Odrek Rwabwogo replies Charles Rwomushana
We need a newer and better kind of politics for our generation. I think it was Hon. Amanya Mushega, then of Igara East constituency, in his characteristic debating style in the 1993-1995 constituent assembly deliberations, who said: “Mr. Charles Rwomushana from Rujumbura, suffers from schizophrenia and no one should give what he says any bit of attention”.
Amanya had been a minister for Education and Sports at a time when the Makerere university guild led by Rwomushana was advocating for reinstatement of “boom” or student allowances, as it was then termed, and had had a difficult time understanding the kind of politics, leadership and general direction Rwomushana was taking the students guild.
While I really don’t like to be drawn into facetious bickering over the mental status of my brother and friend, with the latest missive Charles Rwomushana penned about me and some of the words I have heard on air in the past from him, Hon. Mushega seems, with hindsight, to have been prescient in his assessment.
First things first: It is a low mental and social threshold for a man to wish death or rejoice in the death, real or imaginary, of another human being, later alone that of a friend or his spouse. This, in spite of whether that friend might be ideologically and politically standing with or opposed to you.
It is a very low moral turpitude and goes against the grain of any form of spiritual, cultural or social relations since man begun to walk the earth. I would certainly not even entertain such a thought, let alone wish or appear in the corner of those who celebrate such thinking about friends or foes.
None of us on earth orders life or takes it away. It hasn’t been our realm as human beings at all, thus far and If anyone does it, they are pretty presumptuous; they tempt fate for their own lives. But, it is the substantive argument running in Rwomushana’s message that somehow aggravates me and to which I thought, for the benefit of the readers, I needed to do this reply, reluctantly as I have, against the advice of many of my friends and colleagues who read his missive.
First, he assumes a sort of joint family governance in politics, a contrived monarchical type of thinking that shouldn’t come from someone who has gone to school. He seems to say since Rwabwogo is married to a relative of one of our leaders, he, therefore, together with his wife and children should carry the responsibility of the mistakes of the governing group in the Movement. This argument along with the theatrical choice of words he uses, isn’t only severely atrophied but lacks any intellectual exactitudeness, it is devoid of a factual and moral base and bears no hope. If it weren’t for its ridiculousness, I perhaps wouldn’t have sought to answer it.
Here is an explanation for Charles and people who think like him: Governance is a class struggle between capital and Labour; capital coming from those who own the means of production (land, machinery and factories and have converted them to both soft-(money) and hard capital- (equipment) and Labour (those who seek to work for capital and in the process transit from the working class (proletariat) to new classes such as the middle class and eventually morphs into the owners of the very capital employing them and later into the upper class).
It is this struggle that generates the nature and type of ruling class a country has along with the systems and institutions of government that it runs on. This struggle between these two elements progressively builds social norms and values that give us the much cried about democratic behavior among leaders.
In Africa, the peculiarity of our situation is that this kind of struggle wasn’t there in the first place or in the right volume/tenor or it happened, If at all it did, in a rather different way.
The absence of this struggle means that the military (even if it is a civilized, conscientized and politically mature as the UPDF) becomes the foundation of state because many of the other institutions are either young, weak or have been obliterated in a civil War.
In Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia for example, where there was outright military victory (1986, 1994 and 1991 respectively), this is the kind of situation that obtains. If you remove the facade, it is the army that holds the state structure and not other institutions.
In South Africa under its unique circumstances, where there was a negotiated settlement and the military wing of ANC (umkoto we sithwe) didn’t achieve an outright win, capital belongs to the white people and the black people use both their numbers and state power to negotiate for it.
The unraveling of the ANC is clear to all and sundry today on account of lack of control of the means of production. I should add that the military tries as much as it can to cede some of the elements of its power to the civilian institutions such as Parlaiment for it to be able to govern. These institutions are only tolerated if they don’t seek to overturn the social and political order.
