What is Africa’s problem,’ a certain man asked? That was about three decades of peace ago. The man is said to have given a correct answer; the thematic text delivery of which I find no necessity to repeat here. I can’t talk about Africa like him; because my daily hustle, quite a do or die kind of thing, clearly distances me from the loftiness of isms. So, I will ask a very municipal question: After 34 years of Pax Musevenica, what is Uganda’s problem?
The challenge of African nationhood is exciting for those interested in scholarship. We can only invite scholars on African leadership to situate their studies in a global perspective.
In the not-so-distant history, there was empire building. On the part of Europeans, this funnelled into colonialism; the last vestiges of which were witnessed in Africa in the 19th Century. The last contiguous land mass of an imperial enterprise was the Ottoman Turkey Empire, which was broken into pieces after World War I. Please note that the British Empire was not contiguous, but a cobble of colonial projects or units). For Africa, the era of empire building (by African conquistadors) did not reach maturity. It was cut short by the Asiatic (Arabs) settlers of North Africa and later the Caucasian (European) colonial entrepreneurship that was visited on Africa in the 18th Century.
After the collapse of the Soviet Empire in the 1990s, the world has clearly (but slowly) been aligned to the social (welfare) progression; at the centre of which is the delivery of social goods to the citizenry (not imperial glory).
But the character of contemporary African leadership point to a revelation that could interest scholars. The post-Soviet Collapse African leadership seems to have reached the stage of sit-tight strongmen whose instrument of political mobilisation and State entrepreneurship is violence (to cow citizens). Why do African leaders find it difficult to leave power? My very personal thinking is: The disruption of Africa’s empire building process by exogenous influence of the colonial enterprises (and Arab settler wave), has the answer. It is very probable that contemporary African leaders don’t want to leave power because they have to satisfy the imperial attitudes missed by past African leaders.
With the peace ushered in by the able leadership of Mr Museveni, what is Uganda’s problem? Is it Makerere University students? Dr Kizza Besigye? Bobi Wine? Is it the man credited for ushering in the peace?
Does it occur to the African leadership that Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence hero, has no known grave? And that Marshal Mobutu Ssese Sseko has a non-descript one in Morocco? But Patrice Lumumba is more widely celebrated than Marshal Mobutu. Yes, Mobutu, whose achievements were clear and captured bulunji in Franco Luambo Makiadi’s popular song Candidat Na Biso Mobutu (Our Candidate is Mobutu). Mobutu azongisa la paix na mboka (Mobutu returned peace to the country). This is true, Mobutu returned peace. But then…
And then we ask: What kind of glory seeking drives a man to act like he owns ekolo (Lingala for nation)? What kind of glory seeking drives a man to the boundaries of absolutism? Can a man appreciate the boundary of his madness?
Once again, what is Uganda’s problem? Is the problem the people who don’t win presidential elections? Is the problem Ugandans? Ugandans don’t pretend; the 2021 polls won’t be worth your money and dignity (if political parties are not allowed to freely mobilise and rally support).
Police brutality has reached a stage where it unsettles the sanctity of the Judiciary and Legislature. The Speaker of Parliament recently wondered whether Uganda is still running under a multi-party constitution. What really is Uganda’s problem?
Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East African Flagpost.