Museveni is the first head of state ever in history to hold a demonstration against himself. His determination to do the unthinkable was on display again when he led hundreds of plain clothed army and police personnel as well as some government officials to walk against endemic corruption – that he built for 33 years – out of Uganda. I had written earlier on this blog asking where Museveni was going to get the moral high ground to be the anti-corruption chief walker. Now I have my answer: Nowhere. As many predicted, there was nothing substantive in the entire comedy other than the usual rhetoric.
As reported by almost every media house that was present, it was the same rehearsed talk about corruption fighting strategies, including threats to arrest those long implicated in it that he has failed to arrest because Museveni himself has been implicated in those crimes.
In this public show, Museveni walked his corruption for a distance of 3.5 kilometers from constitutional square to Kololo independence ground only to try to clear his name of corruption, but without convincing anyone: “The deputy speaker challenged you that, if you have not stolen, throw the first stone, I will be the first one to throw the first stone, you bring someone who has stolen, I will stone him here,” he said rather defensively. “I have never stolen anything from anybody and I’m also not a poor man.” Museveni said all this while avoiding eye contact with his audience, always looking down on his podium; for those who have been lied to before, you know what I mean.
According to body language experts who detect lies, liars tend to have shifty eyes, are constantly fidgeting, and avoid eye contact. Those who watched him speak also wondered about his eye contact anxiety. It is as if by agreeing to become the anti-corruption chief walker he had actually agreed to bring himself to a public judgement. Why didn’t his advisors warn him about this?
For instance, I knew that the president would encounter difficulties trying to appear a genuine fighter of corruption. I knew he would be ridiculed by trying to walk against corruption, and that he would appear shameless and unable to look Ugandans in the eye while talking about fighting corruption. Museveni calls himself the Jaja. On corruption, he is truly the grandfather.
Museveni only managed the walk because it involved physical strength rather than moral strength. Even on this he took a gamble by holding tightly on the walking stick of the elderly.
The president didn’t take long before exposing himself that he was on the side of corruption and not against it, “those ones who bribe you people come and tell me but I don’t have enough evidence,” he shamelessly declared. An NRM cadre with who I was watching the event on TV chuckled, “the president must get serious, how can he say that he knows the corrupt officials but lacks evidence to take action, how can he say this during an anti-corruption walk,” he asked. “People will see through him that it is a meaningless stunt. His advisors can’t tell him this because they are also corrupt!”
In his closing remarks, Museveni tasked his IGG, State House Anti-corruption unit and URA to recruit people based on integrity rather than academic papers. But it remains to be seen why persons of integrity would want to serve in Museveni’s government. Probably the only possibility is for Lt Col Nakalema to invent an integrity meter that has nothing to do with real integrity to use during recruitment!
I particularly enjoyed a comment that my NRM cadre friend observed during our exchange, “Museveni 3.5 kilometers walk is exactly the amount of effort he is willing to put in the fight against corruption measured against Uganda’s physical territory of 241, 000 square kilometers!” We laughed together as we enjoyed the comedy at Kololo.