In the week of Heroes Day, I must admit that I feel very small; for I am indisputably a coward.
I have never even once cut the throat of a chicken or clobbered to death anything bigger than a rat. And – it goes without saying – I was hiding under the bed and in more degraded places when the NRM rebels were fighting Dr Obote and Gen. Okello’s forces between 1981 and 1986.
My only consolation is that it seems you can now actually get a medal for being a historical coward, and that yesterday’s heroes can mysteriously become today’s cowards.
First, the historical coward. If lots of your cows or shamba products were eaten by the NRM rebels or Obote’s soldiers during their struggle, or if your property was destroyed, and you have not been properly compensated, but you have not started a rebellion or disturbed the NRM government by vociferously asserting your claim, and you have not been resentfully counting the cows or acres of land amassed by the 1986 conquerors, then you can now get a hero’s medal.
Otherwise, the medals have been mostly for warriors; men and women who did not fear confrontation and relished a good fight. Gen Museveni’s photogenic smile was always most charming when he was carrying a gun. It reminded me of smiles in paintings in Chinese Communist Party magazines.
Premier Amama Mbabazi – a half soldier who somehow got a rank (Major or something) – also radiates a special air of self-worth when packaged in those Kyankwanzi “army” clothes.
Now, I come to the question: Have our two heroes mysteriously become cowards?
Starting with President Museveni; he has all the stars Uganda’s military establishment cares to give a general. He has all the medals of heroism. He has fought 100 Ugandan rebel groups. He has dared all manner of Somali warlords, albeit from a safe distance. At the name Museveni, even warriors of Oyite-Ojok vintage tremble in their graves.
You are getting me. Why is such a distinguished general frightened of ordinary people in his own party?
All explanations are dodging the truth unless they say, categorically, that the overall performance of Gen Museveni’s government is now perceived to be so deficient that he can not trust the NRM Delegates Conference to endorse him as the NRM 2016 presidential candidate.
If he is bent on pre-Conference endorsement (also a form of rigging!) because he fears his enemies in the NRM will rig the primaries vote, then he needs a reminder that those “enemies” and their rigging ways are his babies. Anyway, it is rather undignified for a general of his reputation to tremble and run around like a coward when challenged.
We come to Premier Mbabazi. I don’t remember an opinion poll showing that Ugandans were enthusiastic about a President Mbabazi. I can only wish him luck if he believes the people’s exhaustion with Museveni will turn into sustainable pro-Mbabazi momentum.
Anyway, we have this “External Wing” bush war hero who wants to be president. And he reminds me of the male cowards of those Obote II days when the rebellion was raging.
When an ominous rumour got around that State security agents were looking for someone, the gentleman would often scamper into hiding (sometimes full exile), leaving his wife and children behind.
It is not that he wanted them in trouble. The idea was that since they were not (directly) the target, and especially since they were a woman and children, the state agents would probably not treat them as harshly as they would do with him.
Like those men, honourable Mbabazi, also a winner of many medals, has (in a manner of speaking) gone into hiding. He is walking in open spaces, but his heart is in hiding. He has left his wife and a bunch of NRM youths to take the flak for conveying what is in his heart.
It looks like Mr Mbabazi has now to be a coward to survive in the political space created by his bush war heroism.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator email@example.com.