ANDREW KARAMAGI: Uganda Is Not A Sole Proprietorship

Andrew Karamagi. /Facebook

You, my brother and friend, Ivan Okuda, made a compelling argument over the weekend and seasoned it with persuasive examples and anecdotes.

For several hours after reading it (twice), I kept thinking about what your standpoint implies for the democratization process in our homeland Uganda, and most sub-Saharan Africa countries.

In the next few dozen words, I would like to show why the fatalism that underpins your thesis is persuasive but very dangerous, to put it mildly, defeatist and runs counter to the democratic ethos—which I know you believe in, or at least are a scholar of.

From the outset, I must agree with you and say that the proposition that the world owes us (young people) nothing is true but is only valid (and even then, with limitations such as antitrust) when applied to the corporate world of legal practice for example, the performing arts and perhaps athletics, or sports, generally.

It would be grotesque and shameless to blame Usain Bolt for winning a triple treble (three gold medals for each of the three 100-metre-sprints he took part in at the Beijing, Berlin and Rio Olympiads) and say he should have run slower so that other contestants have a chance at winning gold.

Similarly, no one would expect Michael Jackson (the greatest entertainer that has ever lived, in my view), to dim his genius just so that others get a chance to shine. His lyrical genius, spectacular performances and penchant for perfection is the reason why his works will live on forever.

By the same token, our learned brothers and sisters like David Mpanga, Ruth Ssebatindira, Robert Kirunda, Nicholas Opiyo, Busingye Kabumba and Irene Ovonji, to name a few, have earned their places in the Parthenon of legal practice in Uganda and beyond.

Ditto Professors Oloka-Onyango, Jean John Barya, Sylvia Tamale and Frederick Jjuuko, insofar as the academy is concerned.

All the above greats have paid their fair share of all-nighters, long days, stress, smear campaigns, intimidation, the works. It would be the height of unfairness to expect them to “make way” for us merely because we are young.

Without exception, we must burn our own candles at both ends, put in what it takes if we want to scale the heights that these Ugandan luminaries have ascended to.

That, my brother Okuda, is as far as your argument can go without running into legal, moral and several other impediments.

Read: In defence of Kadaga, Besigye and Museveni et al on the claim, “You are blocking others”

You cannot transplant your argument to the political arena, more so in a society whose stated aspiration is to become a democracy. At any rate, Uganda is not a sole proprietorship in which Emperor Museveni and the Royal Family own majority shares.

This is why there are rules that govern political competition and sanctions for excesses, never mind that the ruling junta looks at the Constitution as a list of suggestions which they can implement or disregard depending on whether it serves their interests or not.

By the logic of your well-crafted argument, there should be no problem for Gen. Yoweri Museveni to run roughshod over the Opposition, raid the Central Bank to literally buy an electoral victory, use the country’s armed forces to clobber, maim, torture and kill those with a divergent opinion…after all, according to you, he mobilized his peers, waged a war that cost upwards on half-a-million Ugandan lives, captured power and has ruled longer than all post-independence Ugandan leaders tenures combined.

For goodness sake, Mr. Museveni ascended to power waxing lyrical about democracy and its related tenets. He is estopped from going back on his word.

“No one should think that what is happening today is a mere change of guard: it is a fundamental change in the politics of our country. In Africa, we have seen so many changes that change, as such, is nothing short of mere turmoil. We have had one group getting rid of another one, only for it to turn out to be worse than the group it displaced. Please do not count us in that group of people.” – President Museveni 1986

We should not farther arm our ageing African despots and their Comrade Dictators with such sanitization and rationalization that will help them normalize the personalization of entire countries, at a great cost to citizens.

With the greatest respect, the potential of the absurdity that your logic portends is limitless. It should not be fueled.

Post World War Two, humanity has made efforts towards making the world a safer, more accommodating and less violent place. Many initiatives have faltered, and some bloody conflicts still persist, but the trendlines overall show that as a species, we have made significant strides towards peaceful coexistence across race, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic standing.

Studies such as the Worldwide Statistics of Casualties, Massacres, Disasters and Atrocities confirm this.

No one can commit the kind of atrocities Genghis Khan wrought on the cities he ravaged throughout his blood-soaked campaigns and conquests, for example, and get away with it. Nuremberg and the present-day Rome Statute exist for precisely the same reason.

Power must be exercised within the frameworks and underpinning doctrines like Separation of Powers, the Rule of Law and an independent Press. Whether or not this is our lived reality or experience cannot be the raison d’etre for the state-of-affairs in our country and the Great Lakes generally. If our fate is sealed, then we should resign and accept to live under the ongoing repression, without question.

Young people should mobilise and organize to realise their political aspirations (and of course be ready to pay the cost) but we cannot allow, without challenge, the entitlement mentality that pervades the thinking and actions of yesterday’s liberators who have evolved into today’s oppressors.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Africa Tembelea’s editorial stance.


Andrew Karamagi – is a Ugandan Lawyer and Activist

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