Monday, October 28, 2013
The Cost of Petty Politics
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; LLB (Hons)–Mak; PG Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; PGDLP–LDC]
On Friday, 25 October, 2013, Major (Rtd) Rubaramira Ruranga, formally announced to the media and Ugandan public, of his decision to shift allegiance from the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) political party to the ruling National Resistance Movement Organization (NRM-O) party. This is known as “crossing” in common political parlance. He gave, as his reason for crossing, the need to work closely work with President Museveni, also NRM-O chairman, ostensibly on tackling HIV/AIDS. Whereas there is nothing wrong with this behaviour per se, as a matter of principle however, it is highly problematic.
First, we need to know who Major Rubaramira is and what he represents. Aged 65 years, Major Rubaramira is a retired UPDF soldier, publicly declared his HIV + status in 1993, at a time when stigma was rampant, thereby gaining global respect and admiration. Since 2001, he has been an active opposition politician. He has been engaged in the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), which he joined in 2005, after Uganda opted to be governed under the multiparty political dispensation. He rose through the party’s ranks and at one time served as its Electoral Commission Chairperson, before retiring from active politics in 2007, only to bounce back in 2012, campaigning for Honourable Nandala Mafabi, vying for the FDC presidency, against Major General (Rtd) Mugisha Muntu. Hon. Mafabi lost to Gen. Muntu. Much to his credit, Major Rubaramira is not known to be tainted by corruption. Clearly, he is a seasoned leader of quite good national and international publicity. As such therefore, he is presumed to be of good character and high moral integrity – a reputation that under normal circumstances must be cherished and jealously guarded.
For the reasons below, Major Rubaramira’s decision embarrasses him as a person and Uganda’s democratic processes altogether. It is indicative of today’s costly petty politics, in terms of our country’s governance and prosperity. I think:
One, it shows political immaturity that is characteristic of novices because in spite of his advanced age, work experience and public standing, he is still shifty and politically undecided. This undermines engendering political convictions and ideology.
Two, certainly Major Rubaramira went for the little financial benefits (as he prepares to meet his creator, sooner than later), courtesy of the state, by being appointed to largely political and idle offices like Presidential Advisor, which under President Museveni has become an empty cask for exiting and rejected politicians. It is said that every politician has a price: the good-old-man has determined his. The allegation of crossing to fight HIV/AIDS with President Museveni is a hoax, meant to politicize this struggle. Anyone fighting HIV/AIDS need not belong to a particular political party to do so.
Three, it highlights the grime reality that political parties in Uganda are mere electoral vehicles, clamouring for political power. Political leaders willingly sell or mortgage their conscience in exchange for monetary rewards. This is true for MPs who are always broke and running away from money lenders. By-the-way, one wonders whether Major Rubaramira would have crossed, had his candidate Hon. Nandala, won the FDC party presidency.
Finally, given Major Rubaramira’s age and public status, his crossing was disgraceful, contemptible, unworthy of celebration by the NRM and should be ignored. It is unhealthy for Uganda’s wider political and democratic growth. In the future, such behaviour should be left to boys, not men, moreover, those wearing grey hairs, which in Africa are associated with wisdom.