Therefore, the ruling class in Africa traditionally have had to use state power to generate the missing link of capital and since Labour is also largely from a peasantry background with a little sprinkle of educated and business people, they have had to rely on distributive politics (give a job there, offer money here, give out a reward such as kingdoms and districts there etc) to keep power.
The ruling class from this analysis therefore, is not necessarily defined by family or kinship relations. It is rather defined by the economic interests which determine both the values the ruling class espouses and the power it wields.
If my brother Charles cared to invest in some unbiased reflection, he would know I am one good example of those who exposed the ruling class’ pretension at internal democracy.
If by family association as he assumes, I get into decision making of the NRM and l, therefore, should carry the responsibility of the performance of some of our leaders, why would President Yoweri Museveni, Generals Kahinda Otafiire, Matayo Kyaligonza, Nalweyiso, Henry Tumukunde, Hon. Dr. Kirunda Kivejinja, HAJI Nadduli, all fall in one camp against my candidature that sought to rebuild the foundations of the Movement?
All I asked for was an opportunity to lead the NRM in my region and through sound teaching, prepare our generation to face the challenges of our times? Why were all the ideas we espoused, ideas that sought to restore policy debate about our struggling economy where currently both policy and execution authority is captive in the hands of fat cats at the ministry of finance and not the NRM structures that elected the government, ideas that sought to fix our agricultural systems, design a modern industrial policy for Uganda and making both financial and commodity markets work for the youth, improve the productivity and training of young people and build a better tomorrow; bringing all these ideas into the structures of our party and freeing the party from the current lethargy they are caught in; why were these ideas roundly rejected without even inviting me to CEC to hear them out?
I can tell you the reason if you care. It is because I DO NOT belong to the ruling class. These ideas threatened the very values of the class that has governed us for the last 30 years. I couldn’t touch Mr. Kyaligonza without laying naked the ground on which the entire edifice the ruling class sits on! I, therefore had to be stopped from Proceeding any further.
If Charles cared, he wouldn’t have been bitterly opposed to me as he was in that campaign in which he specialized in calling me names. He would instead have known that by continuing to project governance as a family affair as he likes to do, he is narrowing the prism of what would otherwise have been a healthy discourse about what ails our country.
He would have known that by opposing me, he was joining the ruling class and ideologically impoverishing the friendly forces of our generation that seek to prepare a better Uganda than we have been given by the older generation. I hope Charles also knows that in distributive politics, both the ruling class and some of those opposed to it tend to share one class when it comes to corruption.
As an example, I have known senior FDC leaders who have running tenders and contracts with some of the institutions of government such as the electoral Commission, supposedly by day espousing transparency but at night, sharing the loot from the taxes that many of us pay through our noses.
This means that if Charles were politically mature, he would be joining us on the road to teach and to build a new kind of politics for the country because at the end of the day, when one group removes another, the incoming ones are simply looking for access to government resources to reward their cronies too.
Those of us who want to chart a new way must of necessity act differently and together instead of tearing each other apart as a generation. The second aspect I take issues with, is Charles’ use of our generation’s history, the schools we have been fortunate to attend and the lives we have all shared as a group at Makerere, to throw mud at my work and my family. In this, he confirms one of the sayings of the people of Busoga: “Akaliba akendo akabonela ku mukonda” (a sampling of a pumpkin that will make a good gourd is seen when it is still sprouting).
In Ankore, the same saying goes: “ekihambo kirakutambire kikubanza obutuutu” (loosely translated, a pumpkin that will be of help to you, gives you the early saplings for a meal in a dry season). Charles doesn’t have a history of good leadership. Instead many of us know him as a squanderer of very many leadership opportunities that came his way.
Without going into details, at Makerere, a group of friends of mine convinced me to stand down for him for the position of the guild president that I was preparing to run for. In the interest of the team, I accepted. We all switched support and campaigned hard for Charles on condition that the leadership of our time wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of then outgoing group; that we would work hard to restore genuine student participation in the life of the university and the issues of the country then.
