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Uganda has been invaded by rich idiots

Writing about wealth, political economist Karl Marx argued that the rich could only become rich after an arguably long period of accumulation. Marx’s formula follows that being rich is a result of engagement in some productive activity – for some time.

By implication, the highroad to wealth is defined by both smartness and patience. The investor has to be intelligent enough to keep their workers happy and prevent them from rebellion – as the former appropriates their labour time in the name of profits.

As a young man growing up in the countryside, the wealthy people in our villages were the most intelligent. There were two categories: farmers and public servants. The farmers often owned large coffee or bananas plantations, or had plenty of livestock or both. Either way, they attended to their possessions meticulously.

Since big plantations or livestock never thrived on only family labour, rich people often hired services of migrant labourers – often from south-western Uganda and Rwanda.

But employing people to keep any plantation or livestock productive for years was no small feat. At public functions, whenever these rich farmers were asked to speak, they were not only articulate and witty, they were also humorous, emitting sense through each sentence.

When public service was a productive and respectable industry – especially before the privatisation frenzy – the best brains, who often happened to be medical doctors, veterinary doctors, accountants and senior public administrators, were the rich of the village. Thus, they quickly became local councillors or parish chiefs. In their public appearances, these men were measured in their actions. They were careful in their speech and respectful to their less-fortunate brethren.

They were neither arrogant, nor flamboyant. Although their tastes – in fashion, automobiles, spouses or dishes – were sophisticated, they were never braggadocios. In sum, this well-cultivated public outlook operated in sync and also served to explain their wealth.

When I came to Kampala sometime in the late 1990s, my belief that intelligence equalled wealth became even more concrete. There were no young tycoons – except if this wealth was inherited. The rich men of that time (and most have actually remained rich), Gordon Wavamunno, Aga Ssekalala, BMK, James Mulwana, John Ssebaana Kizito, or Boney Katatumba all kept simple public profiles. They never drove vehicles with personalised plates.

Neither did they spend long night-hours in dim-lit joints ogling women’s behinds or gulping inexplicable compounds down their throats. You rarely read about them in the gossip pages of newspapers.

Indeed, they had become rich and famous only in their late 30s and early 40s.  In a very Marxist sense, wealth took a bit of time to accumulate. Mark you, this is not romanticising the past, but a portrayal of a general pulse.

In the period that followed the 2001 election, a key shift happened. We were ushered into an era of rich idiots who, like Norbert Mao’s night dancers, have trouble explaining their wealth. 

These are mostly politicians and elite thieves! Most of them are young and poorly-educated. To them, chaos and disorder is standard operating procedure – either with guns or sticks! You find them cruising in expensive automobiles such as Range Rovers and other SUVs from which they dispose of empty water bottles along city streets.

They are impatient to wait in traffic, and since they drive dark-tinted huge cars, they shamelessly drive on the advancing side. Our scrawny underpaid traffic officers fear to touch them. You find them parked on pavements or pedestrian walkways. They build mansions in wetlands or road reserves, unapologetically grab land, and spend like they own Bank of Uganda.

Incidentally, money has a way of sculpting a powerful image for those who have it – including idiots – as their utterances are often backed with (purchasing or political) power.  For their money-acquired statuses, our dullards often get media and open-air invites to comment on matters of national importance.

Sadly, these elite gangsters can barely make a coherent speech. Instead, they mumble about their wealth, and chant praises to the government of President Museveni.  When cornered, they resort to empty chants about being the majority.

Sometime, they retort: “Go to court!” gloating over their political advantage with the justice system. But if the French Revolution of 1789 taught the world anything, it was how it dealt with idiocy – of the likes of Marie Antoinette.

The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.


0 #1 Juma Kato 2018-01-10 20:45
I would say somethimg if I were not frustrated by the slow pace Observer has adapted in showing our comments.
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+3 #2 Michael angelo Onzi 2018-01-11 06:30
Infestation of the rich idiots in uganda calls an urgent response.

Let's mobilize the poor wise folks to flush out this idiotic plague.
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+3 #3 Lakwena 2018-01-11 08:20
In other words Yusuf, painfully, though Rome was not built in one day and by one Emperor, but built in thousands of years; the Barbarians, for lack of value, culture and civility, destroyed it "one day".

That is what has happened to Uganda, especially starting with Amin Dada (RIP). And the Bandits of Luweero (NRA/M) are still systematically at it.

E.g., the barbarism of the Boda riders on the streets of Kampala is bewildering.
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+1 #4 Paul Kitaka 2018-01-11 18:57
The trend has drastically shifted.
In Uganda wisdom has no place anymore.

If you look at Bukedde adverts, you will know how far deep we are heading.
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+1 #5 smusumba 2018-01-12 15:44
True to the point, but its not only the rich idiots, the all moral fabric doesn't exit anymore in this country.

These rich idiots you are talking about were brought up by their parents so it starts from somewhere in the home, therefore include the parents in this puzzle.

Its interesting the rich idiots can comfortably buy and eat contaminated food yet they can contribute to finding a solution to the problem. They can buy expired drugs, drink contaminated water from lake Victoria, they just look on when Asians start up factories in wetlands and contaminate the environment.

They look on idly when a fake investor constructs a factory in a residential place, pollutes the air, pour toxic waste in the lake or in people gardens.

Is there a place were they buy their own oxygen which is not contaminated? its really sad because the elites have destroyed this country, i cannot blame government only, we have a role to play.
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+1 #6 smusumba 2018-01-12 15:45
Ugandans just comment on politics and that is all, they have no interest in their own health and well being, otherwise how can you explain how fake and dangerous pesticides that have been burned in other countries end on the market and are used by farmers?

its sad in indeed but we have to play a role, you can't wait for government all the time, does it really exist? You know your brother who is selling fake seeds, you know your sister who selling contaminated milk, you can even buy the meat from your local butcher and take it to the lab for testing and if its contaminated inform the police.

We all can play a role in saving this country, we know the priorities of NRM government are elsewhere so help your selves.
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+1 #7 smusumba 2018-01-12 15:45
You can plant more trees in your village, you can decide to minimize the use of charcoal, you can stop the selling of acid that is being used to settle domestic problems, you can pray for your country, you can open up your mouth and speak, you can write, you can research.

University dons have not helped therefore no need to ask for salary increase when they cant even publish basic stuff other than passing out half baked graduates.
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0 #8 Akot 2018-01-13 21:15
Michael angelo Onzi, thanks!

Change of governance is brought about by the: poor-oppressed-sick without healthcare-young who want education-framers who want Agriculture modernised-those working yet poor...& for this, they Must Unite & stand up!

Ugandans saw how Dr Besigye alone could not bring change because they were working in peace for museveni, right?

Now that there is no opposition leadership & the tribalistic system is even stronger than before with parliament in control of nrm & court on their side, how will museveni be thrown out without Ugandans Uniting & coming out to block them?
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0 #9 Zungulu Zzungulu 2018-01-15 16:03
If most idiots are the ones in the decision making level of government, NOT by MERIT what do you expect of the Outcome of their decisions?

A multiplier effect transcends every sphere then.
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