Sunday October 8 2017

Parliament; another hurray for the ‘thug


By Alan Tacca

Many brilliant Ugandans may be making a mistake, treating the presidential age limit impasse as an intellectual one; as if ‘debating’ it would result in the triumph of reason.
There is no argument for retaining the age limit that President Museveni and his circle are not aware of, whether regarding any future presidential candidate, or even especially regarding himself in 2021.

To proceed as if the President does not (yet) understand, is to fall in his trap; since, as often happens, part of his game plan is to exhaust any opposition. Not to out-reason them, but to make them realise the futility of their effort and accept their helplessness.

Gen Museveni discovered long ago that we, collectively, are a daft populace; that he can fool us again and again, before we return for more humiliation.
We cite his random utterances as if they were statements of clear intent.

Then we sequence those statements and say he has contradicted himself.
Yet, in his mind, it may not be duplicity at all. This is a bit abstract. But if you fold and compress the intervals between those contradictions and perceive them as utterances in one time frame, they may look like superficial shades that cancel out each other. And precisely because of this, they leave the fundamental thrust of his intent intact.
Gen Museveni does not want you to debate or negotiate or reach a consensus how someone else will take power, but how he (Museveni) will keep that power. Is that clear?
Whether you are Parliament, civil society, elders, or the religious lot, you must understand that distinction.

If the age limit clause was drafted into the Constitution to lock out Dr Obote, and Gen Museveni’s NRM government has grown features that make it almost as objectionable as Obote’s UPC government, your duty as a patriot is not to invoke the clause as rationality would dictate. Instead, you must search for other clauses that permit you to remove the age limit clause.
In other words, fascism (the evil for which Obote was ostracised) is no longer evil. Or, at least, in principle, the injustice inherent in preventing a 75-ager from standing is far worse than the evil of fascism! The spirit of the 1995 Constitution is, therefore, dead.
In the face of gross abuse, the mind sometimes despairs, stops and turns to violence.

Last Sunday morning, I listened for a while to two men of God bleating endlessly on radio about the MP fight – the indignity, the equipment and bodily damage, the image of our country… and so on.
I do not know whether our high and self-righteous religious lot can count the religious wars – and the millions of deaths – mankind has endured since the dawn of civilisation. But, apparently, proper sword and gun-fire wars are holier than parliamentary skirmishes fought with plastic chairs; which perhaps explains why the two men of God have always referred to Museveni’s Bush War (1981-86) as a glorious enterprise.
Anyhow, all resistance by its nature tends to be disruptive, and violence destructive.

The sanctity of Parliament, or of the courts, or of temples, is not absolute. Whether clearly spelt out or barely implicit, their sanctity is only upheld if those institutions do not violate their huge moral responsibility to be ‘reasonable’.
Just as Speaker Rebecca Kadaga referred to one of Justice Steven Kavuma’s rulings as stupid, a parliamentary majority can make a stupid decision. And a temple can become so anti-social it justifies its demolition by a village mob.
But put aside the rightness or wrongfulness of storming Parliament.

Once the Speaker, police chief Gen Kayihura or State House had decided to storm the House, would the action have been more chaotic or less legitimate if the enforcers had been respectable security officers in authorised uniform?
The NRM has an intriguing relationship with the ‘thug’; the thug as an enforcer of the will of the State.

Similarly, for spreading its propaganda, the party tends to recruit the ‘ruffian’.
How could all the targeted MPs be immediately certain that the attack was not by gangsters from a den of bandits?

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.