Uganda: U.S.-Backed Museveni’s Machiavellian Politics of Compensation–He Kills then Buys off Family


Uganda’s U.S.-backed ruler Yoweri Museveni. Photo: Wikimedia Commons


[View From Uganda]

The Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli in his 16th-century political treatise, The Prince, wrote: “Men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.” 

Machiavellian leaders the world over have often placed 30 pieces of silver above the golden hue of humanity. They tend to think that everything flows from a positive cash flow. So, ultimately, money is the mother’s milk of their misrule. 

That’s why we weren’t surprised when President Yoweri Museveni made his most recent pronouncement on television. The president said on Sunday while in Mbale City that government will be compensating the families of those who died in the protests which convulsed Kampala and other parts of Uganda following the arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.

It is reported that 54 people died during these protests, several others were hospitalized in critical condition. Although the president’s compensation will undoubtedly be made, he added the proviso that not all the families of the 54 dead will receive compensation. For 32 of the 54 were protestors who died in confrontation with the security officers. 

“I send condolences to Ugandans that lost their relatives in these senseless riots. The government will compensate those who lost their lives and properties, but we shall not compensate those who died and were rioters; no way,” Mr. Museveni said in a televised address on Sunday evening.

The president conveniently overlooks the fact that there can be no “compensation” for a life lost. Unless, of course, the compensator sees the price in everything and the value in nothing, with respect to human life. 

Such callousness is a key feature of the kleptocracy the NRM government has become. Again, this is nothing new. 

In former president Milton Obote’s pamphlet “Notes on Concealment of Genocide In Uganda,” the actual import of such “compensation” is expressed in two ways. First, when Museveni was Minister of State for Defense. 

Obote writes: “At the fall of Lule, voted out by the National Consultative Council (NCC) of the UNLF, Lule supporters staged peaceful demonstrations in Kampala. Museveni personally led a contingent of troops in indiscriminate shooting of the demonstrators. This was in the third week of June 1979. In July and August of the same year, 15 (fifteen) highly qualified professionals were gunned down in their houses in Kampala. In three known cases, Museveni reached the scenes of crime within minutes of the shootings, allegedly to ‘console’, mark the word ‘console’, the widows!” Yusuf Lule was the interim president after Gen. Idi Amin was overthrown in 1979. 

Second, Obote shows how Museveni dispenses such “compensation” in a coldly Machiavellian manner. “In the early 1970s, Museveni’s fellow-travelers and confederates were allegedly killed by Museveni himself. These include Mwesiga Black, Raiti Omongin, Miss V. Rwaheru (Museveni’s housekeeper), Martin Mwesiga (brother of Frank Mwine, the former governor of Uganda Commercial Bank) and his brother Sam Magara. 

After allegedly committing this multiple homicide, Museveni gave hush money to the families of Mwesiga and Magara by rustling up some lucrative government positions for them. If Obote is to be believed, it appears that Museveni believes that he can kill his opponents and then buy their families off. For, to him, money is used as a tool to devalue human life as it underwrites his predatory regime. 

Those who think the president values life over power should realize that Uganda has had 21,145 Covid-19 cases with 201 deaths. In a population of 46,315,998 (as of Saturday, November 28, 2020), the prevalence of Covid-19 is at a rate of 0.004% and the deaths are even lower. Compare this to the estimated 100,000 to 500,000 people, including combatants and civilians, who died during President Museveni’s bush war in Uganda against Obote from 1980 to 1986. 

There’s a cruel irony in killing Ugandans to protect us from a pandemic which has barely imperiled our society. This irony goes from cruel to bitter when one realizes that the person who is purporting to protect us is largely responsible for mass killings in Luwero Triangle. 

Granted, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) did play a big role in these killings. 

But wars are won by the more effective killers and President Museveni won this war by being more ruthlessly clinical in putting democracy to the sword, in the name of democracy!  President Museveni surely fits Abraham Lincoln’s description of a hypocrite— “Hypocrite: The man who murdered his parents, and then pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.”

His sole mission is power. So he has little interest in his much vaunted Baazukulu (grandchildren). If he did, he would step aside in favor of a much younger, more youthful leader. But this cannot be expected from a man who used child soldiers (kadogos) in his bush war.  

To him, the youth are cannon fodder to be deployed in the service of his eternal rule or to be mowed down when they oppose the same. 

All this is keeping with what Machiavelli said: “Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred; for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.”

The problem is that widespread fear of the NRM is festering with hatred for it, too. 

This is likely to spiral into the bowels of a calamity which will make the death of 54 Ugandans in the recent riots seem like a fond memory.  

Columnist Matogo can be reached via [email protected] 

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