Uganda’s presidency and the rise of the crook

Sunday February 14 2021
By Alan Tacca

Last Sunday, I highlighted the Ugandan situation, where members of the ruling NRM who have lost elections pester the President with demands that he use taxpayers’ money to ease their lives.

At bottom is gutter-level greed and plain indecency. What these fellows really mean is that politics is a trade, and as members of the ruling party, the State can be used as an insuring entity to compensate them for their election-related financial losses.

They secretly reason, that as the chief executive and supreme patron of the Vampire State, the President must be in position to find (if need be, to invent ) channels through which this can be achieved.

They reason that as the chairman of everything that really matters in this land, he has the power to impose his decision. And as the chief influencer, he can wink and be understood, or cajole and thus ‘persuade’ any players who supposedly control areas not directly under him.
There are fat jobs in the plethora of high officialdom and dubious white-colour State entities, where monthly pay-cheques are in tens of millions of shillings.

Then there are bread-and-blood jobs like the Resident District Commissioner, who might have as well been called the Resident District Curse. Less loved than hated, with a modest pay-cheque, but with huge opportunities for creative plunder, extortion and posing around; a President’s stooge shining above small people.

The NRM election losers who cannot be placed in these juicy slots can receive cash. This thing is not a joke. Ruling party members should not lose money in their political ventures just like that.
After all, they reason again, the fountain of charity himself cannot tolerate the state of being an election loser as long as he still wants to be President.


Like Obote before him, and like Amin, he cannot understand how a man who is president can stand up and say that that he no longer needs to be President; that he can live happily outside the presidency. Why should they be expected to live happily outside privilege? Call them parasites, but aren’t they human beings like the President?

That, of course, is the crux of the Ugandan situation. For a total of 57 out of almost 59 years of independence, the country has been ruled by three autocrats who clearly did not want ever to leave office, and of whom only Amin was honest enough to get himself declared life president.

Collectively, these three rulers have taught by example that once a citizen has won, stolen, or seized a political position at any level, they should fight tooth and nail to keep that position, or to rise to a more lucrative office.

Let the LC1 chairman die to keep his chair or to rise to LC3; as the President dies to keep the presidency while fantasizing about governing or transforming Africa.
As at the most powerful men and the greatest influencers when in office, these three men have shaped much of the Ugandan mindset about political power and wealth, and the level of ruthlessness to which one can go to attain them.

There is a symbiotic relationship between business and political power, with very big businessmen and very high politicians closely watching and exploiting each other.

They measure each other’s moral emptiness. That is why the so-called Ugandan ‘mafiosi’ are not an accident. They are a web of big politicians and big businessmen. Our political thugs and many business crooks are products of almost 60 years of autocratic presidential power.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.