Before it was even tested, Uganda’s two-term limit on occupying the presidency was of course killed in a 2005 referendum, where the combination of alternatives presented could have only been designed on the assumption that we, the voters, were a stupid public.
To an intelligent voter, there were proposals to which the answer would (or could) have been “yes”, and others to which the answer would (or could) have been “no”. But the voter was required to embrace or reject the proposals as a set, the so-called ‘omnibus’.
For instance, if you believed in party pluralism, you were forced to forego the limit on presidential terms.
With the heat over a proposal to lift the age-75 limit now building up, it seems to be extremely difficult for those peddling such a constitutional amendment to be intelligible, let alone sound reasonably intelligent.
If those opposed to the amendment mount enough pressure to force the peddlers to fall silent on the matter, they will have forced only a tactical retreat. That silence, too, will be to fool us, a stupid public. The issue will re-emerge. The ruling clique will create conditions to make it come up again before 2021.
As I have implied, trying to make sense of the noise calling for an amendment is a futile enterprise. Indeed, to engage at all in counter arguments is to give the babble far more respect than it deserves.
The purveyors of the amendment perfectly understand the rational position, and they have deliberately taken a stance against that position because they assume they are dealing with a stupid public, us.
But what exactly is the disease eating up these supporters of President Museveni?
Greed is generally cited; that they are eyeing rewards for helping Mr Museveni extend his stay in office.
That cannot be disputed. Indeed, so corrupted is the NRM political mindset that the President’s backers assume that even the ‘no’ camp is driven by greed; that those who vociferously oppose lifting the age limit are also targeting money; that they want President Museveni to pay them to switch camps, or at least to become silent.
But a week or so ago, I heard of one of the most comical schemes invented. It looks like this:
Mr Museveni is the undisputed chairman, visionary and real life supremo of the ruling NRM. However, one of his semi-disgraced media functionaries started a rumour, that he and a few of his friends were (rumoured) to be planning to form a new political party, whose purpose would not be to seek power, or even to champion some specific socio-economic ideas, but to support Mr Museveni.
A separate political party formed to support the leader of the most powerful party in the land!
Moreover, this is after the functionary, who seems to enjoy his reputation as a ‘ruffian’, has savagely denounced so many senior officials appointed by Mr Museveni and virtually declared the President incapable of defeating the country’s Mafiosi.
Herein then may lie one of the diseases eating up the President’s ‘friends’. It is the sense of being hopelessly hypocritical and despised.
There are few situations that are more humiliating than licking the boots of a superior whose judgment and general competence you hold in contempt. And it may be natural to unconsciously desire that the master you worship also ultimately gets humiliated and despised.
A century ago, the Austrian psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud, cast a sharp light on a deadly ambivalence; how we simultaneously love and hate our fellow humans; how we cooperate with them and also want to harm them.
Have you pondered how the misfortune of those above you sometimes thrills you?
The President’s friends know exactly why he so thoroughly despised his predecessors. He called them swine. But these friends now find themselves having to go very low in the gutter to campaign for him as ‘mercenaries’ to earn their buttered bread.
Yet they also have their self-regard, just like Mr Museveni. What could be sweeter than if the President was perceived to be sinking in esteem at the same rate as they were losing their respect?
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.