Uganda Today:Why We Shouldn’t Wish Ugandan President Sudden Death
Like many folks on the wider African continent, I still have great admiration for former Libyan president Col Muammar Gaddafi.
This man stood as the living example of a true autocracy: working for the people and seeking to transform them. Gaddafi’s Libya ranked above South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria on all UN indices of human development, from literacy, public health, to women empowerment.
It ranked number one on the African continent. (What more does a country need?) Incidentally, high on the delusions of freedom of speech, and narcotics of democracy, many Libyans hated him and took to the streets to celebrate his murder even when it happened at the hands of a clearly opportunistic foreign force.
Dangerously sanctioned and maligned by the omnipresent empire-seeking Western media and academia, the stories of Africa’s anti-empire heroes like Uganda’s Idi Amin, or Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and several others remain so terribly censored.
I am not saying Yoweri Museveni is Gaddafi. Neither is he Idi Amin. These other two men are in a rank of their own. Museveni has nothing to show for his near-forty years in office, except debts and potholes. But if there are any lessons we could take from Libya (and now Sudan under bombs and bullets), it is that long-staying presidents drive their countries to that breaking point where, ironically, only them can hold the country together.
That point where their sudden demise is as bad (or actually more dangerous) like their continued hold onto power. I know, it is a difficult position that a single individual invites a great many interests—from his deliberate and selfish long-stay—to coalesce in his person hood that his sudden death portends into violence on the national scene.
It does not mean these men have sufficient control over these competing interests. Oftentimes, it is the competing interests (bankers, gold and diamond miners, corporations in telecom, coffee, arms dealers, mercenaries) who actually dictate things.
But the symbolism of these men, and their public endorsement of things, makes them appear to be in control. And for this, the country would live under an aura of safety and stability. However, often very fragile.
With the murder of labour minister, Col Charles Okello Engola by his bodyguard last week, overheard were – both whispered and loud—voices wishing it were Museveni’s bodyguards pulling the trigger on the man himself.
The killing of entertainment blogger, Isma Olaxess did not help matters at all. And perhaps more death will shock the country more in the coming weeks and months.
There is no turning back for sure: for the last 15 years or so, we have slowly but steadily descended into this condition where Museveni’s state has lost control over the tools of violence. Indeed, violence has become the language of not just political, but also social negotiation.
Where people used to turn to witchcraft to settle scores, nowadays, it is either poison or bullets! These are clearly difficult times—of nervousness, and anxiety on the possibility of large-scale violence.
Among the major points for this “nervous condition” is the possibility of a bodyguard turning their weapon on Mr Museveni. While I have no sympathies of Mr Museveni personally – his reign has ruined many lives – I care for the office he occupies and the symbolism of his being.
There is a method to the mess in the country: what appears like a dysfunction in free fall, are interests of powerful persons, cults and cartels meticulously and methodically chopping the country away.
Should Museveni all of a sudden fail to wake up – or worse, get violently exterminated – these vampires (local but most dangerously foreign ones) will be thrown into absolute pandemonium, and uncertainty.
Running scared for their lives and their ill-gotten wealth, they will definitely go after each other. And as the saying goes, wherever cartels fight, it is the ordinary folks that die. Knocked back to the stone age, Libya remains a slave market. Sudan is going down the same rabbit hole unless something magical happens.
There are three ways this state of affairs could be rescued. Neither of these three exit windows of mine includes praying for Museveni’s sudden death or murder: Firstly, Bwana Museveni, on his own accord, gets concerned about his advanced age— and increasingly wobbly physique— and finds it in his heart, the urgency to stand aside and endorse someone substantive to take over—while he still lives.
This is a solemn appeal every Ugandan of good conscience should make to Mr Museveni. Possibly, if his close friends could entreat him for some man-to-man talk. By the way, it does not matter whom he endorses and hands over to.
It could be his son, wife or daughter; that is all alright. As long as the symbolism remains, that those cartels that have been feasting or using Uganda (like the United States hiring out our UPDF on all sorts of missions) don’t feel threatened to throw the country into turmoil. They have exhibited readiness to do so elsewhere.
Second, a senior UPDF official plays hero and removes Mr Museveni by way of coup d’état. I have always appealed to his son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to pull off this assignment in a more friendly way.
This would give him some air of herohood and authority. He does not have to imprison or execute his dad, but could exile him or put him under (a fake) house arrest in Rwakitura.
And if he ably exerts himself over competing officers, his newly found herohood would lend him public support. The third option – the weakest and most fragile of them – all is sitting back and waiting for Bwana Museveni to pass on naturally, and then pray that the pushing and shoving for power and influence doesn’t become violent.
The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University