Of Ssabalwanyi and kawukuumi

  Deputy Presidential Press Secretary, Faruk Kirunda. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Why should it hurt anyone that people holding public office are called to order by the appointing authority?  

I  appreciate the rejoinder by Mr Harold Acemah titled “Challenge of defending the indefensible” in Sunday Monitor January 23. This  was in response to my reaction “It’s the President’s duty to call out nonperformers”, published in Daily Monitor on January 13,  to his article “Of colonial civil servants and fishermen of NRM regime” in Sunday Monitor January 9. 

I respect Mr Acemah and his views, and wouldn’t mind keeping this conversation going until the core issues are resolved.

However, my reply to Mr Acemah was less inclined to defending anybody or anything. Rather, it was meant to clarify President Museveni’s statements made during a retreat of political heads and technocrats of the Prime Minister’s Office at Kololo in December last year which the diplomat took with a pinch of cynicism and, as a result, almost lost the message, while going for form rather than substance. Taken strictly within context, everything could defend itself. 

In communication science, there are two sides to a message-the encoder and decoder. In the context of the “Museveni-civil servant” situation, the President sent out a message to civil servants of a particular kind-those who act “colonial”. 

Although Acemah found fault in that categorisation, the target “colonial civil servants”, wherever they were, must have got the message. If they have any remnants of morality, professionalism, patriotism and ability to learn new ways of doing things, by now they should be on their way to total reformation. 

On the contrary, if they are long too deformed in their “colonial ways” to reform, it means that the system has no choice but to systematically identify them and weed them out.  What Acemah refers to as “abusive language” of the President directed at the problematic civil servants (note that not the entire civil service is targeted) is figurative language intended to paint a clear picture of the damage these people have caused. The words are intended to be powerful and memorable so that the concerned feel the effect. 

When on that occasion in 1995 where Acemah was in attendance, Museveni called past leaders “swine”, he meant that they were “unpleasant people” for reasons he must have explained. “Swine” has two meanings-pig(s) and unpleasant person or persons. It’s not an insulting term but a descriptive one. 

Again, when the President decried the infiltration of police by kawukuumi (bean weevils) at the time former AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi was gunned down, how could anyone think of dignifying people responsible for such a heinous act? 

Like bean weevils, they had invaded the body of the force (bean) to destroy it from inside. It would literally have to take fumigation to get them out. 

I don’t see how anyone would want to defend such individuals from simple tongue lashing when under the law they are capital offenders deserving of the stiffest penalties. 

The President does not just wake up and “abuse” anyone; he speaks in the line of duty. Charged with managing a great number of people, it is an occupational obligation for him to find and apply appropriate ways to keep them in line. 

Communication is key in order to achieve desired objectives. Why should it hurt anyone that people holding public office are called to order by the appointing authority? Are civil servants untouchable, nay, irreproachable? Are they serving different interests or countries other than Uganda led by President Museveni? 

A difficulty I note is that Mr Acemah speaks for a “nonexistent” audience because good civil servants are unoffended while the bad ones are guilty and cannot come out to make any counter claim. 
On the use of the pseudonym Ssabalwanyi which the President calls himself, this, too, is descriptive because

Museveni is a freedom fighter and revolutionary. It derives directly from his knack of calling things exactly what they are. 

The author is the deputy presidential press secretary 
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