Tuesday, December 3, 2013
The Pan African Movement: Think Tank or Sycophancy Pedlars?
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB (Hons)–Mak; GC Candidate–GCA]
I am very disappointed with and feel betrayed by Pan Africanists. My anger and disappointment arises from the mistreatment that some Pan Africanists subjected me to recently, just last week. For the reasons stated below, I wonder whether they are a think tank as they claim to be or are simply a team of avowed sycophancy pedlars – just singing praise to sitting African regimes and their apologists. On Friday, 29 November, 2013, I attended one of our usual weekly Pan African Club meetings where we discuss topical issues of national, regional and international interest. This time round, our topic of discussion was Civil-Military Relations in Uganda since Independence. We were analysing the interactions between civilians and the army in Uganda, right from the time we got independence from Britain in 1962. Our guest and chief discussant was the UPDF Chief Political Commissar, Colonel Felix Kulayigye, who made a good presentation on the topic. I listened to him attentively and when it was time for responses from the audience, I was given opportunity to speak.
In my contribution, I thanked the UPDF for generally doing a good job of promoting and upholding a harmonious civil-military relationship in Uganda. I said however, that there were two main challenges: first, political bias whereby the UPDF is still a largely personalized army that promotes the interests of its founder, President Museveni, especially, as seen in presidential elections where the army actively campaigns for him. I referred members to the Supreme Court judgments in the 2001 and 2006 presidential election petitions for credible evidence of this. Second, I stated that there are isolated but common incidents of individualized excesses by some military officers who harass civilians. At this moment, Col. Kulayigye asked me to give examples. I told him and others that an example was him and recollected the following incident where he was involved in a weird and ugly confrontation with a civilian.
In March 2007, Col. Kulayigye, then a Major and serving as UPDF Spokesman, pointed his gun on a civilian, Joram and threatened to kill him. Joram was my neighbour, married to Col. Kulayigye’s niece, Brenda. The whole incident resulted from a long standing domestic wrangle between Joram and Brenda. After disagreeing with Joram, Brenda reported to her uncle, Col. Kulayigye, who came with armed men in police uniform and started packing household items like beds, sofa sets and utensils. Joram asked what was happening, but Col. Kulayigye drew out his gun, warning him not to get in his way. Seeing guns, Joram kept his cool and gave him a lee way to load whatever properties they wanted. Thereafter Col. Kulayigye gave Joram a document to sign as someone who had witnessed what Brenda had taken, but he declined saying that he cannot sign for his property. Col. Kulayigye then explained that the men in police uniform were meant to witness the property taken and drove off with Brenda. Most of us, Joram’s neighbours, had gathered outside his gate and were watching in disbelief the commotion he had caused.
During and after giving this information, Col. Kulyaigye was shouting at and intimidating me saying, among other insults, as far as I can recall, that, “No Brian, I cannot allow you to give information that spoils my good name and attacks my integrity.” Several Pan Africanists joined him in shouting and rose up in anger against me, attempting to gag and force me into silence. Unfortunately for them, they found me firm, resolute and steadfast; incapable of intimidation whatsoever. I ably asserted my constitutional right to freedom of speech. After a very bitter exchange, they all sat, calmed down and listened to me. This was victory for me, against an uncompromising mob, a situation that Col. Kulayigye had described in his presentation as “mobocracy” and “anarchy.” I told them to relax since he was present and would have the opportunity to defend himself against all my accusations. But trust the Colonel and his gang; they kept on interrupting me, trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to intimidate and frustrate me. This is majorly the reason why I am very disappointed with and feel betrayed by Pan Africanists. It is right here that I derive the gist of my discussion today. For the time I have interacted with Pan Africanists especially, at the Pan African Club, I have generally enjoyed my stay with them, but I have discovered that this Movement and its ideology have huge inadequacies and challenges, installed designedly or inadvertently. Pan Africanists espouse a very parochial view of the world. To them, it appears that the world begins and ends with Africa, that is, black people and Arabs located in the continent’s territorial borders. Further, they behave like status quoists, acting as patron saints of sitting regimes on the continent.
By promoting Africa, in total disregard and contempt of the rest of the world, Pan Africanists are being Black Supremacists and therefore, racist. I have heard many of them speaking with hatred for white people, particularly Europeans and Americans. For the most part, they cannot explain this hatred such that one has to literally squeeze it out of them. The best they can suggest are colonial injustices and offer escapist arguments. I have endeavoured to explain to many that there are good people among whites, just like there are good people among blacks; and that there are bad people among blacks, just like there are bad people among whites, such that at the end of the day, it is not one’s skin colour, but his or her integrity and character that matters. My colleagues should remember that it is not fashionable to blame colonialism after 50 years of independence. By-the-way, we should ask these extremists whether they expect to live in the world alone, in the event that their policy objectives and aspirations are achieved.
Certainly, we ought to remind Pan Africanists that an oppressor is an oppressor, whether black or white and that we all have a duty to resist oppression everywhere. Pan Africanists seem to be so engrossed in their hatred for whites that they seem not to realise the tremendous changes that those they hate are going through and implementing. For instance, Americans have twice elected a president of clearly known family ties in Africa (Kenya), with a purely black first lady and family. Europe now has black ministers, parliamentarians and other high ranking government officials. In particular, Italy has a female black Minister of Immigration, with close family ties in Africa (DR Congo), while Britain has black members of the House of Lords. Clearly, the Pan Africanists are not only deeply asleep, totally oblivious of political changes around then, but are also swimming against the tide of current global, civilized events.
By acting as patron saints – guardians, worshippers and apologists – of sitting regimes in Africa, Pan Africanists have become sycophancy pedlars or praise singers of the continent’s ruling political elite. Other than my local Pan African Club meetings, I have also attended other activities of this Movement in the past and I have noticed that this is a shared trend among them collectively. I recall that around 2009, during a conference at Makerere University, Senate building, there was a high ranking official of theirs from Ghana, who addressed us on the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region, with particular reference to the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that had indicted President Omar al Bashir for promoting genocide and war crimes there. He vehemently defended President Bashir’s role in that conflict. I remember the Ghanaian guest asking us this question: “What did you expect Bashir to do; present the rebels with a bouquet of flowers?” and exclaimed that, “Hell no!” Later, a resolution condemning the ICC for indicting President Bashir was moved and passed, although some of us seriously opposed it.
For these people, it doesn’t matter that President Bashir is a Sudanese dictator, in power since 1989 and so naturally, part of the reason for the war in Darfur is that the people of Sudan are tired of this dictatorship and are demanding for democracy and freedom by fighting it. So, dictator Bashir, like all other dictators, chose to fight back, by attempting to annihilate everybody! This reminds me of former Libyan dictator, the late Muammar Gadhaffi, who referred to his political opponents as “rats!” For Pan Africanists, these grave excesses notwithstanding, all is well and tolerable as long as they are committed by fellow Africans. Oh God! How much more crude and amateurish can an organization be! I am afraid the Pan African Movement is stuck in the old anti-colonial mentality of rallying citizens around the common cause of fighting colonial masters. At that time, the thinking was that whoever was not with the local leadership was with the colonialists, deserving to be shunned. But now the situation is different. We are now (mis)led by our very own instead of colonial masters. So, we are called upon to be patriotic and as Mark Twain put it, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government only when it deserves it.” Unfortunately, as the situation is now, Pan Africanists are doing the exact opposite of this.
I witnessed the latest examples of Pan Africanist sycophantic trends among many of my local club members. The best example to illustrate this also comes from last Friday’s events. Shortly before convening the meeting, a few of us had occasion to discuss influence peddling and sectarianism existing among African leaders, as evidenced in the political and administrative appointments they make. With us was Mr Wankulu Peter, an old man, probably in his late 70s, who claims to have founded the Organization of African Unity (now African Union), with late Kwame Nkrumah. He strongly castigated President Museveni as a dictator, who shamelessly appointed his wife to be a minister in his government. Yet, when his turn to contribute to the discussion came, he first sought to endear himself to Colonel Kulayigye, saying that by the time he (Mr Wankulu) formed a certain Pan African club, Col. Kulayigye joined as a young boy, yet he is a big man now. Then he shocked and surprised some of us who had heard him speak earlier when he said that he is advocating for an African army and proposes President Museveni to be a field marshal in it. Henceforth, we pitied and really lost respect for him and no longer take him seriously. It is sad that such an old man has no firm stand of his own with which to guide people.
