A big judge, a big banker, their tongues and Museveni’s “camel” instincts

It is not that President Museveni has grown a hump. But there was this journeying Arab who set up a small tent for the night. Very cold outside, his camel got an idea.
First, the animal politely asked to have its head allowed in the tent.
The Arab hesitated but agreed.
Then the camel pleaded for the neck.
Bit by bit, most of the camel got in, with the Arab’s protest getting progressively more desperate.
In time, the camel made a final push – and without begging – and threw out the Arab.
Uganda once had a chief justice called Benjamin Odoki. Do you remember him?
Not dull, not exceptionally brilliant a decent practical man a “realist”.
When the Supreme Court ruled that the 2006 presidential election was marked by serious malpractices, but that the effect of these evils was not big enough to change the official result, tales and rumours from the corridors of the Judiciary left the impression that it was Chief Justice Odoki’s position that tilted the Supreme Court vote against a nullification of President Museveni’s re-election.
Earlier, armed men of the police-cum-soldier type, the so-called Black Mamba, had raided the High Court and seized (or re-arrested) people who had just been given bail, and the Odoki-led bench had done nothing beyond releasing poetic condemnations and re-statements of the principle of the independence of the Judiciary.
In subsequent years, when he was being grilled on questions of integrity and his independence from Executive influence, Mr Odoki was once reported to have desperately blurted out something like: “Did you want me to be killed?”
Although Mr Odoki and other judges had made many judgments independent of the Executive, perception of the integrity of the court system could hang on just a handful of important decisions where reason and natural justice had not been self-evident. One terrible top-level judgment is enough to betray the bench as a bunch of lackeys of (or cowards terrified by) the Executive.
To many laymen, a lot of what lawyers say is already couched in archaic jargon that sounds like “tongues”. Benjamin Odoki’s verbal negotiations around the tight corners designed by the Executive often sounded like “parallel tongues”.
The beauty of being President Museveni is that you can make very smart big people sound completely incoherent his vice presidents, his prime ministers, his attorneys general his anyone who is anybody and whole institutions.
It is an artifice in power games by which a big man is forced to cerebrally humiliate himself to show the higher man that he acknowledges his lower rank the brain on its knees.
Obviously, to his hierarchical superior, the higher the brain rating of the subordinate, the more satisfying the artifice is likely to be. So a former university professor who humiliates himself gives more satisfaction than a man who forged his A-Level certificate and got his other papers from Kyankwanzi.
Take Bank of Uganda (BoU) Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, who pretends not to know that one big blunder can undo a thousand sound decisions. In his November 16 Daily Monitor interview, he speaks in “tongues”. It is useless to look for his logic, because there really is no logic only contradictions.
But one statement caught my attention. Asked whether it was typical for him to spend huge sums of money on mere promises to pay back, like the Museveni-pushed unbudgeted expenditure on fighter jets, Mutebile replied:
“It is not typical because that is not typical of BoU decisions. It is typical of decisions outside BoU because I do not allow spending outside the Budget.”
You are smiling, but there is a key observation there: the action was “typical of decisions outside BoU”
Which is this unnamed location outside, and who is the power for whom it is typical to spend haphazardly and prodigally?
If it is an allusion to State House, and a man of Mr Mutebile’s cerebral stature needs so many tongues to say that he had in effect been kicked out of his tent, then, indeed, he – and the nation – deserves, not condemnation, but pity.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator altaccaone@gmail.com.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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