Unconcerned about any damage to President Museveni’s integrity or image, government ministers who flatter him, uniformed enforcers who maul his opponents and other self-seekers can all claim to be helping the President to retain power.
It is a huge irony, that contemplating the end of his rule, watchers are talking about the inevitable transition from the former ‘Clean Leadership’ idealist to another ruler in the context of brutal uncertainty and possible anarchy. How did the country come to this pass?
Actually, just retaining power for very long is not as difficult as some people think. You do not have to be very smart; because when you are very smart you can see clearly the consequences of overstaying.
You do not have to be a very effective leader; because a very effective leader has plenty to show (and usually feels contented) in a relatively short time. You do not have to be very honest. A very honest leader would not bear the deception that his popularity can be maintained for life.
Indeed, rather mediocre individuals retain power by doing things that embarrass high-ground leaders.
I doubt, for instance, that Muammar al-Gaddafi, or DR Congo’s Mobutu, or Gabon’s Umar Bongo, or Equatorial Guinea’s Macias Nguema, are examples of the greatly gifted.
With or without his string of university degrees, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe showed that he was not smart enough to foresee the consequences of the decisions he had made when he was still strong.
You can actually retain power by sheer brute force, and propaganda.
Brute force takes care of most unarmed citizens. Propaganda is easily sold as truth to the beast on the street, or the peasant woman in her garden.
President Museveni’s political opponents understand what brute force means. And our broadcast stations have never hosted so many informal (government employed?) voices praising a sitting president.
But given the inevitable, how will he be replaced?
His noisiest supporter, Tamale Mirundi, is an avowed republican. The venom from his mouth is sometimes directed at the people at Mengo, home of the Buganda Kingdom establishment, and at the very nature of monarchical rule.
As Museveni used to brag about his vision, Mirundi boasts about his great intellectual prowess, which makes him reason logically and predict future events.
Five years ago, Mirundi repeatedly assured Ugandans how Museveni would use 2016-2021 to punish all government thieves and end corruption, making his re-election in 2021 justified, or his voluntary retirement dignified.
Today, Mirundi sees a Mafia-controlled government he hates, and a President he loves!
In a recent ‘book’ (some kind of pamphlet), Mirundi tells us that he writes alarmingly of serious violence as a feature of the impending transition.
For some years, part of his mission has been to allude to (and savage) one of President Museveni’s sons-in-law for seeking (or appearing to seek) the presidency. He now openly argues that a son-in-law cannot inherit the presidency when the President has a son.
The quarter-sized intellectuals who host Mirundi on Top Radio, Impact FM and other stations cannot press him to show whether this is republican ‘logic’; or how it is to be reconciled with his false 2015 projection of Museveni’s 2016-2021 term; and with his recent prediction of a violent transition.
If Museveni’s most intimidating defender has castigated the monarchical principle at the traditional/regional level but upheld it at the national/State level, will Museveni’s son, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, seize power violently and thus assert his birthright as the inheritor?
Is the Constitution one grand lie and Museveni’s era a pack of contradictions?
I am not an intellectual by even a quarter-measure, so I am totally confused. But true intellectuals used to warn that if he did not retire, Museveni would end up in his present difficulties. He did not listen. Instead, he paid and listened to his own propagandists.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.