Museveni’s toilet and the metaphor of a broken system
By Edith Wandera
President Museveni has continued his regular television appearances that are ostensibly intended to communicate measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Some have started saying he should have a reality show similar to Keeping Up with the Khardashians in which the role of Kim Khadashian is played by President Museveni. But more importantly, that show too is known to lack any substance, pure fluff.
Initially it was expected that Museveni would announce the general message regarding the pandemic and leave his subordinates to fill in the details. This is what Gen David Sejussa called “Commander’s Intent” in his recent tweet. But Museveni will not allow his subordinates to shine. “Is there written operational plan(clear/detailed&disseminated)for us to follow?When Head of State gives strategic guidelines(directives)showing vision/intent;orders must be generated by those under him that deals with purpose,method, end state.Was this done?,” Gen Sejusa asked on March 27.
As a result, he must appear on television even to announce the most minute details in person. In the process, he is embarrassing himself by having to make clarifications about what he meant, for instance, by “inside” or “outside” toilets.
He is making the work of his subordinates difficult because he is occupying every space, while adding little value to the COVID 19 prevention efforts. As anyone must have noted, when he lets his subordinates do their work, they do it exceptionally well.
Consider the health Minister Dr Ruth Jane Aceng. Almost every Ugandan agrees that she has been more than competent: the way she explains the measures in place and how she plans to tackle each and every one of the challenges. However, the moment Ugandans started to point to her calibre as a public official, Museveni immediately sensed danger. Now it is as if he is sabotaging his own government by stepping in to offer conflicting information that he himself goes on social media to “correct.”
Did the system fail?
“Ministers etc are saying ‘president’s orders were misunderstood on arcades etc&people were beaten etc!’ It was not just misunderstanding but complete departure from the strategic guidelines that were issued in that address! So,did the system fail?Who messed up?,” Sejusa tweeted, this time in reference to the beating of people that were also said to be a result of ‘misunderstandings.’
It reveals two things about this country. Either there is no system in place, which has prompted Museveni to step in to do the work of his subordinates; or some pockets may exist and are functioning but they are part of a system that is entirely untrusted by the population. What’s obvious to observes is that where things are working, as in the ministry of health, Museveni is forced to compete with his ministers for attention. Whatever the case maybe, Uganda must be the only place on earth where the President is in competition with those who work for him.
The system cannot have failed if it didn’t exist in the first place. This lack of functioning machinery is only revealing itself to people who didn’t know what was always going on. Which is why it is surprising that people like Gen Sejusa are feigning ignorance about what they have known for far too well.
People are also seeing President Museveni for who he always was. As someone who lacks the ability to conceive a big idea and allow those around him to pick it up and break it down to the right degree of detail for execution. Whatever machinery was in place for the past 34 years was accidental, not a result of his abilities and whatever is left of it is clearly now down and dysfunctional.
Any of his previous abilities, meager as they always were, have now dwindled with age. It surprises no one that he is now making directives about happenings in and around household toilets, which is an apt symbolism for where his entire system is right now.