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How Musevenicracy has skewed our minds

Ramathan Ggoobi

How Musevenicracy has skewed our minds

The reason people were opposed to Gen. Aronda’s appointment had little to do with academic things of “partisan” or “militarisation of cabinet”. It has everything to do with your continued grip on power!

For a full month now the main debate in Uganda has centred on one man, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the former Chief of Defence Forces (CDF). The debate has been, and still is, about the constitutional propriety of his appointment as Minister of Internal Affairs without resigning and/or retiring from the army.

Many politicians in Parliament, especially those in opposition have held the view that since the 1995 Constitution does require our national army to stay clear of partisan politics, the former CDF must resign and retire from the military before taking the political and thus partisan job of minister.

On the other hand, government, armed with the legal opinion of the Attorney General (AG), is of the view that since there is no law that explicitly stops a serving army officer from working outside the military, Gen. Aronda was free to take on the new assignment by the president while still a serving soldier.

On Aronda’s long trek to his final approval by Parliament last week, a lot happened. A lot of articles were, and still are being written in newspapers, magazines and blogs. A lot of talk shows have been arranged on radios and televisions. A lot of statements were, and still are being uttered especially by those opposed to Aronda’s approval. The Parliamentary Committee on Appointments sat three times before pronouncing itself on the matter. A lot has been said indeed.

However, of all the many articles, blogs, talk shows, and statements that I’ve heard, read or seen, none summarises what exactly is Uganda’s problem like does the few words that graced the July 20th column of my good friend, David Mpanga, the AG of Buganda Government. Understandably, his column goes by the name, “The Politics of Common Sense.” Mr. President, swaps are not limited only to forex!

In his wise counsel, the plainly sensible son of Mukyala Mpanga wonders what the fuss is all about on a matter that needs one simple effort, interpretation by the Constitutional Court! He actually posits that in the search for an answer on whether Aronda should and shouldn’t be allowed to work as Minister while still a soldier, the patterns of argument have been more partisan than the outcome the debaters were looking for — stopping Aronda from getting partisan.

Violating the Constitution by defending it!

Indeed, as Mpanga puts it, the debate has been more a display of partisan political positions than of an understanding of the provisions of the Constitution that were in issue. The Constitution does not explicitly provide on the issue that the Appointments Committee of Parliament spent weeks attempting to interpret and defend.

Actually Mpanga argues that by ignoring the provisions of the Constitution that require that “any question as to the interpretation of the Constitution shall be determined by the Court of Appeal sitting as the Constitutional Court,” Speaker Kadaga’s committee, the opposition MPs, and the general public that wanted to show how much they were determined to “defend” the Constitution were the first in violating it.

Mr President, this whole saga is for you to blame. I have been writing here, on several occasions, warning that your continued stay and interference with every institution in the country was bound to create the problem of Musevenicracy. I coined this term to refer to the distasteful tendency by you to interfere with everything which undermines the existing institutions. It is this disease which has worked people nuts to the extent that now everything that you do or say is suspect. Thus people have lost all reason and logic to the extent that even those knowledgeable enough, including senior lawyers, could not avoid making silly mistakes while fighting to “defend the Constitution”.

I am not surprised that big brains such as Speaker Kadaga, Nandala Mafabi, Abdu Kantuntu and many more, did not see their mistake in attempting to interpret the Constitution as if they did not know who was mandated to do so. Everybody now is so worked up by Musevenicracy that they have stopped to think beyond fighting Museveni and his people.

This is the same bug that has eaten up the entire populace. I have carried out a simple study on this matter using social media. I asked, “What all this fuss about soldiers first retiring before taking up political appointments for? I see many practicing doctors, lawyers, engineers, journalists, farmers etc in parliament, serving as ministers, serving on boards of government etc. I thought ours was an equal-opportunities society!” You should have seen the reaction.

Why Mayombo did retire first

One of the participants commented, “If a few people want all the opportunities available, what will remain for us?” Another one, a colleague we teach with at university posted, “…you know clearly that you and I cannot stand for an elective position without resigning our academic jobs in public university… This is not an issue of discrimination but internal controls aimed at avoiding conflict of interest.”

A look at these and other so many comments confirms what I have always suspected when this debate started. Very few Ugandans that came out to take part in this debate took trouble to look into the facts of this debate to be in position to give their views from an informed and less biased (or partisan) point of view. This is the very predicament that the framers of the Constitution anticipated, thus reserving the job of interpretation of the Constitution for the Court of Appeal.

I have heard several questions being asked: Is getting appointed a minister the same as “seeking” a political office? Is serving as minister a partisan job? By retaining his title of General and at the same time serving as minister, will Aronda be holding two offices? etc. All these questions need be answered by the Court of Appeal sitting as the Constitutional Court.

But the legal gymnastics aside, this debate has confirmed one thing. Ugandans no longer want to hear anything to do with “President Museveni and his people.” Why? They are fed up of Musevenicracy. When the late Brig. Noble Mayombo was in January 2006 appointed Permanent Secretary of Defence he was approved by Parliament without any hassle yet he did not retire from the army. Why? Ugandans were still sober and not yet intoxicated by Musevenicracy.

When the intoxication started to work, Gen. J. Odongo was demanded to first retire before taking up his appointment as Minister of State for Defence. I have heard many contributors to this debate, including former Supreme Court Judge, Justice George Kenyeihamba, saying “Aronda has no problem, the problem is Museveni.”

Ugandans don’t hate soldiers

Let me tell you one fact Mr President, many Ugandans do not have any problem with the military or soldiers per se. Many Ugandans wouldn’t even mind integrating soldiers into the politics of the country and accommodating them in times of peace since they know soldiers will always be needed especially in times of war. The last three decades has shown Ugandans that the more they learn to integrate the military in their society and coexist during peaceful times, the more likely they will have lasting peace.

Most importantly many Ugandans know and appreciate the role played by the military in restoration of the politics and the laws that we love to interpret. Mr. President, many Ugandans have not forgotten that historical and historic moment when soldiers, led by you, stood at the steps of Parliament to declare the beginning of the new era. Many Ugandans actually know that it is soldiers that invited the civilians to join them in the parliamentary chambers and government. So we have not forgotten.

What makes Ugandans raise all this noise today is nothing but your endless hold onto the presidency. When your presidency was still legitimate and adored by Ugandans, you appointed soldiers in several civilian offices and no one raised a finger. Dr. Besigye himself was a Minister as well several other soldiers. The current CDF, Gen. Katumba Wamala commanded police just as his successor Gen. Kale Kayihura continues to do so.

The reason people are opposed to Gen. Aronda’s appointment has little to do with the academic things of “partisan” or “militarisation of cabinet”. It has everything to do with your continued grip on power! Everything now you do is being interpreted in a biased and skewed manner. You heard MPs saying how this was an experiment for you to appoint your son as Minister of Defence! Who can dare say no? You have really skewed our minds. Mpanga calls it a “revolution” — moving in circles back to where we were in 1980s.

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Ramathan Ggoobi

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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