By Karamagi Andrew

On a recent journey to one of the capitals of our African Continent, I played about with a fork I had used to eat the meal I had been served and noticed that this fork could be bent and, if pressed harder, crack or even get broken if I applied a bit more pressure. I had never seen a stainless steel fork bend before. Little did I know that it was made of plastic but painted with a silver-like coating on the surface. It looked every inch like a stainless steel fork, it could pick food like a stainless steel fork and sure felt like a stainless steel fork but the darn thing was not a stainless steel fork! I will return to this in my conclusion.

Dear Odrek Rwabwogo, I have had the benefit of reading more than a dozen of the articles you have penned in your ‘ideology series’. Your arguments revolve around three issues: the future of the NRM in the inevitable post-Museveni era, the imperative of being grounded in a creed, ethos and value system, otherwise known as an ideology and the development agenda/trajectory that should inform Uganda’s makeover into a modern society across the political, social and economic areas of life. In this endeavour, you labour to explain the successes, omissions and failures of the NRA/M in its three decade reign, all the while projecting it in a messianic light.

I commend your effort at putting pen to paper but find your insistence on NRM as a vehicle through which to propagate and achieve the aspirations you articulate naïve, aloof and in some cases, bordering on intellectual dishonesty for two reasons:

Dictatorships are amorphous, disloyal and non-partisan:
I invite and challenge you to disabuse yourself of the abiding fiction that the National Resistance Movement-Organisation is a political party. In the absence of institutional and legal frameworks, particularly a functional and independent Secretariat; a fusion to the State of Uganda in a manner that makes the NRM dependent on state coffers, state media, state police and state infrastructure, as well as the personalization (and ring-fencing) of leadership positions by the person of Mr. Yoweri Museveni, it is impossible to find any traces of institutional DNA (so to speak) in the creature called NRM.

This is why the decks are stacked against you insofar as the timely discussion you are trying to stir on succession is concerned. By necessary implication, this purported party cannot deliver on any public or common good, however well articulated in a so-called Manifesto which in your case reads like a contrived doctoral thesis.

It is perhaps for this reason that on a recent television appearance, you kept skirting around and failed to give a clear and unambiguous exposition of the NRM’s ideology. Its ideologues refer to it as multi-ideological! There’s no such thing as multi-ideology…it is equivalent to saying that you a born-again Roman Catholic Presbyterian Protestant Hindu!

At best, the National Resistance Movement is a one-seater-vehicle (not a bus!) designed to propagate an individual’s—and his cabal of henchmen’s—narrow interests. If in doubt, ask yourself what you share in common with individuals like Jennifer Musisi, Amama Mbabazi, Henry Tumukunde, Kasirye Gggwanga and Aida Nantaba. At various points and in different incidences in the recent past, you and these individuals have either been sacrificed or thrown under the bus (no pun intended!) to save or perpetuate the personal interests of Mr. Museveni.

At worst, the NRM is a consortium of majorly illicit business and ethnic interests underpinned by the barrel of the gun, the pungent fumes of a teargas canister and the blunt force of an anti-riot police officer’s baton. In Africa’s cemetery of fallacious political parties, next to that of Kenya’s KANU (Kenya Africa National Union) lies the un-dug grave of the NRM if you its adherents do not get serious and heed to the existential threats that its present leadership (or lack thereof) portends. Like KANU which did not live beyond President Moi’s incumbency, the NRM as presently constituted cannot live beyond its founding godfather’s lifetime.

Don’t preach water (or milk in this case) and drink wine:
I am concerned about the mismatch between the things that you say in public and the business undertakings you have been involved in, specifically in the dairy sector. I will not talk about the questionable circumstances under which your firm was awarded a contract worth a colossal sum of Ugandan taxpayers’ money ostensibly to promote Uganda’s image abroad on Cable News Network (CNN) under the tagline “Gifted by Nature” years ago.

You are part of a group of businessmen and women who have steadily moved to monopolise Uganda’s dairy sector. In this (possibly legal) endeavour, you have been assisted by the powers that be to purchase (in bulk) unprocessed milk from unwilling and dissatisfied cattle keepers, store and process it from one collection point and then sell at a price of your convenience. I dare say that your fingerprints may not be absent from the arbitrary ban by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries on the transportation and sell of milk in cans and smaller containers, ostensibly for reasons of hygiene and consumer safety.

The same could be said about the unlawful restrictions on livestock movements in the Cattle Corridor (which stretches from South Western Uganda to Teso). No information is readily available about how your industrial scale business ventures have been financed. All we hear is you imploring Ugandans to work hard—as if they aren’t already, suffering under the weight of extortionist taxes and unconscionable interest rates on loans. Which bank did you get such a conducive loan facility from so that we can also go there and make some investments?

There used to be a state-owned Dairy Corporation but under the (mis)rule of your beloved NRM, this most-important institution was asset-stripped (stolen) and given away to yet another foreign investor in the name of privatization which has, in hindsight, turned out to be a series of thefts of state-owned enterprises, without any returns to Ugandans.

Uganda Cooperative Bank has never been formally dissolved, for instance, yet it no longer exists in practice.

The long term effect of your participation in the dairy market will be the creation of a cartel. In ruthless business terms, this is perfectly agreeable. My only reservation is that as a person who preaches equity and purports to root for the accelerated and sustainable development of a native commercial and purely Ugandan industrial base in your writings and proclamations, you are engaged in practices whose long term goal will be to perpetuate the disparities in income in a sector that employs and sustains a significant bulk of Uganda’s population. I would excuse you if you were exclusively a businessman. As a potential leader, this runs counter to the beliefs you (apparently) profess. It raises the question about what else you are not being truthful and/or forthcoming about.

In the circumstances, I wonder whether you wouldn’t you run an oligarchy a la Vladimir Putin if you became President.
Across the political spectrum, we who are watching the ping-pong between you, the myriad regime apologists and sycophants can only draw one, two or all three of the following conclusions:

i) Your crusade is a well-crafted ruse whose intention is to kick up a sandstorm and divert the listening and viewing public from the ongoing and proportionate relationship between the unprecedented theft of public funds, collapse of institutions and deterioration in the quality of life under the Museveni Hegemony, with a view to sanitizing the mayhem that has been committed against the people of Uganda as mere ideological failure.

ii) Similar to the foregoing, it is possible that your simulation is one that is intended to stage-manage a non-existent fight to the unsuspecting public, and in the end perpetuate family rule and its attendant ills since all of you who are engaged in the current squabble all belong to the same NRM and have not been bold enough to call out the NRM on its gross indiscretions or, like my friend Nina Mbabazi, altogether leave the so-called party for good.

iii) Finally, it is not farfetched for anybody to think that yours is a fishing expedition intended to draw out those within the NRM who genuinely espouse progressive views but are either too afraid or uncomfortable to speak their mind in public. In political science parlance, a person who does this is known as an ‘agent provocateur’.

I mentioned to you on a different digital platform that I and many other young people are interested in a trans-partisan discussion by and for young people with a view to charting a way forward for the future of our society but we fear to engage in such a discussion with you unless you stop prevaricating, be clear and show that you are a genuine stainless steel fork and not a plastic fork painted with a silver coating.


NB This article first appeared on Karamagi Andrew’s facebook page. It has run on Watchdog with his permission.