The last lines of George Orwell’s satirical novel, Animal Farm continue their timeless bite: “the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, but already it was impossible to tell the difference.”
These lines summarise the aftermaths of a revolution whose dreams have been abandoned. The animals of Manor Farm successfully fought their master Mr Jones for being cruel and exploitative, and turned into Animal Farm.
But after a period of own governance, the animals that had led the revolution, the pig Napoleon and co., underwent a major transformation. They acquired practices not different from the man they so ferociously fought and deposed.
At the conclusion of the tale, Orwell dramatizes this similarity that it had reached phenomenal proportions as the creature watching from the outside could not tell the difference between the pigs of the revolution and the man they fought.
The point I want to make here is not that the NRA/M revolutionaries acquired practices eerily similar (or even worse?) to those of the men they picked up arms and fought. Instead, I am interested in the new revolutionaries – those claiming to oppose/fight the NRM that now looks like the men it fought.
In the language of Animal Farm, if the NRM were the pigs of the farm, the opposition – the donkey Benjamin, the horses, Clover and Boxer, and the goat, Muriel have simply joined them – all are singing “four legs good, two legs better!”
In truth, as an “outside creature,” it is impossible to tell the difference between the men and women claiming to pursue change in Uganda – the opposition – from those fighting to keep the status quo.
They may not necessarily speak the same language; they may not dress in the same colours – red/blue against yellow – and may not be privileged the same way; and have sometimes fought each other as happened on the floor of parliament during Togikwatako. But both teams are scoring in the same goalposts: money, power, fame. They are all professed careerists.
For the last five years, my disenchantment with opposition politicians has grown by leaps and bounds. A couple of months ago, I demonstrated how, content in their careers as “opposition politicians” – from which they earned handsomely – our so-called opposition politicians – by far, the majority – only played to the gallery.
They were happy persons under the current state of affairs. Theirs was meticulously fooling the world that they fought to change the status quo, yet they simply pursued a continuity of their lucrative and steady careers. Didn’t President Museveni tell us each one of them had a price?!
I am back to commend the NRM for clamping down hard on these so-called opposition fellows. Let me explain my cynicism, why this is good for the country: For years, these fellas have mastered the art of “performing opposition,” but effectively doing nothing.
See, like mere commenters on politics – and not active actors themselves – they cherish giving sound bites to radio and television as their main assignment! And when NRM-radio proprietors and Museveni’s Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) bars them from media – especially upcountry – they come out crying foul, and we reward them with our warmest sympathies.
You will then find them organising a public rally despite being fully aware that the NRM’s police will not allow it. But they will go ahead and get tear-gassed. Again, we will reward them with warmest sympathies. You have seen them table reforms to Museveni’s Electoral Commission – even when they know full well that this is a meaningless exercise.
Didn’t you see them debate Togikwatako with blood and tears – and also participate in voting, effectively legitimating an autocratically pre-determined outcome? Didn’t you see them waste our time further in Mbale in a farcical court process over the same? What nonsense is this? Is it not strange how these opposition fellas constantly tell us Museveni is an autocrat, but then play their politics like they were in a European democracy!
In truth, these fellows have found power in “performing opposition” like were characters in a comic play. To this end, I am happy with NRM clamping down hard on them. I am pleased with NRM closing down their rickety amphitheatres where they often stage their fake dramas as an opposition.
Being an opposition in Africa’s technocratic autocracies is a lot of serious work, not farcical performances. I am content that after the closure of these theatres, the fakes will fall off, and serious people will emerge.
Finally, opposition politicians have crammed a dull response to criticism which involves challenging their critics to join the game. They are deluded that “being is knowing.”
The idiocy behind their response is akin to saying that all Ugandans should become politicians; that is, have a parliament of 40 million; 40 million presidential candidates, etc. Is it not dull and thoughtless to think that scholarship and critical thought is not part of political dispensation? What is the role of peasant intellectuals, artistes, poets, etc.? The more evidence that they have simply joined Napoleon – the head pig.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.