As democracy rules, ‘Aminism’ reigns

Sunday March 22 2020


By Philip Matogo

American writer Scott Fitzgerald once said that there are no second acts in the careers of the rich and famous.

Yet ‘Aminism’, which is applying the precedents of former president Idi Amin’s rule to the practices of today’s politics, defies these words.
In the early 80s, rebel leader Yoweri Museveni said:

“When we were fighting Idi Amin, we had a bad experience of depending on outside bases (in Tanzania). If you have to depend on a foreign country, even if it is friendly, you are hostage to that government.”

Today, in the context of realpolitik, both the Opposition and government are increasingly reliant on foreign entities to an extent that Uganda might soon be run as a condominium.

Which, by definition, refers to territory that is governed by two or more sovereign powers who have formally agreed to share duties without necessarily dividing the area (Uganda) into national zones.

Indeed, it takes two to tango. And it also takes more than one to tangle national interests in a web of deceit spun by the lie that home-grown power can be grown from outside the country.
China and America, we forget, represent exclusively Chinese and American interests.


Our politicians looking beyond our borders to increase power within our borders only serves to denationalise Uganda’s sovereignty. When these politicians face off like dogs with hair standing up at the back of their necks, they’re leashed by foreign interests.

Through proxies like World Bank and IMF, foreign powers play puppeteer wire-pulling puppet regimes in official Kampala.

In the Amin years, we were caught in the throes of the Cold War as Ugandans endured scripted instead of sought after endings.

“The end result was that Uganda would no longer be an independent country. It would be a plaything of the British and Israelis,” rebel leader Museveni said.
Amin, knowing he wasn’t accountable to Ugandans, decided to declare himself life president. Then he proceeded to wipe the smiles off our post-Obote faces with decrees scattered like a fistful of seeds onto stony ground.

Today, we live under the open-ended tenure of a Museveni presidency whose longevity comes right out of Amin’s playbook. In the Opposition, Kizza Besigye blots his own copybook by attempting to monopolise dissent as belonging to him, the defiant one.

By this dichotomy of saviour-figures, Besigye becomes life antidote to President Museveni’s life presidency.
People Power was a departure from such ‘Aminism’, until its leader opened his mouth.

“He struck me then as being an unsophisticated man whom people evidently felt they could influence if not exactly manipulate,” said Princess Elizabeth Bagaya of Tooro.

She said this after meeting Amin for the first time at a State luncheon in 1971. Back then, the elite who supported Amin viewed him as “all body and no brains.”
Some of our elite describe MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, in such uncharitable terms.

Amin, like Bobi, was initially a man of the people: he spoke half a dozen languages in the manner that Bobi’s music has cross-cultural appeal.

Amin was closely linked to Nubians. And the Nubians, like People Power’s rank and filers, were true urbanites because they were largely shopkeepers.

Although they were descendants of southern Sudanese groups, they had been alienated from their cultures as they served Emin Pasha’s colonial army in Sudan. Eventually they escaped with him to Uganda at the turn of the 19th Century and became as common as beef Luwombo in our towns.

Largely unschooled, they were caught in the lower reaches of a society with small chance for social mobility. Hence their class ceiling became a glass ceiling, just like People Power’s blue-collar base.
Bobi, like Amin, beds down with foreign powers in his quest to remove President Museveni.

However, this comes with a sting in the tail wagging the dog to deflect attention from how such support will leave him beholden to foreigners, not Ugandans.

So how do we stem this tide towards ‘Aminism’?
By not treating democracy as a secular religion that is, in and of itself, our sole salvation. Because democracy places numbers over a number of principles necessary to ensure the past is autopsied, not attempted anew.
One of those principles is that democracy will not give us its power, it will give us our power.

Thus, our belief in its intrinsic value must be balanced against its extrinsic price. In so doing, we’ll externalise its benefits in the context of costs levied upon us by ‘Aminism’. So when democracy is buried, its resurrection shall take seed.

Mr Matogo is a digital marketing
manager with City Surprises Ltd