way? Think about it! The most violent individual will kill even a mosquito with a bomb if need be to cling on power!

That is what we are up against. Therefore, it requires a united front, including but not limited to, religious and cultural leaders. Each and everyone of those who is prudent and cares about the future of our children and grand children should demand for M7's exit now.

Otherwise, the most violent individual has built a military rule that is ruthless and will kill us like mosquitoes. Sundanese are on the right truck and will win.
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