JINJA – Let me begin by reviewing the views of others as to what politics is and involves so that it might be easy for us to understand why political underdevelopment and political illiteracy at whatever level of society are dangerous vices.
The Columbia Encyclopedia gives an assortment of definitions of Politics. I will highlight a few, in somewhat modified form, for the purposes of this article.
“Politics has come to convey the meaning of crafty and cunning selfishness, instead of candid and sincere service”. This statement is attributed to Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), U.S. President.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976), Chinese founder of the People’s Republic of China. Lecture, May 1938. “On Protracted War,” saw politics as “war without bloodshed” and war as “politics with bloodshed”. However, in a country like Uganda the boundary politics as war without bloodshed and war as politics with bloodshed has been blurred over the last 37 years. Here politics is a matter of life and death. Politics is war and war is politics -both mediated by bloodshed, which is now more or less integral to current governance. How this will end only God knows.
According to one school of thought, politics begin where the masses are, not where there are thousands, but where there are millions that is where serious politics begin. Indeed in the Uganda of today, alternative political forces to the ruling ones have been for decades excluded from the masses and laws put in place to perpetually exclude them.
They are allowed, controllably, to appear to participate in elections, which the ruling forces – often armed to the teeth – must win at all costs. Some people see politics as the “art of the possible” manifesting between the ideal and reality, Others, such as US economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, saw politics, not as the art of the possible as many see it, but as consisting in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924), Russian revolutionary leader, said that politics begin where the masses are, not where there are thousands, but where there are millions, that is where serious politics begin and, this way, tutored the world’s so-called revolutionaries where to focus their energies without allowing others to participate in politics meaningfully.
Uganda’s self-proclaimed revolutionaries thus took Lenin word as Bible-like truth.
Some people see politics as a man’s game, which is often made dirty by dirty or evil political actors pursuing individual goals or gains using the agency of people, the majority of whom are politically underdeveloped and politically illiterate, and are largely unconcerned about what politicians do or do not do but with daily survival or what they put in mouth or pocket. This to a large extent explains the proliferation of political and financial corruption. Otherwise, politics is pure.
According to George F. Will (1984), U.S. political columnist, politics should share one purpose with religion: the steady emancipation of the individual through the education of his passions. Unfortunately, in Uganda, political education in schools was banned and debates in universities and schools are no longer meaningfully done, if at all.
Former US President Ronald Reagan saw it as “show business”, Indeed that is what it is today in Uganda. Elections are just a deception. Money does the work for those seeking political office. The one with most money takes the political offices. People’s choices no longer matter. Increasingly, leaders are selected by power for them. They have no freedom to choose, especially with the rise of political inheritance of those in or attached to power.
Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), Hungarian-born British author, saw politics, as a practise, and as having no other rule possible than the old one that “the end justifies the means”. Virtually all so-called revolutionaries hype it to pursue their goals of power. In Uganda, “the End justifies the Means” guides political choices and actions and has done so since President Yoweri Museveni captured the instruments of power on January 25 1986. It has guided state capture and is guiding the grabbing of land from indigenous communities by people previously integral to the nomadic pastoralist human energy system now seeking to be the new landowners and to convert the indigenous peoples into a cheap source of labour for their proliferating land-based enterprises.
On the other hand, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), former US President, had this to say of politics: “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage”.
Unfortunately, in Uganda politics has been monopolized by a few families of former bush war Generals and those in their patronage chains. Peoples and community rights no longer stand in their way. While politics has become everything and the most lucrative source of employment, it has been made exclusive, with the majority as non-consequential and onlookers and only good for political buying at times of elections.
Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980), French novelist, dramatist, philosopher, political activist, saw Politics as a science because one can demonstrate that one is right and that others are wrong. In Uganda’s politics right and wrong are easily exchangeable. Wrong can be a virtue and right can be a vice. The wrong can be glorified and the right can be persecuted. It is a quagmire and a let-down of millions. In “Tyranny,” A Certain World”, W.H. Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973), states: “The belief that politics can be scientific must inevitably produce tyrannies. Politics cannot be a science, because in politics theory and practice cannot be separated, and the sciences depend upon their separation (unfortunately). Empirical politics must be kept in bounds by democratic institutions, which leave it up to the subjects of the experiment to say whether it shall be tried and to stop it if they dislike it, because, in politics, there is a distinction, unknown to science, between Truth and Justice”.
However, this sounds alien in Uganda of today. Failing experiments such as money bonanzas or foreign investments can continue with no heed to the losses of public money through corruption and/or state funding of so-called investors. People’s’ choices and dislikes do not matter. It is presidential choices, likes and dislikes that matter. When experiments and foreign investments funded by the state fail, no one apologises losses of public money, and other experiments and investments are hatched in chain form.
We hear and read so many long speeches of people who call themselves revolutionaries and who often hide conceal their criminal records. Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) in his book “Revolution and Progress,” has this to say about revolutionary politics, which dominated Cuba for decades under Fidel Castro, and has dominated Uganda for nearly four decades under President Museveni, reducing everything to politics and turning every day into a day of politics, almost postponing meaningful work and service to the people: “Revolutionary politics, revolutionary art, and oh, the revolutionary mind, is the dullest thing on earth. When we open a “revolutionary” review, or read a “revolutionary” speech, we yawn our heads off. It is true, there is nothing else. Everything is correctly, monotonously, dishearteningly “revolutionary.” What a stupid word! What a stale fuss!”
