Sunday May 4 2014

The NRM cannot fool us with patriotism and parenting classes

By Alan Tacca

Premier Amama Mbabazi’s gang and President Museveni’s camp apparently continue to conspire against each other ahead of the 2016 presidential contest.

Secondly, there are now probably far more people (than, say, 10 years ago) who have given up hope that the ruling NRM can restore a sense of integrity and general decency in the machinery of government, in both its political works and the institutions of the State.
Even NRM diehards are resigned to the condition that their party will carry the stigma of dishonesty throughout its reign, regardless of the man or woman at the helm.

The figure recently cut by Gen Salim Saleh (President Musesveni’s young brother) is a rather oblique comment on the general disillusionment in the land.

Quite well liked by many people, but also a deeply flawed character, Gen Saleh is not historically known to shy away from the idea of people playing political games directly with money.

If we had a truer and holier book than our standard sacred texts, I doubt whether the general would swear by it that he had never dished out money to enhance the candidature of any politician. But in the shabby little drama related to the selection of the NRM flag bearer for the forthcoming by-election of the Luweero Woman MP, when Gen Saleh went to the area to throw his weight around, the local fellows reportedly made a blunt demand for money before they could consider his recommendations. Again reportedly, the general abandoned the effort.

However, what the general subsequently said is intriguing. Saleh reasoned that this kind of money was a bad idea; that a leader’s record should be the basis on which voters gave or withheld support.

It is a statement of principle, which would echo even if we removed Luweero from the frame and replaced it with the money given to NRM MPs to promote Mr. Museveni’s sole (NRM) presidential candidature.

I said it was intriguing. Yes, because it is so obvious; it is such good common sense, and now we have a general and very high NRM man who has finally understood it.

Then, a few days later, Gen Saleh announced that he would retire from his position as Senior Presidential Advisor on Defence next year. He cited old age and fatigue.

Okay, the body had taken enough. But could exhaustion of the spirit be part of it? Was there a kind of despair that the targets of our national struggle had proved elusive?
If there is a job where an aging and exhausted mortal can do virtually no work and still earn their full pay, it is being a presidential advisor in Uganda.
Therefore, although the establishment will gloss over the event and parrot Gen Saleh’s official reasons for throwing in the towel, speculation will persist that, if the bush war veteran is not playing his old tricks, he might be gently instructing his older brother that all mortal beings can only do so much.

Every excess has a tendency of reducing the value of the whole. One can linger around until all the country’s problems are (supposedly) solved and all the harvests have come in, but this only multiplies the problems. It is born of an illusion.

The instruments of war and coercion and the country’s treasury are still in NRM hands, but its conspiratorial and factional rivalries put the party in such ugly shape that the ruling elite is fidgeting with its responsibility, shifting the blame for failed programmes to another entity.

The readiest scapegoat is the body of visionless slow heads called the citizens.
So, the NRM is failing at implementation because Ugandans are unpatriotic. And President Museveni’s government has a disproportionately large number of thieves and other anti-people elements in its ranks because of the parents who brought them up badly! As night follows day, these people’s taxes must be spent to address patriotism and parenting problems.
These insults do not need further comment.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator