Is Uganda Airlines like a crested crane or vampire bat?

Author: Alan Tacca. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Bats would represent our national character more aptly than the crane.   

Gen Museveni and his NRA/M liberated Uganda slowly, using an armed guerrilla outfit. And Gen Museveni and his NRM are killing Uganda slowly, using selected aging ex-fighters, privileged younger soldiers, first family connections, strategically placed politicians and civil servants; crooks from the economic recovery, the Chogm, Global Fund and GAVI eras; business sharks linked to the Deep State since the early days of privatisation; managers of oligarchies presented as new or resurrected State enterprises, and white-coat pests and quacks posing as inventors and solvers of difficult problems.

Alarmed, some of President Museveni’s own officials and propagandists often refer to these parasites as ‘Mafiosi’.

Collectively, they and their activities constitute what we sometimes call a vampire state.
The image of the vampire comes from European folk stories. A vampire is a dead person with the supposed power to rise from the grave, quenching their craving for human blood by sucking from living people.

Figuratively, by extension, a vampire is a person who ruthlessly exploits private or public resources, regardless of the needs of other individuals or the public.

A catalogue listing and describing in some detail all Uganda’s vampiric hits executed by people associated with state power since 1986 would make enough volumes to fill a small library.

The gap (and cracks?) between the true value of the 2019 Chinese-built hydropower plant at Isimba and its high cost would typically be directly proportional to the toll exacted by actors in the vampire state who were pivotal in negotiating the relevant contracts. The taxpayers’ reward is the compromised quality.

Equally instructive in vampire state philosophy are the shenanigans in (again 2019) Uganda Airlines.
People who tend to dismiss fantasies – call us sceptics, pessimists, or even doom-mongers – argued that a State-owned airline was among the very last kinds of enterprise that a country governed like Uganda could make a success of. It was bound to fail.

Even if Covid-19 did not hit the world, and jet fuel prices were not hiked by Russian barbarism, Uganda Airlines would still get irregularly appointed senior officials without much regard for their competence. Impunity would still flow top-down and spread any-which-way.

Salary, procurement and debt mathematics would not follow a pattern of rational thinking. As long as the brand Uganda Airlines was in the air, it would not matter by how much taxpayers were fleeced to keep it flying.
Now, among many tribal people, including in parts of Uganda, specific animals, birds and plants have sacred and ritualistic significance for different groups and clans. The animal or plant is then identified as the totem of the group or clan. 

A bird, the crested crane, has something like totemic value for Uganda as a nation, and the symbol appears in all sorts of contexts and guises in the country’s iconography. 
The association between birds and airplanes is inevitable, so, Uganda Airlines, the one Museveni brought down and the one he has set up, has always identified itself with the image of a crane.

However, as we have seen, Uganda works like a vampire state. If airplanes are more readily associated with winged flight than with the movement of the classic vampire, an ‘undead’ corpse seeking human blood, we can use the vampire bat, a close cousin of our different bats. 

Bats would represent our national character more aptly than the crane. We tinker with our Constitution at will, why not the totemic symbol, starting with Uganda Airlines? When Uganda changes, the crane can be re-instated, replacing the flying bat.

Mr AlanTacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.
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