Friday, November 23, 2012
Understanding President Museveni’s Huge State House Budget
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB (Hons)–Mak; Dip. LP Candidate–LDC]
On Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, our colleague Ms Amour Hashimah lost her beloved father in Oman. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Several of us travelled with her to her ancestral home in Bugiri district so that she may join the rest of her family in mourning. I thank all those who stood with and comforted our friend in this difficult moment in her life. A common theme of discussion in the course of our to and fro journey and during our stay in Bugiri was the issue of the huge State House budget and its impact on the national economy. A lot of ideas were exchanged, the veracity and authenticity of which I cannot necessarily guarantee, such as that State House spends Ug Shs 500,000 per week on tomatoes alone and that recently, two Mercedes Benz cars worth Ug Shs 6-10 billion were bought for His Excellency the President. Many other huge expenses were also alleged. I know for a fact that President Museveni, his wife Janet, their adult and married daughters and son, together with their grandchildren, run on a State House budget that is far much bigger than that of Agriculture which supports 80% of Uganda’s population of 30+ million people! Unfortunately though, none of my colleagues attempted to analyze and explain why President Museveni finds it necessary to splash such colossal sums of money on himself and really his wife alone since their children are fully grown up and are able to work and support themselves and their families.
Without doubt, this was a legitimate and highly relevant discussion. I must say that I was excited to see young Ugandans passionately exchanging views on issues of great national importance. People were visibly competing to speak out and be heard. Since I could not favourably compete, I have decided to reduce my thoughts on paper today, albeit from a philosophical dimension. To understand President Museveni’s huge State House budget, one has to understand the nature of our society first and then Museveni the person. We live in an agrarian and peasant society that borders on feudal social structure. This mode of human organization glorifies patronage and human subservience to Supremos or Lord-like figures, commanding a fatherly stature and play protective roles in society. One’s wealth naturally gives them this revered status. In the modern monetary economy, this is easily evidenced by how much disposable income one has such that wealth confers power and influence on its beholder. President Museveni has mastered this, which is why he will not relinquish the presidency any time soon. Not when he still has his East African presidency dreams. His expansionist and domineering tendencies cannot allow him to do that. East Africa being demographically similar, the son of Kaguta knows that he must pass off as the wealthiest in the region in order to win the hearts and loyalty of majority peasants looking up to him for survival. Since he cannot accumulate wealth independently and more genuinely through say, business, he must rely on state resources to sponsor his personal projects under the guise of national interest. Ironically, one may not blame him very much because this is part of strategic thinking; for Nicollo Machiavelli in his book The Prince, wrote as early as 1543, that a ruler’s wealth impresses his people and endears him to them. Unlike in developed Europe, America and Asia where leaders’ simplicity is fashionable, the reverse is true here because we have no middle class to speak of.
One for the road
Someone asked me why Moslems bury the dead within one day. Well, when Islam was being founded, Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and his followers were seriously and bitterly witch-hunted by both the spiritual and temporal authorities of the day – so much so that there was hardly any time to waste on long mourning periods. Rituals like burials and prayers had to be swift and expeditious because Moslems were constantly on the move. This did not change even when Mohammed finally settled in Saudi Arabia where he established his headquarters since this practise had become an acceptable tradition. Moreover, Mohammed lived in an extremely hot place where decomposition was more or less instantaneous such that the dead had to be buried as soon as possible.