March 2013
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Day March 14, 2013

Uganda: betrayed by the middle class


The fact is the Ugandan middle class continues to remain detached from the common man, this has contributed to the predicament the country finds itself in.

With salient lessons learnt from the North Africa uprisings in the previous two years famously dubbed the “Arab spring”. Take it or leave it the role played by largely the middle class from public intellectuals, business and student leaders was pivotal to the success of the revolutions. The same has been attempted in Uganda to only a dismal showing due to passiveness and complacency from largely elites, who feel attached to their assets and interests, be it small or huge.

The fact remains, all democratic efforts at changing the repressive and corrupt order in Kampala, has been sabotaged by an aloof middle class (elites) though a few have remained true to the cause. Majority have had to pay loyalty to the hand that feeds them (political patronage) where they survive on the state for lucrative small contracts in whatever illicit ways earned.
Many arguments have made rounds in the public domain, on whether the middle class could join the popular protests “walk to work” and create the ideological base of the cause. This according to analysts has only been wish saying since a great number exhibit concern for their jobs, the little buck that comes at the end of the hustle, apart from this worsened by the arrogant attitude of having a better education in contrast to the false perception on those who participate in the street protests as semi-literates who lack tangible work to do.

Its believed Egypt and Tunisia owe the success of their uprisings to their sizeable middle class estimated at 79.7 and 89.5 percent respectively in contrast to Uganda’s 18.7 percent (ADB) by 2011.

Any way the debate after all may rage on by what determines the middle class in Africa! Since some critics think its almost not yet there but according to the African development bank, referred this group to one that is well educated, access to internet, small family and one whose annual income ranges from $1,200- $7,400.

This was argued against by Calestrous Juma of the Harvard Kennedy School, as not capable of fitting in the capital markets of the developed world but in African— terms they have disposable income and can afford to consume goods and services from a few western franchise.

Recently a friend of mine had a honest debate with Dr.Munini Mulera on social media challenging him on the failure of the Ugandan elites with some savings to support youth in the democratic struggle. The debate left the later startled at the fact that soon many so called elites will be inconsequential to what the country may face, as the disgruntled feel they have common interests with those pillaging the country’s resource.

For radical results to be felt the educated and well-informed citizens should sacrifice their savings to inspire young revolutionaries willing to fight for the restoration of sanity and rule of law in the land. Failure to cooperate will be an indictment on us and none will claim the moral authority to have rescued this country from the mess its entangled in!
Writing per -say is only part of the solution, but real participation is what will end this criminal rule of Museveni and his corrupt cronies. If only my countrymen realized that it took only one soul at self immolation to change the order in Tunis, then we can be counted upon to deliver our land from the bleeding today.

With many journalists arrested and intimidated for speaking truth to the hegemon, academics and other élites have continued to be —-passive——–while blaming the young generation of not taking visible action to change the wrong direction the country is increasingly taking. The cycle of impunity and lawlessness does not segregate the affluent from the poor, highly educated from the less and neither the propertied from the have-nots. The fact remains fate knows nobody and the statements of Richard Dowden, on the African middle class as put below capture the situation in Uganda best.

Are there two Africas? One in a bubble of western-style wealth inhabited by the rich and powerful and another Africa on the other side of the security fence – barefoot, one torn shirt, no money, no prospect of a job – “suffering and smiling” as Fela Kuti sang, but with big and increasingly angry eyes.

Elamu denis ejulu Is a social critic.

Museveni following in the footsteps of Gnassingbe Eyadema.

The late president of Togo Gnassingbe Eyadema, who later was succeeded by his son Faure

The late president of Togo Gnassingbe Eyadema, who later was succeeded by his son Faure

The recent talk of a military coup in Uganda has gained currency and talk as the public discusses the matter in hushed voices. The pronouncers of these startling statements did not speak secretive but openly for all to hear.

This is one of the several incidents that may break the back of the proverbial camel, as one of the NRM party’s long kept secret, could be soon witnessed not in mere words of hatchet men but in practice. Museveni’s Uganda is not different from the late dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema’s Togo.

Having both ascended to power through a military take over whether the latter’s were two successful military coups in both January 1963 and 71 respectively. Contrary to the so-called NRM revolution which some analysts prefer to distance from a military junta by 1986 ushered in Yoweri K. Museveni to power in Uganda.

The aim of this piece is out of what could be an ulterior motive that could let, out one of the longest held plans in both the first family and the military. Having acquired power successfully through a military junta on January 1967, Eyadema through his rally of the Togolese people (RPT) created a one party system, in which political opposition was suffocated and never allowed to compete on leveled ground.

In the 1993 polls the opposition boycotted and in 1998 and 2003 elections they denounced the results as fraudulent. Amid all this controversy the international community as usual threw in some criticism at the big man including our African union to no avail.

The worst case was in the lifting of presidential term limits in 2002, giving the late Togolese strong man, unlimited avenues to life presidency yet by 2003 he was to be ineligible due to constitutional term limits by then of five.

Why is this Togolese personality crucial for Ugandans to study! It should be known that after the death of Gnassingbe Eyadema one of Africa’s longest tyrants by February, 2005. Zakary Nandja, the then chief of staff of the armed forces declared his son Faure Gnassingbe as new president and later after certain incidences he vacated the presidency only to return later winning a landslide election in April 2005.

President Museveni’s talk of the military taking over through his hatchet men like Gen Aronda Nyakairima and defense minister Crispus Kiyonga, is suspicious!

In January this year daily monitor, was awash with altercations between the various retired generals including the president himself and other officials who are privy to certain information on the military.

Despite warnings from the maverick general Tinyefuza to his colleagues. The worst kept secret of Museveni is now bound to be debated and analyzed on whether Uganda is moving in the line presidential monarchs like Togo and the late Elhadj Omar Bongo’s Gabon.

In both countries the sons of the former presidents took over the reins of the presidency through the same situations created to enhance such a ignominious project.

Since the 1986 takeover by the NRM guerillas- cum- politicians, Uganda has had four highly charged multi-party elections which in all complains of rigging, fraud and intimidation were reported to no avail from the 1996, to the 2001 and 2006 elections believed to be one of the most violent since the NRM took power.

Now the rapid meteoric rise of the first son Muhoozi Kainerugaba in the UPDF chain of command, suggests that the big man could do what others have done before on the continent, since it calls for no feeling of contrition.

The situation suggests it all, with the son commanding a sizeable number of the elite forces (reserve forces) which opposition leader Kizza Besigye and many others look at as a private army within the UPDF.

Such an army could create the last bastion of defense to the Museveni’s bidding to have his son imposed on Ugandans like Saddam Hussein’s revolutionary guards.

Never has this country debated or even thought of a transfer of the presidency from father to son but here we are typical Ugandan fashion of today, simply ignoring the worst that could befall our country and the future of the generations to come.

Not even the NRM politicians can stop such scheme since its not even know
n to most of them but this is what Max Weber best described as “neo-patrimonialism”.

After the lifting of presidential term limits (article 105 of the constitution) Museveni seems to continue until natural forces do him apart but while all this is thought, he seems to be determined to transfer power to one of his family relations.

What could aid such an evil! is when the educated and wealthy Ugandans remain mum and submissive to the regime’s patronage. Just like any unexpected happening it will leave an atmosphere of hopelessness.

The Author,Elamu denis ejulu, is a Ugandan commentator and also journalist in Juba with southern eye/south sudan today news papers

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