If I ever offer myself for elective leadership, it will be for something or other on the LC1 executive. I hope those elections resume and remain regular. I don’t want to get involved beyond that.
Nonetheless, leadership fascinates me. I mean the decisions that leaders take and where those decisions come from.
Which is why the thing that struck me about Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s turn at a Pakasa forum in Kampala several weeks ago was his plea for talented young people to commit themselves to serving in the public sector.
And so on to the Lwengo LC5 head, otherwise known as district chairman George Mutabaazi. He whips adults, his voters, for “clearly deliberately disobeying” district laws, he says.
Mr chairman wants the people in the district constructing latrines, sending their children to school (not the gardens) during the school term, and joining hands to clear the village roads to keep them usable. But the wananchi just won’t listen to the village hailers. The bar is more attractive. And what are scrawny children for if not providing labour on the subsistence shamba with scrawny crops?
For their kajanja (being big-headed), their elected district leader unleashed kiboko.
His actions are wrong, of course. But his head and heart are right. Mr chairman has no right to assault anyone, unless possibly in self-defence. This was no self-defence, though. This was a man with power, guarded by armed police personnel, driving a big government car, throwing his weight around in the crudest manner possible. He intimidated poor and petrified citizens. He lashed them. He humiliated them. He abused his power and authority as the elected leader of the district. I trust the police will have more than a word with him.
Yet, perversely some may say, I like this Mutabaazi man. I have not seen any elected leader in Uganda happy to sacrifice votes at the altar of political courage, of doing the unpopular thing that needs doing while at the same time declaring: “I don’t care if they vote for me next time”. Well, I want to vote this man next time, then make sure he never gets anywhere near enkoni (stick) or any weapon of any kind.
Chairman Mutabaazi has to find a way of combining his determination to get latrines dug with respecting the people he leads. He needs to persuade them. Perhaps he is lacking in charm and charisma. If so, he may need to acknowledge that.
There is a nice germ inside this man, the germ that Uganda needs at all levels of public sector leadership. But he also has a germ that makes him come off as some awful petty despot. In his gumboots and goofy straw hat (looked more like bowler from the Daily Monitor photo), he looks like the minor colonial officer of old, spreading fear and dread through the land.
Worse, he looks like the black colonially created chief that Prof Mahmood Mamdani has studied and written about so eloquently. These were men, almost entirely, who combined various powers into a tight fist: judicial, executive, administrative, and legislative (gee, Mutabaazi talked about “our” – as opposed to “my” – laws). When the chief unclenched his fist and let go, well, trouble. Trouble for the types of Ugandans on the receiving end of chairman Mutabaazi’s fimbo (cane)!
Revolutionary Museveni reportedly changed all that by creating perfect democracy, especially at LC1 – the level where I want to lead at, having never even offered myself for the job of class monitor. Powers got diffused, no longer fused. Of course, like much else of promise in those early years, President Museveni moved away from the LC thing, even ensuring no elections are held at LC1 for many years. Local councils at that level have become irrelevant. No wonder deadly criminals are roaming free, planning their acts behind gates in compounds whose occupants no one knows the owner. Who is my LC1 chairperson, or secretary of defence? Angazi! Some revolutions move in reverse gear.
No matter, chairman Mutabaazi, minus the hippo hide whip, is my man of 2014.
Mr Tabaire is the co-founder and director of programmes at African Centre for Media Excellence in Kampala.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor