May 13, 2012 · 0 Comments
In a lengthy piece on the UPDF’s role in Somalia last week, Charles Onyango Obbo (of The-Ear-to-the-Ground) definitely touched President Museveni’s delicate elements inviting a spirited resistance to back pedal over a ‘complimentary gesture’ from “enemy” quarters. I really didn’t think much of Obbo’s piece until I read the salvo coming out of State House. Museveni’s response bordered on comedy and only raised unnecessary curiosity.
Well, I went back and forth between the two articles trying to understand why the President, this time around had decided to treat Obbo with bare knuckles as “one of the greatest enemies of the NRM”.
To a lay reader, Obbo’s piece heaped praise on the UPDF in Somalia. The UPDF has evolved over the years and its engagement in that wasted country has brought with it new lessons and progressive transformation within its ranks which many would agree President Museveni can rightly claim as one of his success stories of all time.
The UPDF has certainly outdone its predecessors in terms of discipline, and professionalism. Indeed, as Obbo points out, the lessons learnt in Somalia should add professional value to the UPDF as they continue to become a respected force on the continent and globally.
But the relationship between these two gentlemen has always been frosty, sealed by a historical fate of both men ‘coming to life’ at the same time like that of the biblical Esau and Isaac and crookedly cemented by fault lines within a shared ideology.
You really need to go back to understand why the two have spurred over two decades; that is a subject I will not get into today lest I get bruised by either men but Mr Museveni latest salvo only confirms the heap of mistrust he has for the journalist and anyone associated with his ideas. Obbo on the other hand is a tree, long bent lee wards by an insatiable futility, akin to a jigger that tries to find a home within its unwelcoming victim. Any attempt at gouging would prove disastrous.
In an earlier piece for his column titled; In Mogadishu, a Ugandan colonel fights a war of a very different kind, Obbo heaped praise on one Ugandan commander Lt. Col. Kamurari Katwekyeire; a man who had succeeded to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Somali women by organising a shopping centre for them.
Then, in Somalia the UPDF finally found its freedom and peace, Obbo once again lays praise on the UPDF, whose maturity has come of age with the Somalia mission. In both articles, Obbo commits a crime that would have easily landed a serving UPDF officer (luckily he is not one) to a Court Martial. Given the disdain between the two men, both are deliberate against each other and it is therefore likely that Obbo chose to ignore or actually distance these achievements from Museveni.
Museveni finds faults with somebody trying to praise what would be his brain-child and completely ignores him. Museveni has presided over 26 years of perceived socio-economic and political transformation; in the process he has crafted for himself a litany of success stories. He believes, for example that he created the UPDF and is entirely responsible for its evolution and current standing.
For Museveni, the UPDF represents an ideological success and therefore any commentary on the institution, more than any other in this country attracts his immediate attention. Obbo’s mistake is, attempting to alienate UPDF’s evolution from its godfather. The problem though is that there is too much emphasis on material success within the NRM and nobody is bothered by the more substantial legacy of attitudes and morality.
It partly explains why Museveni is comfortable with the ongoing destruction of wetlands, forests, and game parks, the high level of corruption, nepotism and tribalism, the deliberate alienation of the northern and eastern parts of the country into abject poverty and yet on several public occasions he might list several roads or buildings that his government has financed or allowed to sprout – a show of socio-economic transformation.
Museveni is infuriated by Obbo’s exposition that attempts to water down 26 years of hard work. At this point in time, Museveni is more concerned about his legacy more than anything else but it is this same legacy that Obbo underpins as lacking in substance, that any achievements are purely “accidental” and those that might be counted like the UPDF lack the ideological signature of Museveni.
Between the two men, is a frontline of an ideological rivalry; one claiming authorship and actualisation, the other downplaying it as an irrelevant watershed of Uganda’s history, which future generations will live to pay for.
The interesting thing in this relationship though is that it seems every time there is a ‘public’ exchange such as this latest one, the rest of us learn a little more about, not just about the two men, rather the psych of the national leadership, its drive and possible outcomes on the one hand, and the opposing forces that create the required equilibrium for the leadership to maintain a certain level of sanity, on the other.
It is important for Museveni to portray Obbo as a consummate liar just as he has on several occasions described the Monitor as an “opposition” newspaper. That way he has a chance to win over the half-hearted and preserve his legacy. The reality though is that this presumed legacy must continually be tested for its immortality. It is one thing to have a statue erected in one’s honour but there must be good reason for future generations to believe in its preservation.