Sunday March 4 2018

Could ‘jiggers’ easily spoil Museveni’s walking style?

Alan Tacca

Alan Tacca 

By Alan Tacca

Before thinking of how jiggers affect your gait, think of President Museveni 20 or 30 years ago.
Conqueror of Dr Milton Obote and Tito Okello’s armies, destroyer of the UPC political machine, annihilator of several rebel groups, supreme commander of the then NRA, and none of the fools who had died during the excitement and carelessness that followed the NRA’s 1986 victory. Think of those early days, and you will probably concede that President Museveni had a right to walk with a spring in his gait; literally, or in a manner of speaking.

The persistence of Alice Lakwena and (later) Joseph Kony’s rebellion did not damage Gen Museveni’s confidence to the degree that the rebellion damaged the northern region.
Why? Because many Ugandans tended to perceive the north as the region that had produced the country’s troublesome leaders; a region that deserved to ‘also suffer’.

Two, Lakwena and Kony were so eccentric that ‘normal’ soldiers could be forgiven if they failed to engage them in a proper fight and defeat them. Like facing a boxer who also bites your ears.
Three, the north was far away from the centre of power in Kampala. The field commanders who were out there could take the blame for most of the weaknesses on the battlefield, especially since President Museveni was usually seen busy doing other things in the peaceful parts of the country, or trotting the globe and making an impression with foreign leaders that he was the warrior-ruler the West could depend on in our part of the world.

Seemingly invincible, Gen Museveni saw Ugandan problems that were not of a military nature as very small. The President sometimes referred to them as ‘jiggers’.
When it was young, even corruption was a ‘jigger’, a minor nuisance. And it would go away at exactly that time when the general decided; perhaps after his close military and political associates had got reasonably – but not excessively – rich.

Small internal security issues here and there (where there was no war); isolated murders involving security men; small land disputes and laws around land ownership and use; small salary headaches; small matters of non-cadre judges; small wetland and other little environmental issues; small healthcare shortcomings; small public administration budgetary excesses; the small matter of ghost salary earners; a few unpatriotic eggs in government; small packs of biological irritants and pretenders calling themselves the Opposition; the small matter of boda boda gangs; the quarrels of small generals; little constitutional obstacles to his continued rule; all these things and more were jiggers to a general standing nine feet tall. They would disappear at his will.

But you belittle the jigger at your peril. The jigger can grow very large; remember, not on a shrub in your garden, but under your skin.
The jigger is also an insidious multiplier. Before you know it, where there was one jigger in the big toe, you have hundreds all over your body.

And the sweetish pain and relief when the jigger is itching and you are scratching it; a pest and (almost) a friend in one.
But as the feet gradually get substantially infected, as all negligent sufferers discover, you cannot walk the same way as you did.

For some odd reason, an otherwise smart person and considerable military leader, President Museveni seems not to understand at all the growth, spread and treachery of small ills. There will come a moment when he ponders how jiggers so overwhelmed him that his springy gait was turned into a two left-footed shuffle.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.