Museveni’s Uganda: “Country Before Self?” or “What Can I Steal For Self?”

Dictator of 34 years in power and counting
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Gen. Museveni. Photo: Facebook 

[My Free Thoughts]

One of the things I have appreciated about General Mugisha Muntu, the presidential flag bearer for Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), is the slogan he coined that says “Country before self”. Do Ugandans, especially those with power, guns and money actually know what “Country before self” means? Is it easier for people to read it on social media and proclaim it without practicing it in real life?

If Muntu’s slogan were to be put in practice, Uganda would be a better place, where prosperity is shared and opportunities equally accessed regardless of one’s political belonging or region of ethnic origin. I have asked myself questions for some time now and the answers I get are somewhat rude and bitter to very many beneficiaries of Ugandan president Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s gallivanting schemes. What is the purpose when rich people—especially religious leaders like Archbishops, Bishops, Muftis, among others, who can actually afford to buy themselves cars—accept bribes from Museveni in the form of cars and envelopes packed with cash when most of the congregation they are shepherding is beggarly and poor as a church mouse? 

Some of them actually have fleets of cars parked in their compounds. Taxpayers sweat to buy them more. We have the members of Parliament and other civil servants who are given expensive cars, yet they can afford them from their earnings the money they pocket monthly from the government. Where are the patriotic Ugandans who refuse to accept such gifts which are meant to strengthen the bonds of subservience to the despot of 34 years? I want to see a member of Parliament who says “no, I earn a lot and can manage to buy my own car.” I want to see that member then tell Ugandans about the rejected bribe. Not even opposition members of parliament can refuse such expensive gifts of cars from the government. They are all materialistic. None can even come up with a proposal that the government of the republic of Uganda help civil servants finance cars; to give them loans paid back on affordable installments. This was the system in past regimes, when civil servants had car loan repayments chopped from their salaries. 

Everyone in government is a looter if they can’t look back at the poverty our people are trapped in. Instead, they take part in inflating the Uganda budget to satisfy their penchant for opulence and free expensive things. Imagine if the money was actually channeled to poverty eradication programs. If the money was not spent on expensive cars for members of Parliament and religious leaders, we could have medicines and equipment in the hospitals, we could construct roads, we could build classroom blocks for our students, and provide free sanitary pads to girls in school! 

Is there any other country in the world so dominated by thieves like Uganda? The president is a thief and liar, his wife and his ministers, and the whole caboodle are thieves. Who will save us from thieves? The president himself planted this vice and the seed has found fertile ground, leading to dire and indescribable poverty. 

It seems everyone is competing to loot this country in one way or another. “Country before self” means putting selfishness aside for a better nation where prosperity is shared and opportunities equal for every Ugandan. 

The worst legacy of this National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime is the present mindset of some Ugandans—“what can I grab from the country?”.  Nobody seems to think of “what can I do for Uganda?”

The writer is a novelist. He is the author of The Greedy Barbarian and Banana Republic, Where Writing Is Treasonous. He can be reached on [email protected]

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