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Uganda needs a newcomer

Ramathan Ggoobi

Uganda needs a newcomer

The 1986 team; Is it time they gave others a chance to govern Uganda?

The 1986 team; Is it time they gave others a chance to govern Uganda?

Although Uganda no longer wants Museveni, it hardly needs Mbabazi or Besigye!  

The events that have taken place since former Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, announced that he will challenge for the biggest chair in the land have gotten me thinking, quite deeply.

While making the long awaited announcement, shrewdly using the unregulated and unrestricted social media platform of the YouTube, Mbabazi said that by continuing with the status quo, the people of Uganda were “nursing a tired nation”.

Mr. President, before the talk that Mbabazi had fallen out with you started, around mid 2013, I had taken long without picking any interest in politics. I had stopped listening to politicians or reading political statements.

After 2006 general elections, I declared that of the events, issues and people to consume my time and emotions, politics and politicians were not to make even the appendix of the list. I said to my friends what Dr. Kizza Besigye told his supporters after 2011, “I will never participate in Uganda’s politics again as long as President Museveni is in power.”

You see the last thing I fancy doing is carrying out an experiment whose results I already know. For some time now, I have written about our “false democracy”. I remember one time writing in these very pages asking: Do the people of Uganda vote for the same reasons as voters in other democracies? Do Ugandan voters have interests that take them to the polling centres, or are they voting as a duty? I asked these questions before and after the 2006 and 2011 elections.

After witnessing, quite at a close range, three meaningless elections (2001, 2006 and 2011) I entered into what Professor Arrow calls “the voting paradox”. I came to realise that the probability that my vote could determine the outcome of the election had increasingly become insignificant.

“Mere ballot paper”

In 2001 as a university student, and voting for the first time, I was full of gas and energy supporting Dr. Besigye. After spending the entire day protecting Besigye’s votes in Juuko Zone, Makindye Division, I sat on TV to wait for the outcome. Soon you were declared the winner. During your swearing in at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds, you said and I quote, “Kano akapapula obupapula kajja omuntu mu buyinza?” Literally saying, how can a mere ballot paper remove someone from power? You actually came with a ballot paper that you pulled out of the inner pocket of your jacket and waved to the crowd, as they ironically applauded!

I sat there in my room, regretting all the energy I had squandered canvassing for and “protecting” the “mere ballot papers”. I made a promise to myself never to waste more time in the future. However, five years later I was once again taken by sweet winds of politics. I convinced myself thus, “What if this man was using the trick to discourage us from voting?” So I gave it another try.

In 2006, I even went a step further. After spending the whole day protecting Besigye’s votes, I went to Namboole and spent two sleepless nights keeping watchful eye on Dr. Badru Kiggundu and his team. At the end of the two nights and two days at Namboole, I asked myself why I had allowed myself to go again my principles. We were even not allowed to look at the tally sheets on which our candidate’s votes were being counted! Gen. Mugisha Muntu was our leader at the tally centre!

Next stop was Mengo, at the Supreme Court. After days of listening and looking at oceans of ink containing evidence of fraud, the Honourable Judges ruled that although they were convinced that the election was stolen, they could not tell whether what was stolen was significant to warrant a nullification of the results.

At the swearing in of the victorious incumbent, he said and I quote, “I will never hand over power to these jokers.” Three years later, a local daily quoted you, Mr. President, saying in Runyankore, “Niinye nahiigire enyamaishwa yangye nkagiita, mbwenu ngu ngyende, nzehi?” (It’s me who hunted and after killing the animal, they want me to go, where should I go?).

Unquenched thirst for change

That is the moment I took an oath never to waste my time again running around with Ugandan elections. In my short experience of participating in Uganda’s elections, I have witnessed all tribes of electoral fraud — gerrymandering, manipulation of demography (“importing” a large number of mercenary voters), disenfranchisement, intimidation, actual violence meted to opposition supporters, candidates and uncooperative polling officials. Others include vote buying, misinformation, misleading or confusing ballot papers, ballot stuffing, ‘misrecording’ of votes, destruction or invalidation of ballots.

However, when I heard that Mbabazi had fallen out with his longtime friend and ally, I picked interest again. Why? I picked interest not because I espoused Mbabazi’s ideas or personality; very few Ugandans actually like Mbabazi. He is not a very likable person.

The reason I, and I guess quite many other Ugandans, picked interest in what Mbabazi had to say, was because I and those other Ugandans that got excited with his announcement, have a long unquenched thirst for change.

Today, Uganda has more things that are not working than those that are working. Mr. President, while reacting to Mbabazi’s announcement you said, “…the weaknesses that are there, I am one of those who are always criticising those weaknesses.”

So both of you, longtime close friends, agree on one thing: Uganda has become a mess under your watch. What Mbabazi did was turn the mess into a campaign message to garner our support.

Military general needed

Over the years, some of us have written our pens empty, talked our voices hoarse, and some have lost their lives trying to show you two friends how your bus had deteriorated into DMC. We have been showing you how our values as a country had declined very badly under your leadership. The rise of political and economic corruption, the increased levels materialism among our leaders, decline in family values, increased levels of using religion and God as cover to commit evil, proliferation of a get-rich-quick culture, and reduced ability to succeed on one’s own merit.

Mr. President I have written in these very pages before, telling you how majority of your colleagues and relatives were spending more time at construction sites, ranches, sumptuous weddings and birthday parties, and shopping trips to New York, Dubai, and Beijing than they were spending in offices.

When we were talking about these issues, you thought were being cynical and alarmists. Last week, Mbabazi came out and joined us! Of course he cannot become an angel overnight. If anything, Mbabazi has been the captain of this sinking titanic. One would have expected Ugandans to dismiss him right away. However, this has not happened. It has not happened mainly because in Mbabazi Ugandans see a welcome fault line through which they may quicken the collapse of this stubborn “thing”!

That is why I strongly believe that although Uganda no longer wants Museveni, it hardly needs Mbabazi. Neither of you two nor Besigye, together with your colleagues — the club of ’86 — can reform this country. This country needs a new beginning. This country needs new leaders; leaders that are completely detached from the current crop of politicians, yet experienced enough to manage the intricate outcomes.

May I say that Uganda today needs an experienced military general to sort out the kind of mess this country is facing?  A powerful soldier is needed to send everybody home, put a few criminals in jail and if need be kill some, run a transitional government for five years, rewrite the Constitution that serves the nation, reinstate the inclusive institutions of the state, make political and economic reforms, organise elections, and hand power back to the people of Uganda. Only the military can put the ongoing circus to an end and restore sanity back to this country.



Ramathan Ggoobi is Policy Analyst, and Researcher. He lecturers economics at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and has co-authored several studies on Uganda's economy. For the past ten years, he has published a weekly column 'Are You Listening Mr. President' in The Sunrise Newspaper, Uganda's Leading Weekly

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