On Ideology and Ideological Confusion
We respond to an article by Mr. Odrek Rwabwogo titled “Are Strongmen a Hindrance or Facilitator to Institutional Growth, Successful Political Transition?” – carried in the New Vision of 13th February 2017. Mr. Rwabwogo’s article, however well intentioned, does not contribute to ideological clarity. It is an article without a problematic. It contributes to ideological confusion, and is a study in eclecticism.

The article would have been immensely more beneficial, if Rwabwogo wrote less generally, and then went on to dig deeper into whatever specificity would be laid bare. In this generalizing mode he avers, for example: “… the ruling classes of Europe evolved through wars of conquest and more recently trade and industry …” Etc.

He does not find it necessary to specify which historical epoch he has in mind, yet this is absolutely critical. The mercantilist epoch – the epoch of rising capitalism – was an epoch of a predatory and rapacious state … a state of murder, rape, plunder, pillage, slavery and slave trade. This, was the basis for national accumulation and the construction of “democratic institutions” in the West. The “ruling classes” in Uganda and elsewhere amongst the emergent peoples at independence, were mere appendages and managers of the enclave economies in those states. The class structure in the peripheral capitalist states, requires deeper examination than what Rwabwogo offers.

Rwabwogo goes on, incredibly, to introduce a mirage: “… the normative behaviours and ideas of both the capitalists and the labourers … eventually become infused in the entire social thought process in order to birth new values, behaviours and attitudes”. No Sir. The state is always an instrument of the economically dominant class. Norms, values, etc, in such a state, reflect this reality. True, the advanced capitalist state may offer interesting manifestations of this. The bottom line however, is that the total character of the state conforms to its underlying economic DNA.

Here, we would have perhaps needed to accommodate the study of the emergence of a national ethos and psyche in states, as the national question in each state is resolved.

Enough. We shall not dwell on Rwabwogo’s usage of the term “strongman”, and the lack of a concrete definition. We shall not, similarly, waste too much time on his rendition of Fukayama’s reflections on Lee Kuan Yew and the Singaporean experience – and whether or not he (Rwabwogo) agrees with it.

Suffice it for now to mention that the essence of Fukuyama’s works is the neo-liberalist orthodoxy and ideology of the post Soviet Union world, touted by the high priests of contemporary globalization. What Fukuyama in essence proclaims, is the “end’ of ideology, and the triumph of Western neo-liberalist values. In this, he is joined by Thomas Reid and a myriad of others.

In all, without a problematic, we arrive at a diagnosis of a “strongman” malaise … We shall desist from further discussion of this rather contrived and troubled construction …

At the end of his article, Rwabwogo gives us his prescription for the “strongman malaise” in Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia. In his words: “This is why there is need to force internal party democracy in order to carry out the stalled but much needed second generational reforms in the economy and governance …”.

We shall not comment on Rwanda and Ethiopia. Rwabwogo needed to have elaborated on the content of governance reforms he has in mind for Uganda. As for the Ugandan economy, there is a clear development policy framework in place, going beyond recovery, construction and aimed at take-off. Rwabwogo needed to be more specific about what he disagrees with.

Let us conclude. There is certainly more than enough internal party democracy in the NRM. Rwabwogo is clearly wrong on this one. There is only one area where President Yoweri Museveni does not brook too much discussion and debate. This is in the area of national defense and security. And, that is as should be.

In other areas and sectors, the discussions, consultations, retreats, are endless – in the search for a consensus, for getting everybody on board. Unfortunately, while the President bends over backwards to accommodate the elite and intelligentsia in the Movement, state and other spaces, they respond in perpetual slow motion … Some of the more youthful echelons have started confusing biology for ideology.

The Movement leadership should move decisively in the direction of democratic centralism with Ugandan characteristics – especially regarding national economic management.

K. David Mafabi
Private Secretary/Political Affairs
State House