Sunday October 15 2017

Cheers to the thug... and to the idiot!


By Alan Tacca

Due to a production error, the reader of this column last Sunday may have felt short-changed by two pennies.

The last nine words were cut off.
After refusing to be drawn in the argument why President Museveni should finally retire in 2021 – because he already knows – I touched on the curious relationship the ‘thug’ and the ‘ruffian’ enjoy with the ruling NRM.
The concluding question (with the missing words) was:

During the September 27 storming of Parliament, how could the targeted MPs be immediately certain that the attack was not by gangsters from a den of bandits?
Put differently, in a ‘normal’ society, MPs would probably cooperate more readily with security officers dressed in recognised uniform, and be more suspicious of men in plain clothes pouncing on them like ordinary thugs.
For another penny’s worth, I will add something about the ‘thug’.

Many watchers have noted that the informal security toughie (or thug) was created to do dirty jobs promptly, anywhere, at the behest of the powers that be, enabling them to bypass the institutional command and finance structures of the police and the army.
But that may be only half the story.

The thug may have arisen, not so much to provide flexibility, as to shield the police and (especially) the army from being seen doing barbaric things.
Gen Museveni had an idealistic notion of the warrior, where the revolutionary fighter is a kind of political philosopher.
In power, Museveni is split between the (Che) Guevaraesque figure of a nomadic liberator and the cynical, Stalinist control man.

Or he embraces both. Or he has a heart where both clash and blow up his idealism.
In his romantic conception, the warrior hardly does wrong. If he violates the ideal, he must be eliminated to prevent the spread of decay in the army. Or his identity must change. He must cease to be a soldier and become something else. Perhaps a policeman? Or, still better, join the thugs. When ‘politics’ dictates the need for barbarism, unleash the thug; but not the soldier, if this can be avoided.
The citizen must love the soldier, tolerate or fear the policeman, and be terrified by the thug.

Naturally, after the storming of Parliament, NRM propagandists got plenty of work.

I noted last Sunday how, for its propagandists, the NRM tends to recruit ruffians. But there are exceptions.

As Monitor Publications was printing that article on Saturday afternoon, one Sekabanja was on an Impact FM talk show, working.
A former Residential District Commissioner, Mr Sekabanja is the very embodiment of courteousness.

His tongue is lined with feathers and the finest silk. So smooth! A habitual liar or a con-man could pay a million dollars for just that tongue.
Mr Sekabanja was defending the MPs’ special facilitation for ‘consulting’ voters on the controversial age-75 bill.

However, he said Shs20million was excessive; he thought Shs10 million would be more reasonable.
But MPs already get regular allowances for this kind of consultation. In any case, what is the basis for Sekabanja’s figures?
If Shs20 million is arbitrary, being a smaller amount does not make Shs10 million any less arbitrary.

Asked about the rationale of spending the implied billions on this scheme when many legitimate government obligations remain underfunded, Sekabanja replied that different items had separate budget allocations.
In other words, to hell with pictures of priorities.

You have got it. When the NRM’s mass audience propagandist is not a ruffian, he is required to think and reason like an idiot.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.
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