By Norbert Mao
The last three pieces I have written in this column have received very serious attention. The issue of Museveni fatigue and the need for him to bear sole responsibility for the backward steps Uganda is taking on its path to democracy is a live wire. I have received some emails lauding me. Others have denounced me. My crime, if any, is but the crime of the weatherman who announces bad weather. Article 102(b) is our only umbrella. In a region where we are increasingly getting elected dictators we see dark clouds forming. There is a gathering storm. This is therefore not the time to fold our umbrella and dump it. Anyway my goal in writing is not popularity. My goal is to speak the truth. To warn. To illuminate. As Stephen King says “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
Today I continue the discussion of why Museveni is adamant and why he needs to change the way he thinks about the lifting of the age limit. We all know where Museveni is now, his position and power. But none of us can tell where he will be tomorrow. For Museveni, obviously breaking free of the status quo where he is the alpha and omega of Uganda’s power equation is very hard. It cannot happen without costs. But he needs to examine his potential outside the presidency and how he can become an asset rather than a liability to the future of the nation.
Which brings me to the story of the monkeys and nuts. In certain communities there is a way in which monkeys are trapped and caught. They hollow out some coconuts and deposit nuts inside. The curious and hungry monkey puts its hand inside the coconut and grabs the nuts. But by holding onto the nuts the monkey’s hand or paw becomes a fist and can no longer be easily removed from the hole in the coconut. The monkey’s hand gets stuck inside the coconut. There is only one way the monkey can get its hand out of the coconut and that is to let go of the nuts. Having it’s hands stuck may not actually be a serious problem until hunters come along armed with clubs and spears. The monkey clumsily and shabbily tries to make a break for it and run but it learns that with two coconuts attached to his hands it cannot scurry away and climb a tree to safety and evade the hunters. The monkey now has a life determining choice. Either he lets go of the nuts in the coconuts and climb to safety or keep holding onto the nuts and face the wrath of the hunters, get captured and taken to a zoo or even get killed. From experience, monkeys characteristically opt to hold onto the nuts thus becoming easy prey for the hunters.
Probably Museveni needed power to do the things he has always believed in. However he has now become a slave to that need. Ugandans know that Museveni needs to wean himself of power hunger and to let go of the need to stay in power perpetually. By listening to the noise coming from the praise singers that surround him Museveni is tripping himself over and getting in his own way. By holding onto things that need to be released Museveni is blocking himself from stepping into a new world where he would realize a vision of himself as an elder statesman who has done his part to put Uganda on the road to democratization. He has always cast himself as the father of the 1995 Constitution. Granted. He marched at the head of an army and captured political power and thought of giving it back to its legitimate owners – the people. That is why in the constitution, it is the people who are sovereign. So by dismembering the constitution Museveni is guilty of infanticide. He is an infanticida – one who kills an infant.
Now letting go is hard. Even thieves get caught because they cannot unburden themselves of their loot. Pythons that enter a goat house through a small entrance fail to crawl out because they have a full stomach. The prospect of losing the presidency has become a dilemma for Museveni. The lesson for Museveni is simple. Holding onto something which he should release will cause him serious problems. It may kill him or at least a part of him.