The year is 4000 AD. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been dead for more than 1,500 years. Kizza Besigye too has been dead for almost the same time.
However, like all great leaders, these two leaders only died in their physical structure, but their philosophies have lived on, having taken on the body of beliefs and doctrines.
Every January 26, the followers of Museveni gather at the Holy Grounds of Luweero to celebrate the victory of their god. They are also expected to go on a pilgrimage in Kyankwanzi once in a lifetime. Then, we have Besigyeism – a ‘contradiction’ of Musevenism.
Besigyeists are expected to celebrate the day their god was first imprisoned – and sacrifice all they have in life. It is Haram for a Besigyeist to be seen talking to a Musevenist.
Pause a moment: the year is not 4000 AD. The year is 2017 and Musevenism and Besigyeism are a reality. For more than 15 years, these religions have crafted their paths, philosophies, beliefs and doctrines much to the extent that their own leaders, have become prisoners of these systems. Their faults can be attributed to systems they created, which are now larger than them.
Behind these two leaders are their millions of followers with unshakable faith in the gods. We have the far right (Besigyeists), not open to dialogue, viewing criticism as treason and longing to right things through revolution. But the far left Musevenists, open to mild criticism, want things to stay as they are, extolling the great gains of the revolution.
GOOD Vs EVIL
The battle lines seem to have been drawn. It is now the fight of ‘good’ versus evil. It is the ‘devil’ versus the ‘Lord.’ It feels like a wonderful time to be alive!
Yet time and again in history, -isms have always come with faults. There is always danger in the excesses. No wonder Aristotle always argued for the golden mean, for in there, virtue found peace and comfort. This is a warning about the danger ahead if we succumb to these excesses – whether Besigyeism or Musevenism.
For a long time, I have felt like a prisoner considering that most of my friends have always subconsciously subscribed to either of these quasi-religions. Whenever I put out a single criticism of Besigye or praise of Museveni in the midst of FDC apologists, I am bombarded with insults; I am a sinner, a man too blind to evil. How can I side with the devil?
On the other hand, when I am with the Musevenists, I am expected not to genuflect; I have to parrot the line of the day. I am expected to cite the awesome economic growth figures even when growth has only been concentrated in the hands of a few.
The difference, however, is that the Musevenism group is a little more accommodating, even though they may view my criticisms as simply signs of frustrations of a man who is far off from the cake at dinner. They argue that it’s because I am not eating. That’s why my mouth is talking. How I wish they were right on this!
It is becoming a very lonely uncomfortable place as a neutral in this country called Uganda. Both quasi-religions carry the same tag; “you are either with us or against us.” To them, there is no middle ground. But how shall they find virtue, when they each, have closed their houses to criticism, both internal and external?
Scott H Young, a young blogger, says “isms” develop as a way to separate people into distinct tribes. The downside is that tribal logic isn’t rational. Instead of trying to decide which belief system is true or most pragmatic, people defend their tribe at all costs. The damage of “isms” is obvious in politics. Instead of rationally trying to decide on the best way to govern, most effort is spent on partisan battles.”
But as with all isms, they usually end in self-destruction. In evolutionary psychology, we always speak of ‘groupthink.’ The term groupthink was coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972). It occurs when “a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.”
On one hand, the god Museveni is surrounded by people who can’t open his eyes to the realities of the day. He is surrounded by praise singers.
After all, gods can’t be critiqued; they are just praised and worshipped. None tells him about the soaring unemployment rates, the ever- increasing economic disparities, the ever-evident nepotism and tribalism, the fact that most big positions in government are filled by one region, the fact that one region has grown faster than two others.
He is also not told about the increasing dissatisfaction with his 30-year rule. All he is told are his achievements and the constant reporting of the economic statistics as compared to 1986, as though all these were Bible verses in the book of Musevenism. I also understand he is now a prisoner of Musevenism. He has created a system so big that those who feed off the status-quo can’t even imagine their survival without him at the helm.
Then we have Besigye who for over 15 years has defied Museveni’s rule and has claimed to always win the elections only to be rigged by the electoral body. He sees himself as the fighter for all the forgotten and hurt Ugandans, one who was sent to take them to the Promised Land.
He too has created the “Besigyeism” cult of which he is a humble slave. He can’t even objectively realise that some of his strategies are wrong at many a times and thus need a renewal.
The gospel of Besigyeism is inked in stone. Museveni the corrupt devil must be overthrown and the glory of good shall shine all over Uganda. Anyone who by any chance speaks ill against Besigye is believed to be infected by the devil. Besigye is not led by convictions, he has become the conviction.
For majority Ugandans, Besigyeism and Musevenism are now an identity, and there’s so much to fear about things when they evolve into identities. Secondly, the two quasi-religions have fallen prey to reductionism. Besigyeism has reduced all Uganda’s problems to Museveni.
They argue that ‘take out Museveni and all will be well,’ all too blind to notice that problems are always complex and failure to notice this is a recipe for self-destruction. These isms also devolve into a sickening condition known as groupthink.
On the Wikipedia page about groupthink, it is written; “Groupthink requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking.
The dysfunctional group dynamics of the “ingroup” produces an “illusion of invulnerability” (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the “ingroup” significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the “outgroup”).”
In that one paragraph, the whole dilemma of Ugandan politics as it stands is explained. And with it, we, sorrowfully, heads bowed in sadness, welcome the arrival of Besigyeism and Musevenism.
As we stand on the fences, wearing our neutralism coats, we stand to be swallowed by either ism as they mistake us for belonging to either side.
If these groups can’t ever tolerate people who will freely air objections and doubts, it is clearer that sooner than later, what we are about to have in this country is political dystopia. Things, indeed, shall fall apart, and all we can hope for is to come out alive then.