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Can there be a right way of doing wrong things?

By Kalundi Serumaga

Commentary is now revolving around marveling at “Mzee’s” magezi in outmaneuvering yet another opponent

One of the main problems faced in Uganda politics, is to find oneself trapped in an argument about who is “less wrong”, between two sides that are both in the wrong to begin with.

We have seen this time and again since the advent of the NRM as a ruling party. The first and simplest example of this is the “at least we are not Idi Amin” argument that even president Museveni has used on many an occasion.

Another example, which best brings out the true absurdity of the problem was when, during the long-running 2005 election duels in Lwemiyaga county between the rival Theodore Sekikuubo and Sam Kuteesa-proxy camps, the matter ended up in court. There, one camp accused the other of violating the terms of an agreement the two camps had privately arrived at on how to collect and count the ballots during the election. It fell to the presiding judge to gently explain to them that since only the Electoral Commission had the legal power to design election procedures, both sides had broken the law in agreeing upon an election approach that fell outside what the EC had already laid down.

Such thinking reminds me of a story I once heard about life on a white settler’s farm in the highlands of colonial Kenya. The mzungu Bwana was fed up with how one of the house servants used to sneak into the drinks cabinet and take a tot or two of the boss’ whiskey. What annoyed the boss most was how this servant would always emphatically deny the pilfering whenever confronted, especially since it was illegal for Africans to drink hard liquor in those days. So, the boss hatched a plan: whenever he had finished drinking for the evening, he would mark the outside of the bottle at the level at which he left the drink.

However, his servant was no fool. Having discovered the master’s trick, he continued stealing the drink, but would erase the boss’ mark, and carefully make an identical one at the stolen level lower down.

The boss was not a fool either. Realising that the servant was on to him, he continued making the marks that he know his servant was erasing, but then also made new ones by first holding the bottle upside down and then making a mark at what would now be towards the top end of the bottle. So, the emptier the bottle, the higher the mark, something the servant completely missed.

After some time, he was able to confront his worker with the upside-down marks, showing that the drink was decreasing even on days when he as the boss had not been around to have drunk some of it. This completely cornered the servant, who could only respond by complaining that his boss was “very unfair” in using such advanced tactics to outwit him.

The reports of NRM Secretary General (and national Prime Minister) Amama Mbabazi complaining that “this is not the Yoweri Museveni I know” after his boss tabled details of Mbabazi’s private political plans allegedly for ascending to the presidency, before the entire parliamentary caucus meeting held at State House last week, also fall into this line of “very unfair” protestations.

Mbabazi reportedly elaborated that the Museveni he “knew” would have normally taken him aside to raise his concerns in private, and then only taken a new harmonised position to the wider forum. In short, the problem, as he saw it, was not that the President had behaved in a conspiratorial manner (by clandestinely recording the SG’s private conversations and generally spying on him). The problem was that the president had seen fit to engage in a conspiracy that, instead of the SG being invited to join as he has come to expect, he was its target.

Neither has Mbabazi seen it as a problem that the Presidency –if all reports are correct- has been using the state intelligence services to tackle an internal party matter. One would have thought that, as head of government business, a Prime Minister would have expressed concern at how government resources are being misused in a time of austerity, as well as the constitutional implications of involving state employees in political party work. Or even organising political party meetings in State House, for that matter.

As citizens, Ugandans are always at risk of being dragged in to such wholly unprincipled conflicts without the aid of a moral compass. A lot of commentary is now revolving around who is preferable as Uganda’s president; or worse still: simply marveling at “Mzee’s” magezi in outmaneuvering yet another opponent.

Can there be a right way of doing wrong things? Ugandans need to reflect on this or run the risk of being forced to choose between two false choices. Let the bulls fight on alon

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