It is no doubt that Uganda’s political landscape is deeply divided, rife with sharply polarising political views as to how; a) the country has been managed, or rather ruled by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his dominant party, the NRM, for the past 33 years and still counting and where it is headed (many fear into the dark political abyss) and; b) how it should be managed – led – and where it should be headed.
While one can easily dislike President Museveni and his NRM rule, particularly for and what many who are vehemently opposed to his rule claim he has turned Uganda into, it is quite amazing and shocking at the same time, that hardly any politically astute and conscious ugandans are asking whether, indeed, democracy – especially in the manner it is seemingly and widely understood and thus [being] agitated for by many [ugandans] – could possibly not, after all, be part of the problem, if not the major problem, in ugandan politics than simply individuals and their politics.
More crucially, it is fair to ask some rather simplistic but certainly pertinent questions: do ugandans really know and understand democracy?
Do they really know what democracy is and how, therefore, applicable it is in their own political context and circumstances without necessarily looking to western so-called “democratic” countries, how they do things and run their “democratic” processes, and simply desiring and agitating to replicate haphazardly, whatever is done in such countries without considering the socio-economic and political context within which it is done?
To attempt to truly understand the likely cause of Uganda’s depressing politics today under President Museveni and his NRM rule, it is important to acknowledge the one obvious but key factor, arguably the reason as to why he feels the need – if not entitled – to hold on to power till kingdom come and hence, his reaction and subsequent treatment of those who question and/or threaten – whether really or not – his rule and position; and that is that President Museveni fought his way into power by the violent use of the mighty power of the gun.
By virtue and the nature of President Museveni’s violent struggle and tactics and methods to gain political power, hundreds of thousands of innocent ugandans – men, women and children – fell victim to his violent quest for political power. Unfortunately, as a result, many ugandans were callously murdered and many others who escaped the killings, were left with psychological scars and many of those fell victim to President Museveni’s policies while in power/government and subsequently died along the way.
That his coming to power and his rule and longevity in power since, was predicated and remains fundamentally hinged on bloodshed, is not questionable at all, and he is unflinching in this regard.
President Museveni’s mantra, it appears, was and has always been and remains, undoubtedly, no stone [standing] in his way [should be] left uncracked!
So, it is little, if any, wonder that in his glaring shamelessness, he has no qualms cracking his opponents bones. He probably derives much pleasure in doing so, seeing that he has made it his political hobby, one on which his entire political life and survival heavily depends.
With that violent background in mind, we might say, quite rightly, that President Museveni, by and through gaining political power, liberated himself and thus got freedom to institute and practise his political fantasies – introducing and practising his version of “democracy” through which he has ruled and presided over Uganda and ugandans since as his personal property.
It must be stated and understood that President Museveni has presided over a paternalistic-quasi benevolent [kind of] dictatorship than an outright ruthless dictatorship otherwise common in Africa such as, for example, Idi Amin – before him and the man he fought – Mobutu Sese Seko, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, Sani Abacha’s and many other such mad men in power. But it is a dictatorship nonetheless and it is inexcusable, unacceptable and outright reprehensible.
While this is no excuse and certainly under no circumstances should it be mistaken for defense of President Museveni’s dictatorial rule, it begs to state that this kind of dictatorship tend to be a little hard to break, especially in impoverished societies, mainly because it creates and promotes a patronage system in or under [through] which, it lavishes wealth and power to its supporters. Likewise, uses wealth and power to buy [potential] supporters and bribe even its hardcore opponents to its camp. Consequently has a quasi legitimate nonetheless quid pro quo support base on which it is able to survive, thereby, weakening and staving off even the toughest opposition, which it further weakens by limiting and crippling its financial, economic resources and sources, left, right and centre.
President Museveni is and has been a master craftsman of [at] a paternalistic-quasi benevolent [kind of] dictatorship and it is through dictatorship, he has been able to institute and practise his version of “democracy” that, arguably, many ugandans are unaware of and/or consequently hardly understand.
Why do many ugandans and what makes them think that they can use “democracy” as a political weapon – call it “democratic” power – which in the current ugandan political context, President Museveni holds great sway over and is backed by all state instruments of coercion and violence in his absolute control – to remove him, President Museveni, from power “democratically”?
Isn’t “democracy” possibly, if not undoubtedly, the major part of the problem most ugandans are trying to solve, yet, ironically, the very weapon President Museveni is using in his determined effort to a life presidency through what he calls “democratic” means?
Are ugandans too tired of President Museveni’s rule, to be that so optimistic in “democracy” or the “democratic” process and means, as to be so credulous and naïve, if not foolish, to honestly believe that what President Museveni means by “democracy” or the “democratic” process and means, is exactly the same thing they mean and understand by “democracy” or the “democratic” process and means?
Shouldn’t then part of the solution to Uganda’s major political problem today, which, undoubtedly many agree, is President Museveni and his NRM rule, be or involve critically examining the entire premise of “democracy” and particularly what it means in ugandan political context and be brave enough to ask themselves and President Museveni and his overfed, well maintained political coterie tough questions like:
- Is western style so-called “democracy” – which is more often heavily influenced by events from outside, by and large, from western so called “democracies” whose sole motive is to preserve, protect and perpetuate their interests above all else and at any price, than by internal and locally contextualised social, economic and political events – after all, good for Uganda and ugandans?
- Is, “democracy”, indeed and possibly, a viable solution to Uganda’s current political predicament and should it be pursued at all costs irrespective of whether or not it offers solutions to the problems at hand – the major problem and obstacle being President Museveni?
- Are there [no] other ways to resolve ugandan political problems without recourse to something that, that is, “democracy” or the “democratic” channel, is essentially majorly, if not entirely, the cause of the problems?
These and many other similar pertinent questions are what many ugandans and indeed, President Museveni and those in his government who are equally and largely to blame for the current political situation in Uganda, ought to be candid enough to ask themselves and attempt to find honest answers, if any meaningful and peaceful solution is to be achieved.