Dear Jajja Museveni, I have just completed the unenviable and painful task of labouring through the statement that was purportedly written by you in response to my brother Robert Kyagulanyi, a youthful legislator, musical genius and leader who commands a national following. Given the generational nature of this debate, I find it important, in my own right as a youthful citizen, and indeed as several other young leaders and citizens have done, to respond.
Reading your statement was painful and labourious because besides the glaring factual inaccuracies, acute deficiencies in substance and depth and undisguised dishonesty, it falls woefully short of the abilities of the Museveni who wrote the excellent books that contributed to my own political consciousness: Sowing the Mustard Seed, What is Africa’s Problem and the daring Dar es Salaam undergraduate thesis on violence and Franz Fanon’s political theories. In Primary Seven, I also read Ondoga ori Amaza’s thriller: Museveni’s Long March: From Guerilla to Statesman. I re-read that book in Senior Four and only then did I appreciate its depth.
This is why I think that it is possible that you did not author that piece. If it is you, Gen. Museveni who actually authored it, this is more reason for you to realize that your best days are behind you and you need to pass the baton in preparation for a peaceful retirement during which the country will continue to consult you.
On the other hand, if the statement was prepared by your Press Pool, then it is equally worrisome that you have chosen to staff the highest office in our land with people who cannot write coherently, with facts and basic argumentation.
Worryingly, these are the same people proofreading loan requests, (petroleum) production sharing agreements, draft legislation, sit-reps and other sensitive documents on your behalf! Any wonder why State House and the Office of the President perennially perform so dismally insofar as budget compliance, efficiency and executive policy direction are concerned? If your staff cannot write a mere statement-in-rebuttal, how can we taxpayers trust whatever else they disseminate into the public domain?
Whichever of the two possibilities as to whom wrote that piece is true, it is self-evident that our country is in need of a serious leadership overhaul, right from your closet which is laden with ill-fitting and badly-tailored suits, shirts and shapeless shoes, through to portfolio holders at the Ministerial, Ambassadorial and other appointive offices. This urgent makeover cannot be steered by you the incumbent Museveni, less so by your acolytes. I need not explain the gravity of this matter, lest I digress.
Suffice it to note from the outset that the points of contention in this discussion should not be interpreted as a two-man debate between you (Museveni) and Kyagulanyi. This is a contest between the past and the future. It is a crossroads between repression and liberty. The dividing line between the setting sun of Uganda’s fifty-four-year-old mixed record of progress, broken promises and unfulfilled promises and the rising dawn of a new chapter in the lifetime of our country that focuses on harnessing our diversity so as to lead us to a common peace, justice and sustainable development agenda.
It is a race towards deliberate and conscious transition from transactional politics to transformational politics; it’s a debate between you the ageing men and women who account for 2% of our population and have squandered the longest uninterrupted period that a post-independence government has been in power (thirty-one years—way longer than many of us have been alive).
Should it not be shameful enough that we who, in 1986, were either unborn (such as myself), or others who were frolicking infants or crawling toddlers barely able to construct a comprehensible sentence are today engaging with you on radio, television, in the newspapers and debating with you at campaign rallies?! Erias Lukwago was in Primary 4 when you captured power. Constitutional Law Don Dr Busingye Kabumba, parliamentarians Gerald Gerald K Karuhanga and Robert Kyagulanyi were all 4-year-old babies in 1986. Don Wanyama Don Innocent who abuses elders and distinguished citizens on your behalf was just eight. Evelyn Anite was a naked two-year-old imp, licking mucus as it flowed off her nostrils; today you shamelessly chair the same Cabinet in which she sits.
What is it that you haven’t done in three decades (and counting) that you magically want to deliver upon in the next five or ten years? When will you write a biography among other books? How about play with your grandchildren and regal them with stories? Do you not wish to wake up to what I imagine should be the serene silence of your countryside home and not have to worry about thirty-five million Ugandans? …or even have time to take Janet out to candlelit dinners behind the setting sun in the evenings and stay up late without worrying about early morning meetings, security briefings and long flights?
But instead of answering these existential questions we have posed, you have not only gone full throttle towards overthrowing the constitutional order, but like a man possessed, you have resorted to insulting us, locking us up on fabricated and flimsy charges, brutalized us with the tools of violence and labeled us as outlaws and misfits.
In your purported response, you repeatedly make mention of “ideology” and “action” but have never been able to articulate what ideology is, much less transform the National Resistance Movement (NRM) into a functional and durable institution so as to ensure that it will survive ending up on the garbage heap of history like Daniel Arap Moi’s Kenya African National Union (KANU) which was run in similar fashion to your NRM.
At best, the NRM is a one-seater vehicle (not a bus!)—a personality cult—designed to propagate your individual—and a few of your henchmen’s—narrow interests.
At worst, the NRM is a consortium of majorly illicit business and ethnic interests anchored by the barrel of the gun.
There is no ideological standpoint that distinguishes you from the Left, Right or Centre. Indeed you have previously claimed to be multi-ideological and aspired to run a mixed economy—both of which are impossibilities. An ideology cannot be multifaceted.
