Sunday February 23 2014

Smart Museveni supporters should not vote for NRM MPs in 2016

By Alan Tacca

President Museveni used to be very forthright in his choice of words, especially when dealing with opposition politicians. If he thought you should have been a frog or a mushroom, or were a plain idiot, he would choose a moment and tell you just that.

The President is a little more restrained nowadays. Perhaps it is the composure that comes (and is welcome) with age. Or maybe it is because he is already more than compensated by the excesses of his spokesman, Tamale Mirundi, whose running mouth when pouring invective on opposition politicians has no limits.

It is also possible that the President has observed that there are many strange and not-so-desirable species in his own camp. Like Premier Amama Mbabazi. Other people may call him a porcupine, a crocodile or whatever they want, but the President has not. It is just that he does not want to hear people calling Mbabazi president. But who wants?

So we have this Museveni, a little bit more cautious with words, but more determined than ever to cling to power, come 2016.

Enter Evelyn Anite, the MP representing the youth of northern Uganda.

Uganda has well over 300 members in the House, most of them useless, and Hon Anite had done nothing to make the ordinary Ugandan aware of her existence. Now she has. Her antics at the recently concluded gathering of the NRM MPs at Kyankwanzi, during which Museveni’s political machine fronted her to lead the charge aimed at removing any obstacles in the path of Museveni’s 2016 presidential candidature on the NRM ticket, have brought her in the limelight.

If the slavish flattery she displayed at Kyankwanzi had been at an opposition party event, especially if it had been some years back, nobody would have been surprised if a nauseated Museveni found an occasion to refer to Ms Anite as a spineless ground-bound insect.
The MP, of course, is not so severely disadvantaged. But if she had been of a radically different mould, she might have reflected and acted differently.

Some things make you laugh. In her revelations reported by the media, Anite says her mother raised her specifically to work for Mr Museveni. Her role is therefore an extension (inheritance) of her mother’s loyalty to President Museveni.

So Ms Anite was not raised to serve a cause or a set of principles to make her country better. She was bred to serve the interests of a particular person.

This means that the people who voted for Ms Anite for the right reasons – that is, to make good laws for the country and check the policies and actions of the executive – have instead got the brainwashed tool of the chief executive.

Supporting the President is not necessarily bad and is expected of most ruling party Members of Parliament, but there has to be a balance (however subjective) between support and critical judgment, which preserves the integrity of a legislator.

It is probably expecting too much to ask Ms Anite to see her loyalty from a different angle. But working for President Museveni need not require her to champion an extension of his rule. One could work for the President by gently and respectfully guiding him into visions of a dignified retirement. All former presidents who did some good for their countries (and retired) have had people loyal to them working for them in retirement.

Indeed, Ms Anite’s loyalty would come across as less self-interested and less hypocritical if expressed towards a Museveni who no longer had direct political power; like a parent who is loved when they do not have much more chocolate to hand out.

Unfortunately, as Kyankwanzi has shown us, the Anite disease is widespread in the ruling party. Crawling in the dust is their forte. So there is no way Mr Museveni’s 2016 supporters can get a reasonable deal from his rule – if he retains power – unless they vote for MPs who do not belong to the President’s party.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator