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From Jajja to “Ghettoman”, M7’s desperation becomes comical

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By Charles Kamya Ssentamu

The rebranding of President Museveni as a “Ghettoman” and twin appointments of Ugandan performing artist Catherine Kusasira and failed singer Butcherman as regime ambassadors to Kampala’s slum dwellers not only validates Bobi Wine as the most preeminent threat to Museveni’s continued hold on to power. It also betrays Museveni’s growing sense of vulnerability and confusion.

In a surprise announcement Saturday, the president named Kusasira his advisor on Kampala while Butcherman was tapped “advisor on Ghetto Affairs”. It prompted gales of ridicule.

Museveni has never been a friend of the millions of Ugandans living on the margins. He actually despises them and cynically manipulates them to suit his goals.

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Ahead of his arrival in Kibuye where he named the latest additions to his retinue of advisors that rarely meet him, a huge banner complete with his portrait that proclaimed him “a ghettoman” was strung up by his handlers. Observers see the development as a last ditch effort by Museveni to split what he assumes to be performing artist turned legislator, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine’s core constituency.

However, his choice of envoys speaks both his lack of influence among the wretched of the country; and of his lack of understanding of the poorest of the poor.

To begin with, Kusasira who has been Museveni’s conduit for cash to victims of his regime – such as the widows of people killed by his regime’s forces – is a reviled figure in Kampala. Her appointment is unlikely to endear city residents to Museveni.

The other appointee, Butcherman whom Museveni also crowned as an alternative “Ghetto president” has long faded as a figure of influence. He has no constituency to deliver to Museveni.

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It is more than a decade since Butcherman broke away from Bobi Wine and has since faded and become a nonentity. Analysts see Butcherman’s elevation as evidence that Museveni’s previous efforts to break Bobi Wine by propping up his competitor Bebe Cool have fallen flat.

The choice of venue for the pronouncements – where he also committed to funnel funds to youth groups – also indicates that some virtual boundaries have been drawn.

Kamwokya in Kampala Central is the base of Bobi Wines support where he has long reigned as Ghetto President. That Kusasira and Museveni chose to stage their charade in Kibuye on the southern fringes of the capital is a reflection of their limited capacity to penetrate “the real ghetto”.

Both Kusasira and Butcherman know that they don’t have any agency with the most impoverished populations and thus the most disaffected with the regime.

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If they are not simply fleecing Museveni of the public money (to which he does appear to attach any value anyway) their best bet is to carve out a foothold in the southern sector of Kampala where there are fewer slum dwellers.

The naming of Kusasira as advisor on Kampala where Museveni already has opposition defector Betty Kamya as minister for the capital also points to Museveni’s culture of intrigue and disdain for formal structures.

It remains to be seen how the rivalry between Kamya and Kusasira on the one hand, and the NRM secretariat to which the latest arrivals are a vote of no confidence will play out on the other.

What Museveni does not realize however is that he is probably chasing after a horse that has already bolted out of the barn.

Bobi Wine’s ghetto is now a national movement that transcends the shanties of Kampala. The wildly popular legislator speaks to the wider issues of injustice and insecurity that affect everyone, and that Museveni’s piecemeal approach is doomed to fail to address.