Gen. Museveni’s Animal Farm: Where the Elite Are More “Equal”

Minister Kaboyo

Minister Kaboyo. What merit? Who says only men must feast from the trough? Photo: Facebook

[View From Uganda]

“Football Made in Germany” was a Public Broadcasting Service show running from 1976 to 1988. However it was only screened in Uganda in the 1990s, or thereabouts, on Uganda Television (UTV). 

Thanks to this show, Ugandans got a chance to cheer on former Ghana International Anthony Yeboah and ex-Nigeria captain Austin Jay Jay Okocha during their time at German Club Eintratch Frankfurt. Germany, in the early 1990s, had just emerged from the Cold War as a united country. It had also just won the World Cup, beating Argentina in the finals.

General Yoweri Museveni was also still consolidating his hold on power, so Uganda was not yet recreated in his image. When “Football Made in Germany” stopped airing on UTV, we said “auf Wiedersehen”—goodbye—and moved onto a liberalized economy which shunted UTV to the margins of our consciousness. 

However, as the years rolled by, Ugandan politics devolved into another brand of German football. This time, there were no silky skills from Okocha as fair play was replaced by the corruption of power in the shape of a Faustian Bargain. This bargain is a pact whereby a person trades personal values or their soul, for some worldly or material benefit, such as power or riches. 

The term refers to the legend of Faust—or Faustus, or Doctor Faustus—a character in German folklore and literature who gives his soul to an evil spirit in exchange for unlimited power. 

That evil spirit is called Mephistopheles, or Mephisto and is a representative of Satan. As we witness, among plenty of other scandals, our blood-fat leech-like leaders being bribed to amend the constitution. And persons such as Ms. Alice Kaboyo appointed minister of state in the Prime Minister’s office even though she was convicted on charges of abuse of office—we realize that the German Faust has taken on the whole identity of our politics.

General Museveni himself has likened politics to football, and since our politics is defined by a Faustian Bargain, between the leader and the damned, Football Made in Germany is back. That’s why when Government Chief Whip and Ruhinda North County Member of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa said “Emyooga” fund defaulters —money disbursed to cooperative societies—should be arrested and prosecuted, we recognized this as a joke with a very poor punchline. 

The Emyooga fund is a presidential handout to fulfill the unwritten contract between the patron, General Museveni and client,  Ugandans, in a system of patronage which uses state resources to bribe individuals in exchange for power. While money is pulled out of our pockets, in the form of taxes and corruption, to support an elephantine government bureaucracy, some of this money is put into Emyooga’s Uganda Microfinance Support to obscure the fact that we have been given a fraction of the money taken from us in the first place.

If you think I’m being cynical, let us look at the numbers: 260 billion shillings ($73.7 million) allocated for the whole country as against 861.3 billion shillings ($244 million) allocated to State House for Gen. Museveni’s use. Even if you deduct the monies for the Emyooga fund, running Museveni’s house is ostensibly far costlier than financing businesses run by all Ugandan households.

In the book “Animal farm”, the pig Squealer said the pigs disliked better food, but they made a sacrifice to eat milk and apples because they were the “brainworkers” and thus essential to managing the farm. That argument might well be employed in Museveni’s State House. 

William Pike, the British journalist turned-Museveni-regime-apologist edited the State-owned New Vision for many years. On page 276 of his book entitled “Combatants: A memoir of the Bush War and the press in Uganda” Salim Saleh, Museveni’s brother, in 1985, while walking with Pike asked: “Is this a revolution?”  

Although Pike said it was, I’m sure Faust’s Uganda would disagree.

Columnist Matogo can be reached via [email protected] 

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