Because of the enduring relevance, George Orwell’s allegory, Animal Farm has refused to become a mere book from the past.
In 1945 Orwell whose real name was Eric Blair (1903 -1950) published this book. Its setting is a farm where a group of farm animals led by pigs decided that enough was enough.
They proceeded to overthrow the humans led by Mr Jones because they were tired of exploitation and all the high sounding bad things revolutionaries use as excuses to overturn the prevailing order. The animals then embarked on a fundamental change. They would follow a set creed; emphasising egalitarianism, simplicity, frugality, desist from the bad habits of the humans to enhance the dignity and respect of the animal race.
Eventually, the bad habits of the humans crept back and slowly, each was justified. Where no animal was allowed to take alcohol, it became ‘…not to take alcohol in excess’ because the pigs that were now at the vanguard, found the taste of wine irresistible.
Interestingly, President Museveni once equated past leaders of Uganda from whom he wrestled the mantle of power as ‘swines,’ quoting from the Bible in Mathew 7:6.
The most interesting and relevant part of Orwell’s literary effort for Uganda today is the part where the ruling class (pigs) throw out all pretense of equality of the animals and start out on a path to distinguish themselves from the rest. They wear clothes, sleep in beds, take alcohol and grant themselves titles just like the humans did.
The other animals out of fear and pragmatism recognise this and start playing to a script littered with sycophancy for their own survival. They now know that the one who led the revolution has suffered some amnesia and is now more about his own perpetuation.
Today, many people have learnt that to be in the good books of the very powerful President, you need to second guess him and give him assurance that he has massive support.
Politicians hold functions and the youth clad in T-shirts with the President’s image kneel before him swearing their allegiance.
There are images of the President captured at weddings cutting the wedding cake with the newly wedded couple in his capacity as the ‘chief guest.’ Funerals are delayed to wait for the President as the ‘chief mourner.’ He has been the ‘chief viewer’ of the eclipse which is visible in vast parts of the globe.
He now opens shopping malls and launches rural electricity and water projects despite having a large Cabinet with ministers responsible for those sectors.
The latest is groups falling over each other to give the President awards that glorify him. He has picked the one for ‘the most admired political investor since independence.’ Then, ‘the father of the nation award.’ He picked the award of ‘the best government institution’ given to the UPDF and that of the Ministry of Defence which went as ‘most admired government Ministry.’ This army was founded by Museveni and mutated from FRONASA to NRA then UPDF.
His younger brother Gen Salim Saleh was given the ‘most development oriented and admired bush war hero’ award. Remember this is a war which Museveni successfully launched. Gen Aronda Nyakairima garnered ‘the best army commander since 1962’. Nyakairima was appointed by Museveni which implies that he makes very great choices.
All these things rhyme with a joke that appeared on social media where it is said that in Africa if one catches a cold, it is because of the dust coming from the numerous construction projects initiated by the President. If one does not catch a cold, it is because the President has completed numerous construction projects that have left the environment clean!
As things stand today, we are quickly covering pages out of Animal Farm. Just read the book and look at a part of Uganda of your choice.