Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza’s recent utterances in the media, were not only an attempt to scandalise the whole establishment of government but also to enable him as an individual harbouring political ambitions to create a scenario that puts him at the centre of political dissention and thus create a false wave on whose crest he intends to ride, as the saviour of the polity.
This is however not new in our political environment. It only needs to be understood as a new style of political “schemers”. With clear ambitions to become President(s) of Uganda, these “schemers” try to create scenarios that they will use as scapegoats to ride on when time to make open their presidential bids is ripe. After creating such scenarios, these self-styled dissenters then take refuge in the assumption that any administrative sanction against them will be viewed as an act of government’s intolerance and cracking on political dissent.
Sooner than later, one announces his/her presidential candidature: the ultimate succor from ‘political persecution’. With the international community standing on the side of the political dissent, who would dare touch a presidential candidate? This is a ugly trend that I would wish to caution my contemporaries or comrades of our political generation especially, to shun and despise with utter contempt. It has no merit.
The beauty however of it all, is that such schemes of trying to ride on scapegoats only last to serve cheap popularity and can never be sustained. They lack a cause to sell and thus sustain on clear ideological principles.
To oppose Museveni or the NRM for example one need not first allege how he/she is being targeted for murder/elimination when clearly, all and sundry have known it as a fact that the NRM does not eliminate opponents. To the contrary, it works with them both in its military and political ranks.
You need not attack Kainerugaba Muhoozi to be seen as a dissenting voice against the NRM and fabricate stories of how there is a “project” to make him President, on account of fear and suspicion that may be one day Muhoozi may contest as President and thus threaten your ambition. That becomes sheer cowardice.
Dissent means holding a different opinion from the status quo and it’s perfectly in order. It is the definitive principle of political pluralism. Instead of trading in red herrings, hateful speech and sentiments aimed at demonising those one disagrees with, the dissenting party should concentrate on propagating his or her alternative opinions without sounding disgruntled or hateful to one he or she opposes.
The contestation should rather be on clear policy substance and not on personal sentiments and vendettas seeking revenge. Seeking a leadership position as a platform for exacting revenge is a recipe for anarchy.
Dr Kiiza Besigye for example had planned long before and knew that he would launch his presidential ambitions in 2001. Instead of dressing his bid with superior ideas that were more relevant and connected to the people’s livelihoods, he came out a complaining man and only hoped to use that platform of championing personal grievances to achieve sympathy and national visibility and thus bolster his political fortunes. Fortunately, such “schemers” rarely get the power they so desperately desire to get from the positions of leadership. Somehow, they are discerned by the citizenry and end up getting resounding rejections.
No wonder since 2001, Besigye has not been known for any other cause apart from seeking aggressively and angrily to be President. His then famous document of 2000, had no clear substantive policy points of departure from the NRM, apart from expressing his anger over issues of Katebe, disappointment with his former boss in the army and government, complaining about feeding habits in the bush, how chicken was served selectively etc.
He made so many outrageous claims that never were; talked of how his whole family was being targeted for murder by the government, etc. Months after his document, and after generating excitement in the media, Col. Besigye launched his Presidential bid. Launching the bid however, was not the issue or a problem. It was his failure to dress his bid with a genuine and well-articulated cause that the citizenry would buy into as their own. He resorted to issuing outbursts of anger that bordered on settling personal scores.
To date, Besigye and his team believe in rallying people only on sentiments. All their political initiatives have been those that only seek to give them visibility and centres of media focus. Ugandans honestly, deserve better political menus to look at for a choice.
It is therefore pertinent that before Gen. Tinyefuza’s new political posture causes some excitement of sorts, we should assess his political record and the principles he represents.
People who aspire to be leaders should have consistent principles they stand for and espouse. What clearly is Gen. Tinyefuza’s point of departure from the establishment of government; a government he continues to serve!
It should be well remembered that Gen. Tinyefuza’s moment of disorientation started after his altercations with Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) over a house he was selfishly and unlawfully clinging to. In the not-so-distant past, he condemned arrogance and harshness of some government actors in a veiled attack against KCCA’s lawful eviction of illegal developers at Centenary Park.