There are two common sayings: first, that show me your friend and I show you who you are; and second, that birds of the same feather flock together. Thus, through their dubious association with corrupt regimes, Pan Africanists have, by acquiescence, become as bad as the regimes they support. Most African leaders are widely known to be poor administrators, incompetent at service delivery. Further, for the most part, they are intolerant, exploitative, sectarian, extortionist, brutal dictators and this ultimately makes them anti-people, consistently violating their human rights. For most of the last 50 years of independence, these leaders have sacrificed development on the altar of personal greed and selfishness, through well knit patronage structures that keep them endeared to their largely suppressed and ignorant populations. Upon close scrutiny of my rough and heart-breaking experience with the Pan Africanists last week, one finds that their actions are similar to those of many African leaders. The insults they hurled at me indicate that they themselves approve of this arbitrariness, highhandedness and are certainly corrupt. In fact, my Pan African friends owe me an apology for violating my fundamental human rights and abusing my personal integrity. It is important to remind them that their continued relevancy in Africa will be dependant upon how well they augur with the people, championing common good and promoting national, not personal interests. They should side with the people in promoting good leadership and accountability. Simply hobnobbing with Africa’s uncaring leaders will take the Pan Africanist Movement to its early grave.
It is self evident and indeed one realizes so, that the Pan African Movement operates and runs on an outdated, archaic and somewhat barbaric ideology, whose aspirations are untenable in today’s highly globalized and complex world. It is caused by a negation of thinking and embracing wholesome sycophancy. This is dangerous because it undermines our reasoning capabilities and growth potential. That is why my colleagues seemed not to figure out the relevancy of my information concerning Col. Kulayigye, arguing that it is private business. Surely, it is plain clear that it is wrong for a soldier to point a gun at a man, even if done to protect a niece from alleged abuse. I volunteered this information to prevent the re-occurrence of similar situations in the future because I am aware that Col. Kulayigye is a father of daughters and sons. If he could harass someone for his niece’s sake, is there anything to stop him from doing worse for his daughter? Certainly not, but now, after exposing him, he may never do it again.
Unfortunately, to many Pan Africanists, true pan Africanism is all about dressing in traditional African attire especially, the Ghanaian and Nigerian fashion; heaping praises on Africa and African leaders, while unreservedly castigating all non-Africans especially, Europeans and Americans; castigating European names and trampling upon perceived opposition. I said earlier, that Col. Kulayigye was joined by some Pan Africanists in trying to prevent me from giving information, arguing that I should respect him as my elder and senior. I explained that whereas I respect him, he should also respect me, at least by respecting my right to freedom of speech. Now therefore, Pan Africanists everywhere need to know that we now live in the era of universal accountability which has profoundly changed our world and continent. Nowadays, advanced age alone is not enough to guarantee respect in society. Today, respect comes from one’s good personal character and integrity, as evidenced in his or her deeds. Short of this, even toddlers will henceforth, deny it to grey haired men and women who have no virtues to stand for and protect. This is the New Thinking for a New Africa, in a New World. It is time for Africa to seriously move forward, embracing prosperity and development for our African people and all our brothers and sisters elsewhere.
Meanwhile, as he quarrelled with me, Colonel Kulayigye informed me that here on earth, human beings meet, unlike other things like mountains. He promised that we shall meet another time. I am not sure what he meant by that. But as I said to him (and I repeat it here) that I hope he doesn’t arrest and throw me in a ‘safe house’ to rot away in there. Being a very security conscious person, I charge him with my personal safety. Should I disappear anytime soon, he should be responsible for producing me.