Otherwise in politics, it seems, retreat is honourable if dictated by military considerations and shameful if even suggested for ethical reasons (Mary McCarthy (1912-1989). British Conservative Party Politician, Cecil Parkinson (1990) said “In politics people give you what they think you deserve and deny you what they think you want”. This so true for Uganda, where people want prosperity and we are given poverty and slavery instead. We want markets for our products our rulers give us money bonanzas selectively so that we accept that illusionary development is what we need to get out of poverty.
“We want freedom and democracy; they give us militarism and obnoxious laws. We want an integrated, productive country, they give us a disintegrated country highly dependent on the whims of the President, who has captured every aspect of the country’s life and institutions to retain and sustain himself in power. Unfortunately, this brand of governance has bred a closed, unquestioning society in which all and sundry, from top to bottom, have become politically underdeveloped and politically illiterate and, therefore, easily manipulated and deceived, and subjugated the other arms of government (Legislature and Judiciary) to the Executive, which is President Museveni. In one sentence, institutionalism is not working properly
Let me leave the issue of politics because it is not the subject matter of this article. In any case anything definable can have as many definitions as they are definers. However, in an environment in which politics has become the springboard to everything in all spheres of life, it is best to know and understand what politicians do, why they do what they do and how they do it if you are not going to be just an object and subject of manipulation and exploitation, which is increasingly the case in Uganda.
One is able to escape ignorance only if one is politically developed and politically literate. It is dangerous and threatening well in the future if leaders are islands of political underdevelopment and political illiteracy, two vices which are resident in the mind, and only one of them is politically developed and politically literate. That person will easily turn himself to an epicentre of everything. All projects, strategies, plans, ideas in development, and even resistance to change will start with him and end with him. However, when they fail, he will easily turn the blame to the politically underdeveloped and politically illiterate.
When one is politically-development, one will hate fear with the attitude that “the first thing to fear is fear itself” and seek to ensure that one enjoys full political participation and involvement in the affairs of one’s country. One will question whatever goes wrong and is done wrongly. For example, if a national budget is said to be Ugx50trn in a fiscal year but by the second quarter on a quarter of that has been released, a politically developed person will begin to ask “Why, what, how, when, where, who?
Questions like 1. Why has so little money been released to government Ministries, Departments and institutions?
2. What is the motive behind releasing so little money and suffocating the work of Ministries, Departments and institutions?
3. How are the decisions being taken to under-release funds?
4. Who is or are behind those decisions?
5. When will the reminder of the funds be released, and why is the timing so wrong and unconscious of consequences?
6. In case the funds are not released where do they go, and where have they gone in the past? Who will ultimately be responsible for letting down the country on development and services? In an open society where freedom and democracy are valued and genuinely promoted, there would be national debates and debates in schools and universities, or even demonstrations.
However, the impression being created is that the governors of the country do not want any positive change by functional ministries, departments and institutions. A politically-developed person, would therefore ask, why choose stagnancy over dynamism by restrictions of disbursements of funds as okayed by Parliament? But then a politically developed mind would ask: Why has Parliament collectively chosen silence over the matter, yet members are supposedly representatives of the people? What will they do in case an even bigger national budget is requested for 2023/24 when funds they okayed for 2022/23 are not properly accounted for?
And what is political literacy? Welt, Wikipedia defines political literacy as “a set of abilities considered necessary for citizens to participate in a society’s government and that it includes an understanding of how. There is evidence to show that most Ugandans, literate and illiterate, are becoming increasingly politically illiterate. They will not bother to ask the right questions because they are burdened by political ignorance. Many things, such as elections are done wrongly, but they continue to take part un-meaningfully. Many are politically unconscious and unconcerned. They cannot mention trending political issues or even suggest new ideas that will affect them positively politically.
It is political illiteracy, together with political underdevelopment, that allowed the designers to give us a Uganda Constitution 1995 that does not reflect the views of Ugandan about how they wanted to be governed.
How could we accept a constitution to be promulgated that squeezed out the collective view of 65% of Ugandans that the government of Uganda should be a federal govern and the State of Uganda should be a federal State if it were not our collective political underdevelopment and political illiteracy? It is this collective political underdevelopment and political illiteracy that has allowed politics to become everything and to turn the country more into a consumptive society, with meaningful production a thing of the past.
The collectivity has allowed presidentialism to proliferate and the institution of President to be more sovereign the people of Uganda and their country. It has allowed the country to become once again a labour reserve as the British colonialists have initially planned, and to turn most of the population into a slave labour force internally and externally. The country is now more of a paradise for foreigners such as Indians and Chinese and a ready receptacle of refugees, and correctly a refugee economy as asserted in one article.
In one sentence there is a crisis of political underdevelopment and political illiteracy across all social strata in Uganda, with dire consequences.
One consequence is that we have become unfit for the fast-changing 21st century of new and different knowledge, information and communication. There is no evidence that Ugandans are waking up to this truisms. Consequently, Uganda is destined to become a country in which indigenous peoples are no longer its owners and are third rate citizens.
The clarion call is “We should wake up from Slumber and Rescue Our Country and Ourselves”. God helps the awake, not the asleep, and who are ready to take full charge of themselves and their country. The dependency and docility syndrome makes God to flee.
For God and My Country.