Museveni will go but Musevenism is here paka last

Author, Benjamin Rukwengye. PHOTO/FILE. 

What you need to know:

Will security services respect the sanctity of life and not shoot extrajudicially, torture, and disappear those thought to be in disagreement with the government?

To start off, let us define an “ism”. The internet says that it is “a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically a political ideology.” Basically, a characteristic way of life.

Now, for us to understand Musevenism, let us use a story that was recently published in this paper, for illustration. In there you will find all the traits that define Uganda as you know and experience it today.

A Ugandan Pastor, Joseph Collins Twahirwa was accused by a Latvian tourist, Saulite Anda, of rape. Saulite had come into the country as a tourist and for mission work, at the prompting of the pastor.  The pastor himself is said to be a lawyer so he should have above-average knowledge of the law – although this cannot always be evidenced. And even if he didn’t, that would be no defense.

When she went to the Police to report the crime, she got the typical service provider experience that many of us have come to expect and accept – from government and private entities. She was asked to buy fuel to facilitate the officers but also offered the option of giving them some if she couldn’t come up with the money for fuel.

Twahirwa had taken all the money she had on arrival, under the pretext of finding favorable forex rates – and not returned the equivalent Ugandan shillings. The police had confiscated her phone and deleted messages of incriminating information. The faithful at Twahirwa’s church assembled at the police, to taunt her; let it be known that he was connected. To make their point, they had also held her in a cell for good measure, ordering that she withdraws the charges against the pastor.

Well, the case is now before the court, thankfully, so there is not much we can say about it except to hope that justice will be served. But if we were to revisit the story, we would find lots of intersections that are characteristic ways of our life. A not-too-shabby foreign image that has us continuously attracting tourists; sham religiosity that is overflowing with criminals and conmen who live in the open; a police force whose rank and file is corrupt, inefficient, and lacking in motivation, often breaking the law with impunity; purportedly connected people subverting the law and course of justice; the public sometimes taking part in defending the indefensible; the failure of institutions such as the Interreligious Council – in this case – to show up when it matters; and lots of other nuances for which we don’t have the space.

So, how do we get into Musevenism? Well, if you consider that many of the people involved aren’t in their 50s, it is easy to conclude that their only experience of “public service” is the Uganda in which they have grown. The Uganda in which they serve. Circumventing the law, aiding and abetting, doing the bare minimum or nothing at all, is the norm and not the exception. Also, there are no repercussions for dropping the ball and in fact, one might even get rewarded. It is what and how they know to do their work. It

How then do you expect there to be a sudden change in attitude for say 5 or 10 years or whenever the current presidency is done? Yet, this is the same attitude we see everywhere, the same brokenness you will see complained about at the airport, passport office, in the judiciary, hospitals, schools, roads, ministries, everywhere.

Will your neighborhood church suddenly understand that God actually hears prayers during the day and that he intended the night for sleep and rest? Will the lady at Makerere University or the guy in the Lands office suddenly find the motivation to serve you bila bribery? Will the Police somehow find it in themselves to not beat up and humiliate those they arrest? Will security services respect the sanctity of life and not shoot extrajudicially, torture, and disappear those thought to be in disagreement with the government? Will mega projects such as roads and dams finally get completed on schedule? Will the next government appoint and deploy people based on merit and competency?

It is great to be optimistic yet hard to see how this will work because it is just the way of our life; how we know how to conduct business. The question for whoever takes over will be how to negotiate, correct and/or undo 40 years of this practice, system, philosophy, and ideology that is Museveni’s Uganda.

Mr Rukwengye is the founder, Boundless Minds. @Rukwengye