Felix Kulayigye. Photo: Facebook.
[The View From Uganda]
Felix Kulayigye, a Brigadier General in the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) said on KFM’s radio talk VPN last Saturday that our former colonial masters have held us back.
In a bid to explain why the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) keeps falling by the wayside of its much vaunted plans, Brig. Kulayigye said colonial forces have subverted his party’s best efforts to liberate Uganda from its yoke of misrule. What a preposterous notion, coming from a government beholden and dependent on the West.
As much as we appreciate that neo-colonialism is a huge factor in determining our national politics, it doesn’t represent the last word on how far we can go as a country if we had truly nationalist leaders. Thomas Sankara showed how an African country could accomplish much through self-reliance.
In passing the buck instead of reminding us how the buck stops with government, Kulayigye seeks to absolve the NRM of its 35 years of misdeeds, failures, and lack of direction.
He paints us as powerless in the face of such imperialism yet our history shows us that a little will on our part can go a long way.
To be sure, we once had enlightened leaders like Kabaka Muteesa I (1856-84) who invited Arab traders at the Buganda court to read the Qur’an. He himself soon learnt how to read the holy Qur’an and seemed to adopt many practices of the Muslims while retaining his own African culture. To get the best of both worlds, Muteesa appeared to be adding Allah to the hierarchy of Buganda’s gods.
This visionary leader then allowed Christians into his Kingdom. All the while, he played them off against the Muslims so that they would rival for his favor and thereby enhance his power. He was effectively using the colonial policy of divide-and-rule against the forerunners of colonialism.
Always in control, he was ready to mete out a $5,000 dollar punishment for a $50 buck crime, so to speak, when the situation demanded severity. His shrewdness recalled the 1991 film called “Mobsters”, about the rise of the modern American Mafia. A character in the film called Arnold Rothstein said: “We got balls and brains; you got those, you don’t need an army . . . 100 years ago, Austria was run by a prince named Metternich. Austria was weak, and its neighbors were strong; but Metternich was a cold, calculating fox. If one country got too strong, he organized an alliance against it. He would bring Europe to the brink of war, and then everybody thanked him when he kept war from happening. He barely had an army, but he had Europe by the kishkes.”
Kabaka Muteesa I had the Christians and Muslims by the kishkes. Any sober headed and patriotic observer would realize that if our leaders were as skillful and determined as Muteesa was clear-headed, Uganda could rise embrace and realize its potential.
I can almost hear Brig. Kulayigye saying “but after all that, Buganda was colonized and even used to colonize the rest of Uganda.”
True; that’s because after Muteesa Uganda has been plagued by capitulating “leaders” such as Kulayigye who insist that we blame all our misdeeds on foreigners while begging them for more assistance so we can create some more misdeeds in their name. Uganda gets about $1 billion from the United States each year and almost another $1 billion from the EU.
The foreign “aid” is used to buttress a neo-patrimonial system which supports NRM clients while subjugating opponents and the population to such an elephantine edifice of corruption.
Also, question to Brig. Kulayigye, was it a foreign government that told the National Resistance Movement and Army to launch the war in Luwero which killed, by former Democratic Party (DP) boss Paulo Ssemogerere’s estimates, 500,000 Ugandans? And, was it also a foreign government that told the NRA to launch a war for profiteers for a 20-year period in the northern part of Uganda, claiming tens of thousands of lives and confining most of the population in camps where hundreds of thousands died from neglect according to the WHO?
Can colonialism be blamed for the regime’s widespread corruption, vote-tampering, rigging of elections, and abridgment of civil liberties, abduction, tortures and killings of her citizens, and militarization of our politics?
As Brig. Kulayigye adds a Potemkin gloss to NRM’s broken record of lies, he falls into the description his master used to use to describe those who disagreed with “the correct line”. Gen. Yoweri Museveni, once upon a time, described such line of thinking as “obscurantist”. This is defined as “the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known”.
It is tragic that the NRM is now as obscurantist as it once accused its foes of being. Clearly the time for it to leave is now. After such misrule, a more patriotic regime will be a welcome respite.