African politics of ‘inexactitudes’

The political term “inexactitude” is said to have been invented by the late British Conservative leader, Sir Winston Churchill, when he was leader of the opposition. He is reported to have challenged the truth of what a Labour minister had said in parliament by calling him a liar.

The speaker asked Churchill to withdraw the word liar as it was un-parliamentary. Churchill apologised and withdrew the term with the remark, “I apologise to the minister, but what I intended to say which is absolutely true is that what he has told this August House is an inexactitude.”

Inexactitudes told by African political leaders must be numbered in millions. A story is told about Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father of Kenya. One day, he was chairing a cabinet meeting when his housekeeper burst in and in panic broke bad news to the president “Your Excellency, thieves have broken into your home bedroom and stolen your valuables.”

Without being ruffled, Kenyatta looked at the faces of the members of cabinet in the meeting and casually dismissed his housekeeper with the words, “I am afraid you are mistaken because all the thieves ar with me in this meeting.”

Our own President Museveni is aware of the story told about the habits of some of our people in western Uganda who in the past exchanged superiority and inferiority insults. It was raining one day and a superior sought shelter in the house of an inferior. The inferior warmly welcomed the superior and gave him a chair to sit on, next to the host in the living room. The superior thanked his host and sat.

After the rain had drained off the visitors clothes, he relaxed and looked at the host and from force of habit said, “Ah, you there, do not you know that we are not supposed to sit together in the same room. Move on!!”

The inferior politely bowed, rose and went to find a seat in the kitchen. Imagine if the host had been a Mukiga. He would have reacted with indignation and physically pushed the visitor out of his house back into the rain.

This may sound funny, but in real life have we not encountered such incidents and reactions between those who rule Ugandans and those they rule?

It is not very long ago that several African leaders said they were chosen by divine majesty to rule over their fellow men and women forever.
Our own leader, President Museveni condemned such despots as detrimental to African good governance and development. He castigated African leaders who stay in offices long after their constitutional terms of tenure have expired. However, he has since wisely or unwisely changed his mind thereby rendering what he said before mere inexactitudes.

There shall be zero tolerance to corruption going by the latest reshuffles, appointments and promotions of today it is not an inexactitude to say these are the admired qualities for appointment to public offices. President Museveni has personally and publicly condemned his own appointed ministers and cadres as unsuitable, corrupt, thieves and abusers of office. His utterances are loved by the people because they are so correct.

The public has expected his team of alleged patriots to act on these findings, promises and utterances. In the end everyone, including those nearest and closest to him, are bitterly disappointed and frustrated, sadly realising that his utterances and promises are inexactitudes.

The President is not the only person who has mastered the art of inexactitudes, except perhaps the incumbent Vice President Edward Ssekandi, who has not been known to indulge in inexactitudes or hurt a lame fly, except perhaps his own constituency where occasionally voices of dissent emanate from in attempts to damage his reputation. Similarly, there are not many Ugandans who dislike Ndugu Ruhakana Rugunda because of his nature that prevents him from hurting a fly but prevents him from seeing it altogether.

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has lately started uttering or obeying inexactitudes. She publicly and solemnly promised to cause reports of thefts, embezzlement and corruption with names and what was stolen or done nationally or internationally exposed and resolved in Parliament. Sadly, she has not.

When a team of lawyers and the Uganda Law Society petitioned the Speaker against the unconstitutional appointment of retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki as substantive Chief Justice, Kadaga agreed with them and defied the President who was insisting that he be approved.
She jumped at the lawyers’ decision to file a case in court against that appointment, reasoning rightly that she would await the courts’ decision.

Recently when some lawyers presented similar facts and evidence about Justice Steven Kavuma, she personally presided over the Appointments Committee of Parliament to approve his nomination.

There are many Ugandans who believe that Ms Kadaga can still make it to the top of Uganda’s political tree. Unless she can satisfactorily explain why her judgment today is blurred and equivocal, the dreams of her supporters will fade with inexactitudes. Did someone whisper the Musumba bug?

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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