On winning the poll, Charles’ first action shocked us all. He diverted UGX7m from the guild account to purchase a car for the “Guild President”. This was never a campaign promise we made to the students in that election. Why would a guild president working on campus for student issues, need a car? Sensing betrayal of our ideals, I worked with some of my colleagues to challenge this decision.
This is because we didn’t think a guild leader from a humble background should begin with cars to zoom from one hall of residence to another. We all resigned as a group of student leaders from his government when we realized that this wasn’t the kind of leader we needed for the times we faced. Charles, then went headlong into the service of government after university as a security agent and later, an advisor on politics to the president.
The Baganda say “akakyaama amamela bwokagolola kamenyeka”. (What for bent badly at a young age, will break if you straighten it when it is old). I am, therefore, not sure that even under the new politics we seek after, Charles qualifies unless there has been some change in his characteristic diversion of public funds that begun at the university.
The Banyankore say “eriisho rirakutemere embiire Ninga enyamwonyo orireeba Kare” (an eye that will do good for you is seen early). We already have an idea about Charles’ leadership skills. They aren’t anything to write home about. At the risk of drawing comparisons which are absolutely unnecessary today, I would like the reader to know that I had no connections right from my primary school to university other than the grace of God that kept me alive and taught me to work hard and earn every little thing I got and not to beg anyone for anything. When charles worked for the government he now shamelessly accuses me of belonging to simply because of my marriage relations as if government decisions are made by osmosis through marriage, I went to work as an inquisitor and a reporter over the same government. When I realized this wasn’t working, I started a small company to fully utilize my skills and later went back to the little farm that my father left for me in 1999 when he passed on. Together with my Neighbours, we created a small cooperative society to increase milk production and, in due course, we attracted a processing partner for the community’s dairy products.
Charles should therefore know that it isn’t “luck to have a farm” as he claims. Instead, It is refusing to let my life be defined by peers, social proof and those who see government as the beginning and end of life. This luck of mine hasn’t come on a silver platter. It comes with staying up 20 hours a day every single day and enduring endless abuses from people like Charles who think lives begin with government raining manna on their heads. It is refusing to be part of the lamentation groups. It is doing whatever I can to make a difference, however small. I am certain Charles too can find his “luck” in Bugangari, where his parents had a farm than suffer dementia that comes with mid life crisis in the city as I can now see from his dispatches. And just for the record, it takes an emotional bond with a system to become its spy as Charles was until recently.
So, who should have a deeper emotional connection with the NRM and, therefore, responsible for a number of its weakness: Rwabwogo who has never worked for NRM and who has been severally rejected and stopped at all levels and asked to go to LC1 or Rwomushana who spied for the system for long, earned from it and advised its leader at the topmost level on politics? In the end, it is really absurd to live life backwards.
St. Paul in the Bible says when he was a baby he did what babies do. When he was a mature person, he did what mature people do. It isn’t entirely the schools we went to that made us who we turned out to be. No. It is rather what was inside of us that we carried to those schools that mattered most. That which we carried inside our hearts then has either shone brightly with time or deemed so badly along the way for some people.
I went to the worst of schools of the time; from a deeply rural Naama as my primary school, to what was called TATA school of Bujaga in Rwampara, to Mbarara school for higher education and eventually made it to the university and on to Europe for a masters degree. To those rural schools and beyond, I am forever deeply indebted for what they contributed in my life whatever shape and form those schools were in.
But i also know some people who went to First class schools and haven’t contributed much to their communities and country or turned out well as expected.
So, rather than glorifying the past of being a needy student leader and using it as a permanent emotional bargain on people so as to soothe his conscience about a train that has already left the station, Charles should know that comparing the height of midgets doesn’t really lead the measurer anywhere. It is instead what God puts inside the hearts and minds of those midgets and their resolve to live out their purpose that, in the end, really matters and sets people apart. I hope this helps.