Can Museveni now forgive ex-leaders who betrayed fellow Africans?

Author: Alan Tacca. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Looking further back in history, Museveni had nothing but scorn for Africa’s pre-colonial chiefs who did not resist (and sometimes even co-operated with) White and Arab slave traders.

In the Mid-1980s, when Gen Museveni had just seized power, and the people around him looked more like lean young half-washed patriots than fat bleached aging plunderers, the new ruler had a kind of superiority air about him. 
You had to stand on rather high ground not to feel included in the dregs vilified by his sweeping scorn.
He had an extremely low opinion of Africa’s post-independence rulers who waded through abject poverty at home and flew to foreign destinations in presidential jets. He despised them some more when they overstayed in power.
He looked at their governance records and called his Ugandan predecessors ‘swine’. When he was kinder, he called them primitive dictators addicted to brute force.
Looking further back in history, Museveni had nothing but scorn for Africa’s pre-colonial chiefs who did not resist (and sometimes even co-operated with) White and Arab slave traders. The same order of tribal chiefs earned his ire for not being united enough to ward off colonisation and plunder by foreign powers.
Naturally, Ugandans expected Mr Museveni to respect his own (stated or implied) high principles and make his country an enviable model on the continent.
But as the years rolled by, Uganda slowly returned to its old disreputable groove. Primitive authoritarianism; election thieving; arbitrary abductions or arrests by non-uniformed government goons; safe houses functioning as torture chambers; disappearances; the stealing of taxpayers’ money on an industrial scale; plundering a neighbouring country like the Belgians of way back; jobless citizens migrating to Arab countries to labour just above the bar of slavery; and political mercenaries playing extremely dangerous propaganda games with the acquisition of power by inheritance, completely regardless of the competence or integrity of their paymasters.
Once we got here, with cumulative wickedness and impunity making us a country disintegrating on its feet, we should not be surprised that high officials are trading accusations and suspicions of murder, poisoning and witchcraft.
Writing in this paper last Sunday, Joseph Ochieno reflected on the irony that as the late parliamentary Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, ‘a man of peace’, was lying in state in the House, only 400 hundred metres away an official of the regime he had served was brandishing a whip as a natural companion in his government vehicle.
Ochieno was asking a good rhetorical question. But there are other good questions. 
For instance, how is it that people like Oulanyah, who had stood against the NRM regime when it was more humane, have embraced it after it has turned more authoritarian, more violent and less tenable?
And given the unresolved issues and acrimony about the manner of Oulanyah’s illness and death, is it not ironic that an embittered old man wants to condemn his grandson to the same NRM-infested den where he seems to believe his son found misfortune and perhaps harvested death?
We may not be very different after all from the primates who inhabited these lands 200 or even 500 years ago; we are often abhorred and simultaneously seduced by power.
But after that acknowledgement, we naturally ask about the self-examination of those who hold power. For under Museveni’s long rule, our common territorial boundary notwithstanding, this beast called Uganda now looks as confused, unwieldy, lawless, and in some ways as primitive and short-sighted in its use and allocation of power as under the pre-colonial chiefs.
Is Museveni now more inclined to forgive the pre-colonial, the colonial and post-independence rulers who fumbled, failed and betrayed Ugandans and other Africans in the past?
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.
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