In my estimation, an ideology is both a statement of intent and set practice of conducting the political, economic and social affairs of a given community or society. For example, a look at Milton Obote’s National Development Plan which was titled Work for Progress shows that the Uganda People’s Congress—a socialist democratic party—wanted to establish a developmental state anchored on public amenities with an economy that was rooted in agricultural cooperatives. Julius Nyerere’s Common Man’s Charter was an unequivocal move towards running a socialist republic in Tanzania. The African National Congress of South Africa is also a social democratic party, whose aspirations were born out of the anti-apartheid struggle and quest for racial equality and voting rights.
It is not clear to me whether the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is a political party to begin with and if it is a political party, what, if any, its ideological underpinning is. Your writings are heavily Marxist, yet you run our economy in such a recklessly liberal fashion that would startle Milton Friedman, the father of neo-liberal economics. You posture as a pan-African but the Great Lakes Region is bursting at the seams with refugees as a result of your military adventurism and hobnobbing with insurgents like M23 and Salva Kiir’s armed bandits, which you have veiled with American tax dollars as peace-keeping and/or peace-support operations.
You have sung the song of value addition in agricultural produce for as long as I can remember yet no tangible interventions (besides gimmicks like NAADS, PMA and the latest Operation Wealth Creation) have been made in terms of budgetary allocation, price floors/ceilings, extension services and cost of production for farmers is concerned. On the question of social amenities, it is also unclear where you stand. Our hospitals have become death traps and none of you ruling this country can step into Mulago for treatment—yet you want our mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters to give birth there! In education, we are trailing the region in terms of literacy and comprehension. The same could be said of our country’s nutrition and dietetics.
What is the NRM’s ideology, if any?
Respectfully, you, Yoweri Museveni and your hatchet men represent the past and the longer you overstay your welcome into that office, the more you erase the contributions you have made over the past three decades. And while we do not purport to have silver bullets to resolve our current healthcare, education, foreign policy and economic challenges, we young leaders are conscious of the fact that the same thinking that created today’s problem cannot correct them.
For example, no other President or leader except you, anywhere on the planet today (even in the developing world), has launched drip irrigation by plastic water bottles as a solution to abysmal performance in agribusiness and value chain deficits. Plastic bottles, particularly when exposed to direct sunlight, are a medically proven source of carcinogens, toxic compounds that cause cancers! No other President anywhere in the world today has spent their time launching boreholes, water taps, clinics, restaurants, school blocks and roads except you! What should Local Council chairpersons do if you have reduced your office to launching every other small project? This is 2017!
If you were running a functional government, you need not have stopped by the roadside to “conduct” investigations into the spate of murders in Entebbe. Does your job description also make you Detective-in-Chief? So much for the gargantuan budget that Kale Kayihura’s Praetorian Guard receives every other financial year—only to squander it by, as retired Police Commissioner Herbert Rheno Karugaba rightly observed, “…turning the Police from the law enforcement institution it is supposed to be into a highly militarized squad specifically aimed at controlling the grey area between crime and politics.”
Meanwhile, for all their indiscretions, your “sons” Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame of Kenya and Rwanda respectively have launched large-scale investments like high-speed train terminals and air ambulance services, respectively. Both investments are aimed at improving commerce, mass transportation and the welfare of citizens in those our neighbours to the East and South West.
One would expect that at this point in the lifetime of our country (and indeed region), you Mr. Museveni would be orbiting the same galaxy with your respected colleagues Mwai Kibaki, Benjamin Mkapa, Hassan Mwinyi, John Kuffuour, Thabo Mbeki, John Rawlings, John Mrisho Kikwete among others who served their respective countries and passed the baton to new leaders—but are nonetheless still consulted on matters of national, regional and continental (even global importance).
In equal measure, your departed colleagues like the venerable Julius Nyerere, iconoclasts like John Garang, Jomo Kenyatta, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Wangari Mathaai and Nelson Mandela, would look down on you and smile about a continent and people who are moving forward on the path to equitable development and progress.
Unfortunately, they must be turning in their graves because you have instead chosen the doomed path of disgraced tyrants and despots like Jean Bodel Bokassa, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Blaise Compaore, Hosni Mubarak and Abidine Ben Ali. Embarrassingly, for a man who was hailed as one among a new breed of African leaders, you now strikingly resemble the very tyrants you ousted and vehemently criticized, not least the semi-illiterate but fiercely patriotic Idi Amin and your arch-nemesis, founding father and two-time President, Milton Obote. It is an embarrassing spectacle to see you, grandpa Museveni, emulate with mathematical precision and tyrannical ferocity, the people you called swine, murderous and corrupt.
Yet it is very possible to appreciate how and why you have ended up where you are today. In the absence of Ugandan luminaries like James Wapakhabulo, Miria Matembe, Eriya Kategaya, Dani Nabudere and Bidandi Ssali whom you parted ways with following principled disagreements, the vacuum around you has now been occupied by felons, fraudsters, lackeys, fortune hunters, sorcerers, sycophants and hangers-on of the unhinged Evelyne Anite and the shameless Ibrahim Abiriga breed! Misery indeed loves company.
The foregoing matters and questions form the basis that we, your great- and grandchildren, have premised our principled disagreement with you upon. Attacking our leader and colleague Robert Kyagulanyi was as uncalled for as it was unfortunate…and it will not resolve the pressing questions of unemployment, healthcare, education and social security that bedevil us every day. His propositions are representative of the aspirations and dreams that we have for our country…which we intend to pursue to a logical conclusion.
Our views as a generation cannot be washed away by throwing money at us; they cannot be erased by intimidation, nor can they be vapourised by torture or forgotten at the snap of your fingers.