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Bringing our best brains back into politics

About a month ago, I landed on a still-picture of my friend, Prof Dr Zahara Nampewo, a professor at the School of Law of Makerere University in a meeting at parliament.

In what looked like a committee briefing, Prof Nampewo is in company of her team from the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC), and the only other person visible on the other side of the table was my favourite legislator, Hon Francis Zaake.  

Excited at seeing two wonderful friends of mine meeting, a different feeling quickly struck me. The picture quickly looked odd: I wondered to myself, “should they not switch sides—with Francis Zaake being the one briefing Prof Dr Nampewo?” 

I then quickly recalled the painful conclusion I have written about here: in Museveni’s Uganda, “a professor of law seeks or is sought out for recommendations on any issue, while the onus to implement is placed on the shoulders of a young politician. [Let me say quickly: Hon Zaake is a wonderful friend of mine and an astute politician—the best rabblerouser at present as per assignment—and perhaps the only remaining authentic representation of the People Power spirit].

Well, before running off with my wandering thoughts, I made some phone-calls to fully understand what was happening in that picture:  Dr Nampewo and her team at the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) had been invited by the Human Rights Committee of Parliament to bring them up to speed on the human rights violations in the country. 

HURIPEC is involved in several research projects and is repository of material and analyses on several items ranging from livelihood, land, violation to human rights and more. It is a prime centre for both basic and policy research.  Hon Francis Zaake is a member of this committee, which has other opposition legislators such as Flavia Kalule Nabagabe and Hanifa Nabukeera.

Despite learning the story behind the picture, I remained troubled by what struck me as one of the world’s wonders of Museveni’s Uganda.  [You have seen comments in praise of Kenyan politics being flooded with professorships and doctorates? Yes, Uganda is the exact opposite – and it is by design, not accident].  

So, Prof Dr Nampewo – one of the very few credentialled professors of law we have in the country—is reduced to doing fieldwork and offering recommendations (which is undoubtedly a wonderful thing), and the burden to implement and legislate is slumped on the young shoulders of Bwana Francis Zaake.   

I imagined more absurd scenarios: Prof  Joe Oloka-Onyango writing recommendations for our very regular AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka on a serious legal issue, or the economist, Dr Frederick Muhumuza briefing comrade brother Ramadhan Ggoobi—simply because they were appointed and thus charged with our lives. 

It should be the other way round.  The point I am arguing is the day we forced our most educated people to switch sides with their least experienced and least educated compatriots in running the affairs of the country, was the day we lost ourselves.  We invest in education for a reason, and should pride in our most credentialled compatriots.

While the criticism is always made that “the elites have failed Uganda,” the truth is, there is a dearth of elites, academics, and intellectuals in our politics. There are accidental sprinklings of them but not enough to say the country is run on researched knowledge and science.

And this is not an argument about their numbers being small across the country, which is not in doubt. But that despite their small numbers—by a constitutional amendment—we locked our best brains out of politics. 

They are locked in their public service and parastatal jobs. And the few that have been brave enough to engage in some form of political activity, are reduced to research and NGO work (which are themselves corruptions).

The constitutional requirement for people in public service interested in running for political office to resign their jobs three months to nomination day remains perhaps the most dangerous amendment ever passed.

This is because, since public service tends to employ our best graduates, demanding that they resign their sources of livelihood for an election they might lose is too much to ask. These being recent graduates on their way to political consciousness, the choice to resign their jobs for politics is simply limiting.

Unless they were thieves.  But three or five years into a job does not guarantee anyone enough savings to live without a job. To this end, our politics is flooded with former private businesspeople, former artistes, and lawyers from private firms (all of whom were struggling in this hopeless economy. But their struggles notwithstanding, they can return to their businesses if they lost the elections).

Others include retirees, and people who have been unemployed their entire lives, and are clearly unemployable, but somehow managed to loot their way into parliament.

I have argued before that it has never been their choice—although they might actually believe and claim so—for my friends, Nicholas Opiyo, Godber Tumushabe, Dr Sarah Bireete, Dr Frank Muhereza, Prima Kwagala, or James Nkuubi, and several others [just to mention the most famous] to be in the NGO world monitoring politicians. [I will not go into the structural issues that ended them in Kanjokya, Ntinda, Kololo, or Bukoto among other swanky neighbourhoods]. These people deserve to be at the forefront of our politics, not monitoring regular people gambling along.

But, away from these famous ones with swanky offices upscale Kampala—who are simply privileged victims themselves—the numerous politically-conscious Ugandans holding master’s and bachelor’s degrees with public service jobs that do not even allow them to express an opinion on the ways in which the country is mismanaged hurt the most. Why did we complicate the decision to join politics?

I hear someone challenging: why don’t these educated people craft their way back in? This is the work of activists. The activist ranks above the technocrat, and our challenge is to push for the removal of these 2005 amendments.


The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.


+3 #41 sula 2022-06-25 11:26
Lastly, I have repeatedly pointed out that NO single person or organisation is capable of governing Uganda after museveni &co.

The country is a failed state, dilapidated ,rotten almost none existent, it needs an overhaul and that cannot be done by a single group - we need the good brains regardless of party ,religion or tribe.
hauling insults at Besigye ,Kyagulanyi ,Mpuga etc is unnecessary.
A national conference is a must.
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0 #42 Remase 2022-06-25 13:05
Sula, this is not about "hauling insults at our opposition figures, this is about the deep division and/or rift between those of us who are interested in bringing a fundamental change that we need and deserve.

