Does Museveni hate, love or fear the ‘Mafia’?

Saturday April 25 2020

Food! Yes, food is not a joke. After watching him soldier through the turns and twists of the corruption scandals that sometimes involved his inner circle, who would have predicted that as President Museveni approaches the 2021 General Election, all the features of the culture of corruption in the NRM era would rise to the surface for everybody to see? And it would happen when millions of Ugandans are desperately hungry.

With stories other than food, apart from critical elites, the mass of Ugandans tend to pay attention for a while or no attention at all, before settling back in their cheerful indifference.
Although most people, including President Museveni’s friends, call Uganda’s corrupt politico-cum-business operators the Mafia, I usually refer to them as vampires; because I believe they are not as highly organised or as violent as we have come to expect Mafia-style gangsters to be. The ‘individual merit’ syndrome that still marks some of our politics also seems to run as ‘individual villainy’ through our State-linked blood-sucking networks.

Die, if you want. But the pursuit of money and personal comforts is the supreme motivator for our powerful people to do anything.
Die, if you want. The vampires that had figured out a way of making money from ‘sensitisation’ billboards owe you nothing. They did not bring Covid-19.
Die, if you want. If buying motor-vehicles in a depressed car sales environment can attract handsome dark discounts, plus the usual kickbacks, why harass the Covid-19 Taskforce with alternative priorities? They did not bring the virus.

Die, if you cannot wait. The issue is not that urban Ugandans who do not have bundles of cash under their mattresses are facing starvation if the State does not give them food quickly. The issue is that in the bid to sell relief food to the State, vampires who have the blessing of X are in rivalry with vampires who have the blessing of Y.
In the allegations and counter-allegations that have been making the rounds in the media, the names of very powerful businessmen have been mentioned, and their political backers alluded to. The big fish largely keep a studied silence. It is the little people in the media who do the talking. Supporters of X call Y’s camp the Mafia, and the supporters of Y call X’s camp the Mafia.

For the first time in my adult life, I recently listened to a new species of logic, which stands on a diagonal like this: If a businessman has been selling quality food to a solid international organisation, that businessman is incapable of selling sub-standard food to a corrupt joke called Uganda!
I also heard the warning, or threat, that if a Ugandan of the Somali ethnic group swims at the deep end of Uganda’s politically dyed business waters, this one man’s actions would throw the entire Somali community in Uganda in jeopardy!
But wait a minute. Has NRM rule not only nurtured the vampire state, but also watered collective ethno-tribal prejudice?

Die again, if you want. The guiding cynicism dictates that an MP must not be ashamed of duplicity. Call him a Mad Parasite, but Covid-19 is the opportunity he got.
Watching this plunder is President Museveni. Perhaps fiercely angry. Perhaps smiling. Perhaps alarmed.
In these unprecedented hunger and hard business times, with Executive action conspicuously weak, the current media-based confrontational chaos could harden into blackmail rackets, with powerful business and political operators paying hush and PR protection money, not to mention fees or ‘gifts’ for attacking competitors and opponents.
I do not see how society could benefit from that development. It would only distract the citizens from focusing on the legitimate question whether President Museveni hates, loves or fears the ‘Mafia’. And it could mark a shift from a vampire to a fully-fledged gangster State.


Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.