It is the nature of empty tins: noise. When you hear President Museveni’s radio and TV studio warriors spitting fire and acid, and sometimes brandishing hammers and yellow ribbons, all in the name of fighting to lift the age-75 limit, you would think their thunder alone can shake this land in the manner of an earthquake.
It is difficult to understand how Mr Museveni picks these warriors; or how they pick themselves and ‘volunteer’ to defend his controversial causes; or how much they are paid (or hope to be paid).
In one breath they will boast that they are millionaires, and in the next breath they will howl that they are hungry and castigate ‘Museveni’s people’ (or even Museveni personally) for not paying them anything in ‘appreciation’; which I suppose means they are ‘cheap’, but not exactly cheap.
However, even in the Kampala regime, where the word shame has very little meaning, there are a few top dogs who are wealthy, self-regarding and too proud to come out and consistently campaign for schemes that neither make sense nor have popular appeal; like lifting the age-75 limit. Call them NRM’s fat children.
When characters like Muwanga Lutaya and Sekabanja are working their voices hoarse on the weekend (bimeeza) talk shows, the likes of Kutesa and the more elegant ladies are probably relaxing quietly in their feathered comfort.
This aloofness of the NRM’s most privileged lords has caused a measure of resentment and bitterness among the President’s tireless mouth soldiers.
In lesser battles, where the NRM’s huge majority in Parliament or the power of the Executive’s money and brute force normally ensures victory, these media operatives have been happy to enjoy their moments of fame among the masses – if the masses mattered.
However, lifting the age limit has fired the passion of ordinary people in a way that was not fully anticipated. President Museveni, his considerable extended family and the NRM’s fat children may pretend to be temporarily deaf, but fighting to save Magyezi’s obnoxious Bill has become a very steep uphill task, and the mouth warriors feel overwhelmed and face being ostracised. In many places, they are openly being referred to as traitors.
So, why, they scream; why are the fat cats not coming out to fight openly for their godfather? Why are they lying low? When did they become princes?
It is a small class war; little people doing all the sweating, absorbing the ammunition and the ridicule, and NRM’s fat children carrying away the meat.
This mini class war makes Uganda a more intriguing banana republic. Many of the mouth warriors are not highly educated. Some conspicuously lack social refinement. In a ‘normal’ country, they would not strike you as potential legislators or government ministers. And yet, if one is a good personal financial manager, and a bit of a thief, becoming an MP or a government minister in Uganda can be very lucrative.
So these loud, but less lucky, NRM mouths are scaling up their demands. They want to go to Parliament, and to be made ministers.
Being uneducated is now something of a profession. And the ‘leader’ of the uneducated, one Bukenya, is happy about the noise from his allies. Another constitutional amendment could give the ‘uneducated’ some seats in the House!
A few days ago, it was reported that Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and NRM party vice chairman Moses Kigongo would start campaigning for Magyezi’s Bill. Are Museveni’s noisy hungry children finally flushing the lords out of their feathered holes?
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.