Sunday October 1 2017

It is absurd for MPs to praise Operation Smash Parliament


By Bernard Tabaire

Parliament was trashed on Wednesday. On Thursday, NRM MPs could not stop applauding the total violation of their own institution. That cluelessness and callousness. My God!
When security agents storm the parliamentary chamber to beat up and drag out Opposition MPs, however “rowdy’ their conduct, that is not something to celebrate.
These NRM MPs are feeding a creature that will come after them and much else besides.

President Museveni wants his life presidency and he has decided to go all out.

In that mission he has found enablers in Parliament led by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga — a beautiful name that Uganda’s political history will record in the disgrace column.
Supporting the removal of the untested age limit clause (like it was with the term limit one 12 years ago) to allow President Museveni run in 2021 and in 2026 and in 2031 and in 2036 and in 2041 (when he will be just shy of 100 years) will bring benefits to the NRM MPs.
They may become ministers, they may get re-elected and if not the Life President will name them ambassadors or RDCs or advisors.
Meantime, they may pocket some millions of shillings. Damn the consequences to Uganda’s long-term health.
But bad things happen when you give someone absolute power.

As President Museveni has accumulated his power, with acquiescence of the political class, he has gotten emboldened to do outlandish things. Twelve years ago, security agents raided the High Court. Last week, they raided Parliament.
There is a pattern that clearly demonstrates a lack of respect for any institution that might act as a check on the President’s wishes.
His wishes are the assumed and imposed wishes of Uganda.

If parliamentary process becomes an inconvenience, emasculate Parliament through inducements and brute force.
With Parliament as rubble, nothing will stop the present paternalism and authoritarianism morphing into unbridled dictatorship.
Repression will become frequent and routine.

When this stage comes, I am afraid, the MPs who are today enabling the nonsense will be devoured. First, it is the institutions. Then it is the individuals. That’s the natural progression.
Speaking of individuals, I hope each of the security agents, operating on “orders from above”, will have his or her day in court.
That’s not to forget Madame Speaker, and Mr Inspector General, who by the way said with a cocky air that he was in charge of Operation Smash Parliament of the Republic Uganda.
Such is the chutzpah that Gen. Kale Kayihura no longer needs to tiptoe around his role in this newest national scandal.

Such is the impudence that Minister Ronald Kibuule marched into the chamber of Parliament on Tuesday armed with a gun.
The aim was to warn anyone who did not fall in line that trouble was on the way. Trouble came the next day.

For the MPs who were brutalised and humiliated, how they proceed will determine their shelf life as principled politicians over the next decade or more.
Some will give up the fight, some will cut deals, and some will stay the course.

Those who stay the course will need to figure out how to get outraged Ugandans behind them to stop the steady march toward national stupidity.

Mr Tabaire is the co-founder and director of programmes at African Centre for Media Excellence in Kampala.