More than in many other societies, Ugandans have grown this culture of deceiving themselves, of enjoying being deceived, and of turning different forms of deception into official ‘truth’.
Take Muraasi. The young man wants to work as a taxi driver. He engages with the wrong right people; that is, crooks employed in the relevant departments. He gets some money to open paths that bypass the standard hurdles, and before you know it, Muraasi has acquired his driving permit before he has learned how to drive. By and by, of course, he may learn how to drive, and how to break the rules when the traffic policemen are not looking. But for now, already, he is an officially licensed driver.
Ms Nakinyira feels it in her bones that she is supposed to be a Member of Parliament, a range of weaknesses in her formal education and her articulation in the English language notwithstanding. All these shortcomings can be overcome. After all, she has heard a whole judge bumbling about parliamentary things as if she had dropped out of school at O-Level. What did it matter anyway; she would not be obliged to say anything on serious matters in the House.
With a budget of Shs500 million (of which she now has Shs8 million in cash), and two or three years of ‘chasing’ things, she could have her Nasser Road ‘qualifications’ and a degree from one of Namuwongo’s universities, as well as enough bribed voters, and even more deceived voters, to make her an elected and fully gazetted MP in 2021.
Prophet Mufere has observed that when he dramatically recounts the heroic and magical tales of the Israelites, the biblical people who deceived themselves that they were specially chosen by God, and he assures Ugandans that they, too, would triumph just as the biblical people did, his congregation erupts in wild cheers and endless clapping. The Ugandan worshippers freely embrace the fantasy that their fortune will be a copy of dubious ancient tales.
Uganda’s ruling clique is no less prone to self-deception.
Because of their enormous military strength, the rulers of our day are absolutely certain that power belongs to them. But they are also aware of the civilised notion that power belongs to the people; whatever that means. So the rulers find themselves in a quandary: How can their power, which is rooted in brute strength, be presented as power bestowed on them by the people?
Enter the vast cast of lawmakers, Electoral Commission officials, all sorts of armed goons, political operators and dedicated parasites; not to mention the millions of hungry dwarfs, who for a kilogramme of salt may switch souls and vote one way instead of another, as well as the lawyers and judges who come in handy whenever troublesome citizens want to overturn the gravy boat using the courts.
All this means money. Money…money…money. One can safely estimate that the growth of the investment in making this huge shapeless multi-wheeled political machine produce victories at the polls and in the courts for the NRM is inversely proportional to the declining credibility of the party leadership as a national ruling elite. The lower the credibility, the bigger the investment.
That price, which taxpayers are directly or indirectly paying for sustaining the myth that the NRM is still a ‘popular’ mass party, is also the loss signalling that the official dream of achieving Global Middle Income status for Uganda by 2020 – or even 2030 – under the NRM is probably another essay in self-deception.