Three recent occasions triggered reactions that are great food for thought. First, former vice president Gen Mustafa Adrisi died. Then the Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, celebrated 20 years on the throne. Three: The Public Order Management Bill, 2011, was bulldozed through Parliament.
When Field Marshal Idi Amin was in power between 1971 and 1979, there were a few men believed to have a moderating influence on the brutal thrust of the regime. Without abandoning caution, the Gen Mustafa Adrisi was held in that regard. By the same token, there were men who stretched the brutality to excess; like the late Juma “Butabika”.
Although these opposing influences created their tension, Gen. Adrisi’s pull was not strong enough to change the general direction of the regime; a brand of fascism.
However, following his death, both opposition and ruling NRM politicians (including President Museveni) were very generous towards the general.
So, 34 years after the collapse of a terrible regime, citizens can still separate the few good men of the time. But just after Adrisi’s farewell, President Museveni was being heckled by rather uncharitable sections of the crowd at the Kabaka’s 2Oth anniversary.
Not because Museveni had said anything outrageous; it seems the hecklers simply disapproved of his presence at the function. Or perhaps because they did not trust him as a true friend of the monarchy, even after he had just promised to return Buganda Kingdom properties; or maybe because they were tired of him as president.
Twenty years ago, at the Kabaka’s coronation, it was unthinkable that such unfriendly and impolite noises would greet Mr Museveni. But these noises reminded one of the fury of the opposition in Parliament that week as Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah and other NRM MPs went into over-drive to get the obnoxious Public Order Management Bill, 2011, passed by the House; which duly happened the following Tuesday.
If signed into law by the President, the Bill essentially empowers the police to prevent or disperse (with maximum force) virtually any political gathering of three or more people that the ruling clique may not want to take place. Nothing in the other parts of the proposed law can counter the impact of this provision to make the bill anything but evil.
As is now the pattern, the frenzied and fiendish action in Parliament was timed to coincide with something else; in this case, the “ebyaffe” charm offensive and the massive distraction of the events at Mengo. But the repression and bad governance have not gone away. Those impolite hecklers at the palace and “uncouth” MPs Jacob Oulanyah suspended from Parliament may have been the bearers of the nation’s conscience this last fortnight.
When Mr Museveni started his resistance against fascist rule, he was not polite either, and his actions were far more drastic than Odonga Otto’s tantrums in the House; they were essays in blood. Neither was the crippling disruption of the economic activities of whole communities in the Luweero Triangle an issue.
Jacob Oulanyah et al of the NRM Caucus certainly remember all these things; but of course they have also forgotten. Their weapons may not be guns and bayonets, the weapons used by the Amin regime that Gen Adrisi and Juma “Butabika” served. They use votes.
But outside the House, are layers of generals and goons armed to the teeth.
The job of the NRM MPs is to construct for these forces a narrative that roughly resembles a constitutional order and a democratic process to camouflage their entrenchment of what 34 years down the road could be remembered as a type of fascism.
Alan Tacca is a novelist and socio-political commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org