Uganda’s Minister of State for Investment and Privatisation, is in a bit of a pickle. To be more culturally correct, she is facing the frightful consequences of putting her finger in the leopard’s anus. Understandably terrified by her predictable fate, Anite ran to the public square last week to shout for help. Watching her schizophrenic performance at her press conference left me in that zone between tears and laughter. Was this the same Anite, the young lady who threatened Ugandans with annihilation two years ago simply because they had opposed the lifting of the presidential age limit? Was she now appealing to the same citizens to join her in fighting off the senior enforcers and beneficiaries of the mafia operation she had endorsed with her threats and actions?
In case she has forgotten, let us remind Anite that on September 12, 2017, giddy with the illusion of power, she lectured Ugandans: “Let the Opposition know that we are the party in power and we have the majje (army)!” Of course, it was the same Anite who, in February 2014, got on her knees and led the assault on then prime minister Amama Mbabazi’s right to challenge Yoweri Museveni for leadership of the National Resistance Movement and the country.
Anite moved the Kyankwanzi Resolution that declared Museveni the sole candidate for chairman of the NRM and therefore flagbearer in the 2016 presidential elections. She then declared the opponents of her resolution, including men and women who had been in the struggle for power long before her birth on November 11, 1984, to be “foolish hooligans.”
Having been thus used, Anite, perhaps unwittingly, joined the mafia as the poisoned arrow that snuffed life out of the democratic dreams of all those who had died in the country’s long struggle for freedom. I recall feeling very sorry for Anite. She reminded me of Enoch, the son of the snake priest in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Having embraced the new religion while rejecting his ancestors’ ways, “Enoch’s devotion to the new faith had seemed so much greater than Mr Brown’s that the villagers called him the outsider who wept louder than the bereaved.”
Anite, who did not protest when the military invaded Parliament in December 2017 and whipped the people’s representatives, seems to have been unaware that the struggle for power was about controlling the receipt, sharing and distribution of economic resources.
He who steals power, whether with the gun or through a corrupted electoral process or through a neutered Parliament or Judiciary, gains the right to steal the country’s assets.
Conquest is about absolute control. Democracy is about responsible government. When Anite helped to sabotage human rights, including democracy, she ceded the right to complain when her beneficiaries followed through with their agenda of complete State-control and ownership. The theft of Uganda Telecommunications Limited (Utl) is infinitesimal compared to the robbery of the people’s right to choose who governs them. Utl is really a morsel in a food basket prepared by palace servants like Anite, from which the mafia pick the choicest portions as and when they want.
So, Anite’s cry for help has left me unmoved. After all, she should have read the mafia code of conduct before she signed on as the warrior princess who would destroy any and all who stood in the path of a group that had already been called out in 2005 by Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, who was the vice president of the land at the time. It was Bukenya who first alerted the country to the existence of a mafia organisation within the State. Although he quickly retracted his statement, Bukenya, who had mimicked Museveni’s body habitus, speech and attire, was ruthlessly reminded that he was Chinua Achebe’s Enoch. He is very unlikely to recover political space.
More recently, Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, spoke of the same mafia in the regime. Too afraid to name names, Kadaga spoke in generalities about a cabal of State operators who had turned the national Treasury into a personal drawer for petty cash.
In a veiled accusation against “the appointing authority”, Kadaga decried the fact that the culprits had not been punished and were still in their offices. The appointing authority ignored her. Having vented her frustration, Kadaga moved on to other things. Wise woman.
Anite has two choices to make. One option is to read the mafia rules of conduct, focusing on omertà, the code of silence that is at the heart of their survival and existence. Omertà demands total silence about the criminal behaviours, even in the face of death or imprisonment. Within the mafia, you break omertà, you die. This is something that has been understood by thousands of evidently mute men and women who are privy to the exploits of the gourmand vultures that are picking the last bits of flesh from the animal they or their elders slaughtered before Anite could write NRM. Many live by the Italian saying that “he who is deaf, blind and silent will live a hundred years in peace.” Anite should remember that she was appointed minister in the organisation to stay on her knees, serve in the palace, take the crumbs that fall from the high table, and see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing that undermines the interests of those whose bidding she did at Kyankwanzi.
I recommend that she reads The Godfather, The Sicilian and Omerta, the trilogy of great novels by Mario Puzo that might help her understand what happens to people who snitch on the boss or underbosses or consiglieres and foot soldiers in the mob. It gets very messy – with frequent premature fatalities.
Alternatively, Anite can redeem herself by resigning from a regime she says is controlled by the mafia. Greater people who were either closer to the ruler than she can ever be or who had more experience and accomplishments than her, resigned their well-paying jobs and started new lives outside the country. It is risky, but very liberating. And the citizens whom she threatened with violence barely two years ago might even forgive her.