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Priests, war veterans can be parasites

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Author: Alan Tacca. PHOTO/FILE

Just like Uganda’s martyrs and our priests are revered in the religious sphere, Uganda’s Bush War dead and veterans are sometimes worshipped in the secular sphere.

In Christian mythology, the ultimate martyr, Jesus, is raised from the dead, achieves immortality, ascends to join the heavenly elite and is elevated to the status of oneness with a tripartite God. He is the only Son, integral with the Father and Holy Spirit.

In Uganda’s political environment, there seems to be an opportunistic attempt to present President Museveni, the Bush War supremo, his family and his inheritance in a divinely inspired dynastic mould.

A former MP and ex-government minister, one Kiwanda, would proclaim a Museveni trinity as enthusiastically as he proclaimed the ‘Rolex’ chapatti our national dish.

This encroachment on the secular sphere by mythic-religious connotations is creeping on Ugandans while they lie in the manner of the proverbial sleeping dogs.

The vehicle for this deification could carry all sorts of characters, including the State-funded Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, a self-serving entity whose value to taxpayers remains a mystery.

The Inter-Religious Council is not improving Uganda’s governance in any tangible way. But Uganda’s crippled and corrupt leadership enjoys the company of the Council, probably using it for gauging how far religious people can go in endorsing greed and worldly ambition under NRM rule.

The effect is to morally disarm and more or less silence religion.
In Nigeria, the ‘great’ pastor/prophet and mega crook, TB Joshua (RIP), was cunningly involved in the corruption and hypocrisy of the state.

On the Muslim front, it is hard to believe that the perpetrators of terror known as Boko Haram have no sympathisers in the federal establishment that runs Nigeria.

Knowing that people tend to get irrationally emotional on matters touching their religious convictions, smart nations generally keep religion at a safe (ceremonial) distance from the day-to-day function of the state.

In the vampire state Uganda has become, a Church of Uganda cleric who prayed at this Year’s Heroes Day celebrations openly asked the President for a car. And he clearly linked his desire to his plan to campaign for Mr Museveni in the 2026 presidential campaign; a case of mutual back-scratching gone obscenely native. 

But we are talking about taxpayers’ money; not church collections or raising the money by selling the President’s cows.

Perhaps less surprising, Salim Bareke, a man claiming to be a Bush War veteran, insisted that the President/taxpayers buy him a ‘taxi’ minibus.

Mr Museveni, whose patronage system often works out as a kind of lottery, agreed, but stopped other requests on this scale.

The question many Ugandans have been asking year after year is: When will the NRM government bring this 38-year-old song of veteran compensation to an end?

Is the NRM establishment so utterly disorganised that it cannot resolve a matter that involves a few hundred semi-literate veterans, who (precisely because they are semi-literate) cannot easily join the higher cadres in the den where plunder is perpetrated on an industrial scale?

Or is the NRM leadership so cynical that it has deliberately left the veteran issue unresolved? It could be a way of keeping the veterans on a leash as vulnerable dependants.

Forever grovelling at the feet of power, they are symbols of humiliation killing any appetite for another revolution.

After initially sowing the faith that revolution was liberating and empowering, it is a damning irony that the NRM should perennially parade its Bush War veterans as small-time parasites that will never get enough to eat.

Alan Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.
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