The political wilderness or a gathering storm?

Moses Khisa

What you need to know:

As a citizen, he has every right to say anything he wants and make the most illogical or even annoying arguments, but not when putting on the uniform of the national army.

During the past weeks I received quite a few media interview requests. All came from, or for, international outlets. Apparently, there is a big political story – the politics of our First Son, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba. If this was an election season, and Muhoozi was bidding for the presidency, we would likely be having a media frenzy perhaps paralleling the Bobi Wine phenomenon just before the 2021 elections when just about every (and any) foreign media outlet felt they should write something about Uganda!

 Over the years I have grown to demur, even decline, these sorts of requests. When you have been around and commented on Ugandan politics so often, you get to a point of emotional exhaustion and exasperation. A flurry of emails asking for interviews and comments ironically evoke a sense of indifference, even revulsion, rather than interest.

Often, a two-hour interview with an international reporter/writer who already has their story angle and framing in a fixed template will earn you two lines in their analysis; even those two lines are likely to be unimportant! I have attempted to ponder what it is that one can say about the recent birthday bashes and parties. Analysts who are more perceptive and better informed than I have squarely dubbed them political activities.

The honest temptation is to look the other way, to ignore. Uganda is a country of enormous socioeconomic problems. We have a dysfunctional health sector such that very basic medical emergency services to save life are either totally non-existent or too inadequate. Only the other day, there was a horrific bus accident on the Fort-Portal - Mubende road, and social media reports suggested badly injured victims rushed to Buhinga hospital couldn’t get something as basic as a CT scan!

I often drive on the road from Kiwatuule through Najjera and Kiira to Bulindo and Gayaza. This could well be the most potholed road in the world, yet running through what is supposedly a fairly pricey real-estate part of metropolitan Kampala, one that attracts ostensible middleclass folks bidding to own property. When not thoroughly potholed, this road is a specialty in patching.

It seems the roads department of Kiira Municipality, the local authority, specialises in filling potholes and producing patched roads. Some patching is by murram, placed in a pothole on a tarmac road easily gets washed away at the slightest rainfall. In many areas, our education sector, especially the so called Universal Primary Education, is a sad and painful spectacle, a disaster. Matters can only be worse with all the disruptions and damage wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We can’t even dare venture talking about the state of poverty and deprivation. One can go on listing and lamenting about these countless yet most profound socioeconomic difficulties staring at us. Then, of course, we have a totally broken political system. We are a country at dangerous political cross roads, sinking political praxis and erosion of fundamentals of political engagements making it impossible to have meaningful, principled and progressive conversations.

The blatant abuse of state power, the maiming of citizens by security forces, the defying of basic due process and refusal to respect laid down laws and rules; it’s all at large. Why on earth would a country swarmed by endemic socioeconomic problems and in urgent need of fixing its politics be consumed with one’s birthday? It speaks to the depths we have sunk. It is a poverty of imagination. But it all comes back to the most important and powerful Ugandan: Mr Museveni.

Everything that has gone wrong has been under his watch. Museveni can make all the difference by making certain unequivocal statements and, most important, take decisive steps to save the country from further decline. This current furore around Mr Muhoozi is just adding insult to injury and creating more toxicity in an already murky situation. For one, it’s simply incredibly and totally unacceptable that a serving army officer, a three-star General and commander of the Land Forces, can make the kind of public statements Gen Muhoozi has been making on Twitter.

From very sensitive diplomatic and security issues as the conflict in Ethiopia and controversy over the Nile waters between Ethiopia and Egypt to Uganda-Rwanda relations, local political leaders, the status and role of the national army; Muhoozi is on a whirlwind. As a citizen, he has every right to say anything he wants and make the most illogical or even annoying arguments, but not when putting on the uniform of the national army. Historically and strictly speaking, on matters of the military and security only Museveni has said or done anything he wants with no consequences.

If Muhoozi can say anything he wants and can’t be called to order, does it mean he’s now as powerful or perhaps more powerful than his commander-in chief?

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