Twitter tells us every day we have kiwani democracy and that’s sad
What you need to know:
‘‘Gen Muhoozi has not retired, but on Twitter he talks like a politician”
If you want to know how Uganda is governed and who is in control, the best place to go is Twitter. Over the past six months, Ugandans have been treated to tweets that leave no one in doubt that they made a huge mistake to let the so-called liberators wield power for more than 10 years.
After entrenching their rule for 36 years, the ‘liberators’ now govern unconstitutionally to a large extent. The “sovereignty of the people”, the “supremacy of the Constitution” and the “defence of the Constitution” remain mere words in Chapter 1 of our Constitution. They do not mean much.
That is probably why a Makerere University academic quoted in “The evolution of Uganda’s Constitutions” article, which this newspaper carried in a special edition to mark Uganda’s 60th independence anniversary, made no attempt to disguise the fact that we have military rule camouflaged as a democracy.
“The gun is the real source of power and authority in contemporary Uganda. All power belongs to President Museveni who exercises this power through the armed forces. Article 1 of the Constitution [which guarantees the sovereignty of the people] is a lie,” wrote Dr Busingye Kabumba in a paper entitled “The Illusion of the Uganda Constitution”.
In Uganda, talk about the armed forces and who wields power is incomplete without the name of President Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba. He was on October 4 promoted to General, the latest in a string of promotions that have come his way in quick succession. He continues to serve as senior presidential advisor, special operations.
Gen Muhoozi fires off tweets that have raised eyebrows, but he remains unfazed because he knows perfectly well that the people the Constitution says wield power are powerless. He knows that the Constitution and laws that should be observed can be contravened, and nobody will raise a finger. No proper democracy allows this.
Here is one example of a tweet that Gen Muhoozi composed recently and is in contravention of Clause 2 (under Chapter 12) of the Constitution, which deals with defence and national security.
“To the Ugandan Opposition, after my father, I will defeat you badly in any election. Ugandans love me more than they’ll ever love you.”
The UPDF, which Gen Muhoozi sometimes calls his army, is supposed to be non-partisan. The General is a serving senior army officer, and officers in active service are barred from elective politics.
That tweet also reminds us that people do not always mean what they tell us. In January 2017, and following reports that Gen Muhoozi was being groomed to succeed his father as president, NTV asked him about his political ambitions and the ‘Muhoozi Project’.
Gen Muhoozi dismissed the project, saying: “That so-called project is non-existent. It simply doesn’t exist… As for this new position [Senior Presidential Advisor, Special Operations] preparing me for politics, I don’t think that’s the case because I know — and most people know — the path to politics. It’s different from the one I am on right now, so if I retired and went and stood in my constituency, then you would say, OK, now he’s taking on a political career, but this is far from that.”
Gen Muhoozi has not retired, but on Twitter he talks like a politician. He is the only UPDF officer who makes political statements. He has the right to run for president, but it is not clear if he is popular. The real concern for many voters is that a candidate of their choice — if s/he wins — cannot become president because we have kiwani democracy.
Mr Namiti is a journalist and former Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk
[email protected] @kazbuk