The “Trek”; an exercise in Museveni self-validation gone all wrong
By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
An exercise in self-delusion is quickly turning into a bitter reality check for President Museveni as he comes face to face with the impact of his corruption-ridden regime on citizens.
Seeking re-validation by invoking his largely discredited liberation credentials, Museveni on January 4 embarked on a 195 km six-day “trek” that traces some of his haunts as a guerilla fighter during the early 1980’s. Early into the walk however, Museveni has continuously been confronted with evidence of his failure to govern.
Everywhere signs are that the masses are sinking deeper into undignified poverty.
In Kiboga, an area once known for prosperity from a booming local coffee economy, he found lines of desperate and destitute people waiting for handouts from him. Seemingly devoid of any social consciousness, Museveni then began giving out brown envelopes containing a pittance, sometimes as little as the equivalent of 130 dollars. Ironically these are the very people his “revolution” has betrayed.
In one of the videos circulating on the “trek”’s YouTube channel Museveni is seen sitting by the roadside, pretending to be an emperor but in actual sense looking frail and bereft of energy. In front of him desperate men and women, some visibly older than him dance, then kneel to receive the thin envelopes of cash from him.
The lowdown of the whole episode is that Museveni actually appears to be relishing the moment. This is another way he has completely lost touch with reality, observers say.
Sure enough the reactions to the video were swift, viral, and brutal. “This video is an indictment of Museveni’s misrule. Before his war, this area was prosperous riding the boom and bust cycles of the coffee economy. That people possibly older than him have to kneel before him for handouts is a testament to the false promise of his liberation war,” said one commentator.
“Those people are exactly where Museveni wants them to be, on the edge of survival. A man whose instinct is to look for the next meal, hardly makes a discerning voter,” commented yet another.
Codenamed “Africa Kwetu,” the walk comes at a time when Museveni is facing growing scrutiny over his dismal record.
After 34 years in power, Ugandans are ever more conscious of the failure of the state to deliver basic services, and of institutional collapse amidst mounting corruption. Even security, the one area where Museveni once claimed competency, is barely existent. Gangs take over the night while security operatives become extortionists and the privileged dispossess the poor of their only means of substance – land.
As his failures become ever more apparent even to his most ardent supporters, Museveni has been struggling for relevancy and validation. To achieve this, he has become a stuntman, engaging in various forms of trickery in a bid to fool Uganda’s largely rural voters. Even to this group however, the pain of living under state that exists only for the benefit of its leaders is becoming too much of a strain.
Initially, the so-called trek was supposed to sedate Ugandans into believing that despite his dated appearance Museveni still has the physical stamina to somehow undo the Gordian knot of misrule he has imposed on the country over the decades. This is only the latest chapter in a series of similar ruses.
The first one was during the 1996 elections when in a veiled dismissal of his older rival, Dr. Paul Ssemogerere, Museveni’s handlers arranged for an old woman in eastern Buganda to load a milling stone on Museveni’s head. Then, with the years as questions regarding his own age gained momentum, he took to engaging in things like push-ups.
He staged that circus-like exercise while on the campaign trail during the 2016 elections. More recently, after he led a 2-kilometer mock walk against corruption, Museveni once again was the chief gymnast as he led fellow walkers into engaging in physical exercises.
But his attempt to trick Ugandans into accepting a new standard for electing a leader is apparently falling flat. “We are not concerned about his age but rather his intellect,” say Moses Tindyebwa, a boda boda cyclist. “When we elect a president we want someone who can think for us.
“If it was about physical fitness, then maybe Moses Golola (a popular kick-boxer) would be the most qualified to lead Uganda! Let the Mzee – old man – admit he has come to his wits end, and free the country from his grip,” said the angry boda man.