Here’s Why Uganda Dictator Museveni’s Glasnost and Perestroika Won’t Work

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Top Ugandan economist Ggoobi. Gen. Museveni will soil him with other NRM pigs. Photo: Twitter.

[View From Kampala]

Ugandan dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni recently announced a slate of new top appointees such as permanent secretaries (PSs) and a top economist is among those who will take their seats at the high table.

Principal among these new appointments is Makerere economics don Ramathan Ggoobi who replaces Keith Muhakanizi at the Ministry of Finance. Muhakanizi has been moved to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). Anyone who has heard Mr. Ngoobi speak on KFM radio’s show “Hot Seat” will agree that he is easily one of Gen. Museveni’s most eloquent critics; this is precisely why the dictator has appointed him to the senior slot. 

His expertise is a secondary matter; Gen. Museveni wants him to serve as the lipstick on the pig, a.k.a the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government. Sure, I concede; I might be accused of being cynical, but we have been to this rodeo many times before. 

Gen. Museveni has a penchant for appointing acclaimed intellectuals to plum positions so that they can become, in a manner of speaking, his bitches in order to legitimize his nefarious politics. This is only a partial list of those enticed by the dictator into his cabinet or for a senior post: Professors Kiddu Makubuya, George Kagonyera, Apollo Nsibambi, Tanga Odoi, Semakula Kiwanuka, Badru Kiggundu, and Gilbert Bukenya. Recall that even self-anointed “Field Marshal” Idi Amin—who’s the subject of a current Netflix documentary “How To Become A Tyrant”—appointed a cabinet chockfull with brains when he first seized power. It was called a “cabinet of talents.”

We now see history repeating itself in a form of latter-day Amin cabinet, as Gen. Museveni creates a top heavy bureaucracy of brains to re-enact the myth of Sisyphus.  To the uninitiated, Sisyphus, or Sisyphos, is a figure from Greek mythology who is forever rolling a boulder up a hill in the depths of Hades, or hell. Every time the boulder seems to be reaching the summit, it rolls down to the bottom and Sisyphus must start his efforts and roll the boulder up again. This was the role of a cabinet minister in Amin’s Uganda; this is the role of minister’s in Museveni’s Uganda, where he has all the ideas, makes all the decisions, and exercises absolute power. 

This ensures that Gen. Museveni continues to fail. He will drag the likes of Ngoobi down with him. Everyone in the Nalya and Ntinda neighborhoods of Kampala witnessed Yale University alumnus Professor Kiddu Makubuya walking around in a daze while clutching a newspaper and wearing sandals soon after Gen. Museveni dropped him from cabinet like a bad habit. 

It was a terrible spectacle and cautionary tale typifying the biblical words: what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

One cannot resuscitate a comatose system by injecting it with new blood. Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev can testify to that. As the Soviet Union was coming apart at the seams, in May 1985, Gorbachev delivered a speech in St. Petersburg, then known as Leningrad, in which he publicly criticized the inefficient economic system of Soviet Russia. He unveiled political and economic restructuring, or perestroika, and called for a new era of transparency and openness, or glasnost. Naturally, this was too little, too late and the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own reforms. 

Gorbachev tried reforms but failed to halt collapse of Soviet regime. Same fate awaits Museveni.

In Uganda, the system of patronage is elephantine while the military and corruption hold sway. In this context, the appointment of new reformist minded Ugandans like Ngoobi will not suffice in inflicting change on status quo. Museveni’s perestroika and glasnost will fail.  

To be sure, Gen. Museveni’s appointments have already been counteracted by the appointments of NRM brown-nosers such as Beti Kamya as the new Inspector General of Government (IGG) —does anyone really believe Gen. Museveni will allow anyone to “inspect” his regime and publicly issue reports detailing the rot all the way to the top?—and Odrek Rwabwogo, Museveni’s own son-in-law, as senior presidential advisor on special duties. 

Ngoobi is now behind enemy lines, without the balls or ammunition of Rambo. He shall be the latest casualty of Gen. Museveni’s system of co-opting the good to dine with the bad so as to conceal the ugliness of the NRM.  

Muhakanizi being moved to the Office of the Prime Minister also tells us that Robinah Nabbanja, the prime minister, is a mere stalking horse for the so called “deep state”. Predictably, after the snowstorm of confetti has settled regarding Ngoobi’s new appointment, I shall be here to give you the weather report in four little words: I told you so.

Columnist Matogo can be reached via 

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