Sunday December 31 2017

Is President Museveni proud of the latest NRM victory?


By Alan Tacca

Right from the beginning, there was something filthy about the noise, the voices, the greed and the general atmosphere in which the idea of lifting the presidential age limit was expressed.

It was something that caused disgust in a very literal sense. You thought of dregs and very bad smells. You thought of yellowish magma foaming and drying around the lips of men who were furiously working their mouths to articulate arguments that did not make sense at all.

Or, rather, arguments that could only appear to make sense if we, the audience, the citizens, were complete idiots.

Indeed, the ruling elite and its propagandists treated the citizens with exactly the same level of contempt as they would treat a mass of complete idiots.

They made it clear that it would be futile to go on and on arguing about the merit of maintaining an exit technicality through which a president, who would have been in power for 35 years, would retire with dignity. Making the effort would translate into self-humiliation. It would be to lend the debate a legitimacy it did not deserve.

Reading newspaper articles and listening to voices on radio endlessly begging the President and his ruling party MPs to be reasonable; then following Opposition politicians preparing their roll call of the legislators who would (supposedly) vote against removing the age limit, I marvelled at their dedication, their faith and the power of fantasy.

They totally misread the obstinacy and sadism of the regime. For the issue was not that the NRM did not know the right course. The NRM is essentially a gangster political organisation that enjoys violating the values of the intelligent, thoughtful and fair-minded citizen. It enjoys trampling justice. It reaffirms its power by humiliating those who do not have power.

We are, therefore, not dealing with a problem of plain reasoning. It is possible that we are dealing primarily with a problem of culture.

The word ‘culture’ has several meanings. Among them, Collins English Dictionary gives two that are relevant here:

Culture can be “the artistic and social pursuits, expression, and tastes valued by a society or class”.

Culture is also “the enlightenment or refinement resulting from these pursuits”.
Tastes. Enlightenment. Refinement. Mark those words.

We are not talking about tribal identity, or about religious affiliation, or about mere temperament. We are talking about the complex moral, aesthetic and intellectual struggle through which various ideas and attitudes are formed.

We can say, for instance, that when we listen to Raphael Magyezi, or Simeo Nsubuga, or Evlyn Anite talking about the constitutional amendment, we are listening to people of the same (low) culture, although they come from different cultural backgrounds.

Most of the men and women who advocated lifting the age limit know the arguments against the move, but they do not have the intellectual enlightenment and moral refinement to assign any value to the principles behind those arguments. They do not even have the depth to understand the value of simple honesty. They do not have the integrity to raise the social good (if they have a sound concept of social good!) above personal gratification.

To tell the truth or a lie? Who cares, as long as their bellies are full?
The future of the country? Who cares, as long as their own loot is safely stacked away?
But there is an intriguing question. After President Museveni has watched this farce, and the MPs have voted to lift the troublesome limit, is he proud of their victory?

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.