At that point when a slave finally succumbed and wholeheartedly chose to serve the enslaver—in ways that even endangered the lives of the co-enslaved—it was out of extreme debasement on the one hand, and an engrained sense of inferiority complex, on the other.
It was not resignation to the fact that the enslaver was too powerful to be overthrown [many who reached this conclusion chose victory and honour in death than living this blighted life of dogs]. It was a painful affirmation that the enslaver was racially superior, and thus needing to be served.
Thus, compradors in colonial Africa, and Uncle Toms in North America. But while Uncle Toms in North America would be pitied and sympathised with, our compradors in colonial Africa were laughing stocks. Compradors were traitors, spineless individuals, and cowards of the highest degree.
How would you turn around and serve the killer of your kindred, and looter of your resources? we asked. But, somehow, compradors managed a brave face including—as Ngugi wa Thiong’o has narrated—priding in the fact that they were sleeping with the boss’ white wife. And that this was an issue of personal advancement!
Ever wondered why it is so easy for a white person to see President Museveni on short notice, and extremely difficult for people such as his ministers? Ever wondered why Museveni trusts white people—recently evidenced by the Pinetti-Lubowa hospital, Pinetti-Coffee deal, gold trade, banking, vaccines—more than he trusts Africans?
It is surely not that white people have always delivered quality work and Africans disappointed. Even Timothy Kalyegira would agree that white people have actually cost Uganda or Africa more money than we could ever accurately count. They have taken billions of dollars out of Uganda under these colonial-comprador relationships. So, they are thieves.
[A recent paper published in New Political Economy by Jason Hickel and Huzaifa Zoomkawala showed that between 1960 and 2010, Africa lost $152 trillion to Europe and North America. This is a humongous amount].
But why would Museveni trust the white frail-looking thick-bearded professor from the United States, Prof Sarfaraz Niazi to manufacture him a vaccine for Covid-19—despite having nothing to show for his potential—and not whole-heartedly support our own, Prof Patrick Ogwang of the Covidex cure?
Truth is, if Prof Ogwang was white—and demonstrated thoroughness as his small facility continues to do—he would have received a government guarantee of billions of shillings for investment, and a free huge piece of land, and much more. It would be the same with Dr David Ssenfuka whose cancer and diabetes cures have been useful to many of Museveni’s close friends and associates.
But why are these men left to vend for themselves despite their well-documented breakthroughs? There are many reasons, of course, but most outstandingly, they are not white. It is not simply about Museveni’s insecurity with having to keep power in hostile Buganda thus aligning with white people. (Buganda being the centre of political and economic activity for the country, which is undoubtedly a big part of the problem).
But at a personal level, one realises that the fire-breathing and undoubtedly ruthless Museveni still struggles with whiteness. He suffers an acute sense of inferiority complex. The fear to stand up to white capitalists—which has instead turned him into an obsequious servant of whiteness—is born not just out of the obsession to keep power, but also an acute self-engrained inferiority.
Look, in what many are quick to term as tomfoolery from reading much Western spin, President Amin stood his ground against whiteness, turned the racial cards upside down, and liberated nationals from the backwaters of the economy.
Eight years were just enough to propel Ugandans to some degree of self-conviction and self-worth. The state stood on their side, and privileged them. Many native writers and businessmen have attested to this fact. [The memoirs of James Tumusiime, Christopher Ssembuya, Gordon Wavamunno, Aga Sekalala, Nasser Ntege Sebaggala, and several others touch parts of this story. For a more explicit discussion, see historian Lwanga Lunyiigo’s book, Uganda: An Indian Colony 1897-1972].
Again, it is easy to say that Museveni actually exploits white people by using them as fronts. But as we know—and for sure, he too knows—white people have the lion’s share in the many deals he has entered with them. This then turns Bwana Museveni into a servant of whiteness, receiving crumbs from what is rightly his.
Why hand over coffee to a Pinetti or gold to some obscure white people for just a cut? A small cut. But this is not to begrudge President Museveni for personally failing to decolonise his mind. Rather, that he has infected the entire country with this inferiority.
Over the last 30 years, Ugandans sense of self-worth and confidence has run down the drain. We are rendered unable to do anything. The Museveni government is ready to assign anything to anyone as long as they are white.
It should be heart-breaking that all those natives in Museveni’s circle who appear rich and double as motivational speakers—put any name here—are simply agents of white folks. They own no capital.
To put this in perspective, 700 youthful Ugandans leave the country daily for enslavement in the Middle East. Chinese can destroy Lake Victoria through sand-mining without looking over their shoulders. Indian sugarcane planters are happy to destroy an entire ecosystem because the president is their servant.
And can also kick natives out of their properties without thinking twice about it. And our supposedly wealthy tycoons have turned to fraud and non-repayment of their loan obligations. The fruits of 30 years and counting of a president with an acute sense of inferiority complex.
The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.