As you correctly put it, there's no single individual, party or organization that is capable of governing Uganda after M7 and company are gone. However, we need to unit and have a united unicent and unison front to get rid of M7 and company first. Based on our division and/or reality, is there any hope in sight to achieve our main objective of getting rid of M7 and company?

How could we talk about days after M7 when there is nothing in sight that points to M7's exit or departure other than the deep division amongst us? Well, before BW came on the political scene, we had Besigye as the leading opposition figure and FDC as the leading opposition party.
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0 #43 Remase 2022-06-25 14:31
That didn't sit well with other opposition leaders and parties. So when BW came, those who were against BK and FDC's dominance of the opposition saw an opportunity to overtake them.

However, BW also mainly to take over as the leading opposition figure and other opposition figures like Mao were not ready to let BW takeover their parties. So, after some joined together to bash BK at what was crafted as DP's breakaway reunion.

However the struggle for the helm within the opposition stayed alive, thus the division amongst us! M7 successfully set out a trap out there and made believe that there's democracy.

He hooked it up with very attractive incentives which are imbued atrsctive benefits! Huge salaries of MP's, and whatever other benefits which come with positions in parties! Now we are competing amogst ourselves in the opposition because we have already lost the fight against M7!
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0 #44 Remase 2022-06-25 14:57
Sula, the bottom line is, we, opposition lack leadership. The one in the lead now NUP/BW is incapable of uniting us because they are waiting for the next elections to show us that democracy works! Mpuuga as the Leader of opposition in the useless parliament is good at acting as a useful idiot!

We need to abandon elections and concentrate on uniting the country against M7 and company! This business as usual will never yield any hope of getting rid of M7 in any way, shape or form! Besigye is our best hope to stare us in the right direction!
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+2 #45 sula 2022-06-25 15:52
Yes Remase, museveni ''hooked it up with very attractive incentives which are imbued attractive benefits!

Huge salaries of MP's,'' True , but that is not the cause of thr friction amongst the Opposition ; museveni has planted Opposition within the Opposition.

Who could be insane to stand against Mayor Lukwago, those you see hauling insults to Lukwago are not NUP members, real NUP members have no quarrel with Lukwago, listen to the abusive language they use and listen to Kulaigye or Ofwono Opondo ,then you will know who coaches them.
The disunity you see is not natural it is museveni's well crafted disunity.
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+2 #46 sula 2022-06-25 16:14
Remase, you do not unity under one party or organisation or leader, the unity required is UNITY of resolve.

when you look Kyagulanyi and Besigye in the eyes you see one message, when you look at Lukwago ,Nambooze , Lutamaguzi ,Ssemujju Nganda , you see one message, it doesnt matter which political organisation one is in , so long as the Resolve is the same -Uganda will be liberated. Because ,day or night , each one of those is doing wonderful work towards liberation.

Take it or not museveni will soon go ! Haa ! Mayombo was almost god, Kayihura ,Agasilwe hoovered over this country where are they ? Kandiho ? Sabiti ? Saleh ?they can kill and kill but at the end of the day Uganda will remain.
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-1 #47 Remase 2022-06-25 21:21
Sula, in the above article, there's a line therein enclosed in bracelets, "(which are themselves corruption)." Then thereunder, "Unless they are thieves." That is the Uganda M7 has built for almost 4 decades and still counting. Tell me one organization, institution or individual that's not corrupt.

To survive in Uganda you are either corrupt or a thief. Take for example Mengo institution, Katikiro Mayiga made a wonderful drive, "etoffali" for rebuilding amasiro at Kasubi.

Billions were raised, to this date our Msiro have not been rebuil. Only 1bn could do the job in less than 6 months, however it's years and years! Americans asked for accountability or to refund their contribution.

Mayiga refunded their contribution rother than providing the accountability! That says enough of what happened to the billions of etofali! Let's look at our parliament, our MPs are some of the most paid in the world, however of recent they were give 40m to look the other way about the high cost of living!
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-1 #48 Remase 2022-06-25 21:40
All these are our best brains! There is a video of Kabaka Mutebi on an occasion which I haven't known what it was about, but what is visible more than the crowd is, the army allover! It looks as if Mutebi is going to war!

Why is Mutebi protected by M7's army? Fellow Ugandans, how could Mengo or Buganda kingdom be independent from M7 if he is the one providing them everything? Mbu cultural leaders or institutions ought not to be involved in politics, what is more political than being protected by M7's army? That's corruption of the hghest I have ever known! M7 has compromised each and every institution and/or our best brains!
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-1 #49 Remase 2022-06-26 05:14
Sula, the reason why the is division amongst us is because the bogus elections. Once there's competition, whoever competes, person or party, wants to win. However, there's no democracy but M7 packaged politics as a business in which people get involved to make money!

Be it NRM or opposition! You gave a perfect example of Lukwago. Yes, he would like to serve the people of Kampala and he has, but M7 usurped all his powers and invested them in the minister and director of Kampala, to make Lukwago (our best brains) irrelevant and ineffective! Therefore we need a leader (activist) who can unit us under a common goal. Currently that leader is Besigye.
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