While his general remarks on arrogance and impunity against some government officials seemed to be good points of counsel from a perceived freedom fighter, he did not live beyond suspicion of not having been speaking at the motivation of a personal grudge that he was harboring against KCCA officials, for legally evicting him from their property at Mabua. So surely, should political dissent therefore, be reduced to individuals pursuing their personal grievances and interests?
Why should Gen. Tinyefuza and his proxies (Brig Kasirye Gwanga ), unfairly target Brig. Muhoozi, taking advantage of his limitation as a serving soldier and therefore not able to respond to them decisively? Is Muhoozi a threat to their “political projects”, since they believe in crafting “projects”? For all intents and purposes, why should Muhoozi bother Gen. Tinyefuza? Wouldn’t Gen. Tinyefuza be proud of the Muhoozi military generation, that has emerged in a more professional and technically competent way able to propel forward the institution of the UPDF, him and others take pride in to have built?
Raising the stakes
It’s high time all political actors and especially my young political comrades raised the stakes high of political contestation so as to turn the tide of political contests degenerating into personal fights. Those attacking Muhoozi are doing so unfairly and purely on selfish grounds. It is an arrogant act and an affront on our generation that we must resist in its entirety. We should only allow issues and not sentiments to define our political culture and behaviors. It should be competence and merit as opposed to scheming, fanning and mastering of intrigue that should form the yardstick of assessing leaders both sitting and aspiring.
I call upon our comrades in the media to be vigilant on “schemers” dressed as political activists. The media industry managers have a major role to play because they provide and regulate the platform for these political contestations. Largely, the media should subject activists to the rigours of moral inquiry and probity to avoid pampering them on wrong opportunistic schemes. They should be challenged to prove their worth based on excellence and superiority of ideas.
Contestation of ideas in a civil manner was and has been the bedrock of the movement/NRM politics. The individual merit principle gave us the foundation. A number of us are proud to have been supported by this principle of free competition.
Its one’s merit that defined his/her political fortunes. Nobody fanned or sponsored intrigue or hateful schemes as a way of challenging the other. I remember the vibrant ideological debates we had in our universities in the mid and late 90s, inspired by the late Brig. Noble Mayombo and Hon. Nobert Mao. The latter pushed a view that was highly critical of the movement and castigated it for being a monolithic system running a single party while the former articulated the revolutionary doctrines of state building and passionately defended the movement as the best form of an all embracing democratic system that even allowed its critics to emerge.
As young emerging student leaders then, we drew a lot of inspiration from these two contesting opinions and we got aligned differently to each of them. We never formed cliques of any sectarian nature (tribal, religious etc) to fight each other, but rather engaged in intellectual contests.
For example, the Mayombo line drew followers from myself, Richard Todwong, Sarah Kagingo, Odrek Rwabwogo, Charles Rwomushana, Patrick Ezaga, Obedmonth Ofungi, Okwir Rabwoni, Rose Namayanja, Peter Ojul, Waswa Masokoyi, Nusura Tiperu, Dan Fred Kidega and Herman Ssentogo among others.
The Mao line on the other hand was followed by friends Mukasa Mbidde, Asuman Basarilwa, Jude Mbabali, the late James Opoka (who was misled to the Kony rebellion by some leaders) and Taligola Isa Bantalibu among many others.
The political culture then and which majority of us continue to espouse was that of tolerance and respect for each other’s views even when one formed opposition to the other. And these were the founding principles of the NRM that majority of us student leaders then understood, appreciated and followed.
Nobody came to recruit us in universities with money inducements or job offers. It was persuasion based on ideological clarity. In fact, I continue to salute with much respect comrades like Nobert Mao who despite their consistent opposition to the NRM, continue to stand up for reason and civilized politics of engagement. He has shunned gallery politics of fanning violence (walk to work, etc) , and vehemently opposed coalitions that had no clear national objectives. He was rebuffed and labeled a Museveni mole by the reactionary forces even when he has been more consistent with opposition politics compared to those calling him names.
Gen. Tinyefuza and his “schemers” should stop fooling anybody. They should come out boldly and live by their own true political images. They should not seek to demonise Muhoozi because of the perceived fears they hold against him. They should wait to face him, if indeed they think he is a force to reckon with at some point in future. Their story of the “ Muhoozi project “, is indeed no other person’s project but their own, so they should tell us why Muhoozi bothers them, that much of a great deal?
The writer is the minister for the Presidency