It’s too late for Museveni to learn from Dubai

Sunday October 10 2021
By Alan Tacca

Writing in this paper last Sunday, Yoga Adhola must have upset many people who believed that the NRM is a revolutionary movement.

According to Adhola, an NRA/M revolution was always an illusion. Assembling bandits to mount a fight to capture State power did not amount to a revolution, which – if I understand Adhola – is a mass enterprise, led by a highly organised leadership.

Gen Museveni’s camp can, of course, argue that not every revolution is strictly Leninist. They would probably argue that Museveni’s engagement with his fighters and with many peasants (call it indoctrination) elevated his exploits to a revolution.
But more important, perhaps, is what Museveni has done with the power he acquired.

The French philosopher, Jacques Rousseau, wrote: “The body politic begins to die as soon as it is born, and it is born with the germ of its destruction.”

Has the ‘germ’ that causes banditry eaten up the conscience of NRM, in effect killing the revolution? Or, if we follow Adhola, is the degenerate NRM merely exposing its old emptiness?

President Museveni has been at the ongoing Dubai Expo, where Uganda has a stand.
At an official function, coming from the dusty, potholed traffic-jammed nightmare called Kampala City, an apparently humbled Gen Museveni said the United Arab Emirates presented a big challenge to Africa, seeing how the UAE had “turned a desert into a centre of affluence”.


In this case, a challenge would mean striving to overcome one’s weaknesses and emulate an achiever.
One kind of feels sorry for Gen Museveni. He probably wanted to do something good for his country, but he did not understand that a country does not stand still, waiting for a ruler to shape it any-which-way he fancies, in his chosen time frames.

The human spirit instinctively seeks to escape from confinement. It tends to exploit any loophole to achieve this objective.
Civilised society counters this tendency by establishing taboos, laws, rituals and hierarchical authority.

This tension creates a dynamic state, always inching towards ‘chaos’; not a one-directional movement at the behest of the ruler.

When Museveni and his propagandists tell you that there was a 10 or 20-year phase for reviving the economy, and that we have now entered a different phase for fighting corruption seriously, you must feel sorry for them that they do not understand; or angry because they are deliberately fooling you.

Why? Because when thieves were being promoted or moved around in high positions, corruption, like a virus, was also rising and moving around, commandeering the ‘DNA’ of new contacts in the dynamic process of economic activity. It was embedding itself in the very fabric of society.

To retain power in that rotten environment, Museveni’s approach has been to enlarge the military, to militarise the police, to abuse the Constitution, to bloat Parliament, to bribe MPs, to enlarge Cabinet, and to demonise the Opposition, and to permit corruption, his lip service to fight the vice notwithstanding. 

But these measures inevitably mean a very high toll on the Treasury, and diversion of the President’s attention from developmental targets to concentrate on retaining raw power.

To change course and emulate the United Arab Emirates requires a type of vision, a measure of courage and a pack of energy that Mr Museveni has lost.

That is why, whether a fading revolutionary or a mobiliser of bandits, his travel around Dubai and the Uganda pavilion are good cosmetics, but ultimately of little value for the transformation of his country.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.
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