By Hassan Higenyi
All signs seem to suggest that this might be President Museveni’s worst, and hopefully his last, time/term in power. It’s so obvious that you don’t have to be a visionary to see it; rather, even the blind and dumb can feel it. The writing on the walls, both literarily and literally, such as on facebook walls, are so plain clear for anyone to read that Ugandans, normally reputed for our sweetness or hospitable nature, have fast-turned bitter with good reason to.
But that’s not what should worry the Big Man. After all, some of us, especially the so-called critics, are actually mere haters – we just love to hate or rant pointlessly. That’s something I recently learned from humorist Ernest Bazanye’s ka-small new and free book (in PDF), The Ballad of Black Bosco, which I recommend for every Kampalan with an urban style and sense of humor. And besides, it’s common sense that, try as Museveni might, you just can’t please everyone.
What ought to bother President Museveni, though, is the bipartisan nature of this anger. Ugandans across the board, regardless of their political party affiliations, young and old, literate and illiterate, seem angry like never before under Museveni’s regime. This sort of indiscriminate anger, I think, poses a potent threat to his grip on power. It also appears we are not afraid anymore and/or we’re getting bolder at expressing our anger and/or discontent.
Of course, one may reasonably argue that it’s a worldwide trend due to the global economic crisis or hardships like the high food and fuel prices, inflation, and blah, blah, blah. All that may make sense, and we should perhaps feel for those in power grappling to sort things out in such trying times. But still that doesn’t change the fact that the cost of living is ridiculously high and people are not happy about it, and thus want something done about it.
What’s more, either the government doesn’t give a damn, doesn’t get it or its attempts to calm people down are not working. Now it’s as if being angry is the in-thing and an un-angry Ugandan is a fake one. In Kampala now, almost everyone is bitter and Jennifer Musisi seems to be adding salt to injury by kicking vendors off the streets and the suggestions to keep bodabodas (passenger motorbikes) out of the city centre. And while teachers and lecturers are angry over meager salaries, parents and students of Makerere are also angry with its inconvenient closure.
Enter other issues such as: UMEME (now apparently redefined as: Ugandans Must Expect Minimal Electricity), Mabira giveaway, Wikileaks, the parading of confessed murderers (terrorists and Draru), the oil and petroleum sharing agreements, the illegal detention of a little-known anti-Museveni book’s writer, etc. Yes there’s anger world over, but it’s undeniable that Uganda now obviously ranks high on the unhappy list (if such indexes are anything to go by).
Meanwhile, the media is dutifully, and enjoyably, playing along and dancing to the public’s angry tune. As noted earlier that being angry is like the in-thing, it also seems stories that appeal to people’s anger are now more newsworthy. Even newspaper columnists, with the exception of a few, have all – be it political, social, economic/business, or sports – picked up on this angry trend and resorted to just ranting and character assassination.
Admittedly, it occurred to me that Mzee John Nagenda’s interview with Sunday Monitor captured people’s attention because it seemed to echo the popular but repressed anger towards the President. I personally felt similarly in the next interview of Mike Mukula over Museveni grooming his son to succeed him, the prospect of which is rather unflattering to the citizenry. Therefore, with all this seething, one can’t help wondering what will eventually come of it.
(Now, it’s common knowledge that most Ugandans hate books, but anger just might turn round our pathetic reading and writing culture … as per images of the mentioned proof below!)
The cover of little-known Vincent Nzaramba’s now-famous anti-Museveni book, ‘People Power’The cover of Ernest Bazanye’s unpublished hilarious little book, ‘The Ballad of Black Bosco’