Saul Alinsky’s Lessons As antidote for Ugandan Dictator Gen. Museveni’s Machiavellian Schemes

Gen. Museveni
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Military dictator Gen. Museveni. His number one concern is survival, not the national interest. Photo: Facebook.

The book Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals is written by the late Saul D. Alinsky. He was an inspiration for a young Barack Obama trying to find his idealistic feet as a community organizer when he moved to Chicago in 1985.

Obama’s official job title was director of the Developing Communities Project, a community organization founded to help Far South Side neighborhoods that were struggling because of steel mill closures. At the time, Obama used Alinsky’s book to guide his own methods of work. 

The opening paragraph of Alinsky’s book makes it perfectly clear who Alinsky’s readers are:

“What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

Machiavellism is so deeply woven in the cheap fabric of Uganda’s sociopolitical life that it has been used to hoodwink the powerless in echo of an Italian proverb which states: Alexander never did what he said; Ceaser never said what he did. Alinsky’s book teaches us that we do not have to focus on the ends as a characterization of the means. And this world does not belong to the rich and infamous alone; it belongs to everyone that inhabits it. 

Although Alinksy had a list of 13 “Rules for Radicals”, we shall focus on four of the most relevant to Uganda’s context. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. 

Gen. Museveni has Bebe Cool as a comrade-in-arms, he appointed Bucha Man as a presidential advisor and consults with Jeniffer Nakingube alias full figure. In so doing, Gen. Museveni has gone outside his expertise of military violence and election tampering to a demimonde populated by lightweights who have never heard about Pol Pot or General Montgomery. This will leave him vulnerable if, as Alinsky counsels, it is used to create insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty within his ranks. 

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. Dr. Stella Nyanzi called Gen. Museveni all sorts of names in the most extravagant language, so she wound up in jail under the charge of “cyber harassment” and “offensive communication.” This elevated her to a prisoner of conscience who was merely exercising her freedom of speech and gave her real estate on the higher moral ground while making Gen. Museveni look intolerant, hypersensitive and vindictive. 

One-zero, in favor of Dr. Nyanzi.   

“A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. Col. Kizza Besigye had been running for president since 2001. His tactic of trying to bury Gen. Museveni under an electoral avalanche left his followers fatigued. So they splintered into the People Power Movement and Major General Mugisha Muntu’s Alliance for National Transformation (ANT). Besigye’s tactics became a drag and so he was overtaken by events. 

“The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. The opposition must not only create an alternative set of policies, but make these policies accessible to a population hungry for change. These policy alternatives must go beyond sloganeering to show a real distinction from the NRM. 

So when Ugandans are confronted by a choice between night and day, they shall overwhelmingly choose the latter. 

Columnist Matogo can be contacted via [email protected] 

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