Augustine Ruzindana

Longevity in power by one person stunts talent and breeds mediocrity

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By Augustine Ruzindana

Posted  Friday, March 21  2014 at  12:11
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Manchester United (Man-U), had one manager, Sir Ferguson, for more than 25 years and he helped the club win very many trophies.

It is the reigning champion in England but after the retirement, the club’s current manager, with the same players who won the championship last year, is struggling at number seven in the Premier League table. Some fans are now blaming the retired manager for the problems at Man-U. In Kenya, KANU held power from independence in 1963 until December 2002.

Moi, in power for 24 years, could still be president if he had not been removed by application of the two-term presidential limit. KANU is now politically insignificant with three senators out of 67 and six MPs out of 354 MPs in the National Assembly.

The Malawi Congress of life president Kamuzu Banda won only 26 out 193 in 2009 and Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP) is now unrepresented in the Zambian parliament. Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) has no single seat in Parliament and Haile Mariam’s party in Ethiopia is non-existent.

CCM in Tanzania is one of the few independence ruling parties still in power, thanks to the almost universal overwhelming respect for Nyerere, the nation’s founding father and CCM’s readiness to adapt to changing conditions. The point I am making here is that longevity in leadership by one person is not good for any organisation, whether political party or a football club like Man-U. It kills or stunts talent, breeds mediocrity and sycophancy and more importantly plants the seeds for disintegration.

What we are witnessing in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) is a complex situation that started with the smothering of the democratic promise that most people read into Museveni’s opening 1986 statement that it was ‘a fundamental change, not a mere change of guards’.

This statement was followed by formation of a broad-based government and a relaxed environment for most people, though those deemed to be enemies indeed suffered extreme repression and hardships. There was goodwill towards the regime and for a time the goodwill was requited. But over time, the expected democratic consolidation never took place through the institutionalisation of democratic practices, values and attitudes.

The biggest failure has been the incapacity to incubate and generate democrats with a democratic culture, ie democracy is not possible where there is a shortage of democrats. So what we are witnessing in NRM is ritualised competition about which faction will get the credit for keeping the big man in power but not change of top leader.

The issue here is maintenance of access to personal favours from the one sole power centre.

Personalisation of power is both a cause and consequence of longevity of the ruler in power. Currently, this is connected to the security, military and clientelist structure and character of the state created by the NRM regime. Lacking legitimacy through flawed elections, the regime has increasingly resorted to coercion and patronage that attempts to make everyone, down to the ordinary citizen, a client of the ruler.

The very large administrative costs are part of the patronage scheme which has resulted in a fiscal crisis, which in turn calls for excessive taxation of a narrow range of goods and services consumed by ordinary people. The costly state apparatus is inept, undisciplined and unresponsive to the law, rules, regulations and orders and, therefore, is highly corrupt.

Elections, national and intra-NRM, are empty, symbolic exercises designed to legitimise continued hold onto power. In a situation of privatised public resources controlled by one man with the only power to dispense patronage, expect no change in NRM for now.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.