Karl Marx noted that the lawyers and merchants – who often control the state by presiding over the tools of coercion – will always pursue their interests however grievous they may be to the rest of the community.
Lawyers and politicians draft the interests of the privileged/ruling class into law, which they then often enforce with the police and the military.
Thus, animated choristers of “independence of the judiciary” have neither read Marx nor anything about power and politics.
You can best understand this merchants-lawyers love affair through agrarian questions (especially land tenure and land use) and new forms of land grabbing. Large-scale, and sometimes small-scale, land grabbers are perhaps always assisted by the state.
In all these cases, land grabbers, often euphemised as “investors”, enjoy full support of armed forces and the judiciary. Thus, with the law on their side, they brutalise thousands of helpless persons off their lands.
They would then turn their victims into labourers slaving for a pittance. This unholy marriage between merchants and lawyers is as old as the 1600s when private property came to full force.
Against such an understanding, I am awfully baffled by the land probe commission headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
What are they doing? What is their import at the end of the day? Certainly, I could be one of the few Ugandans who are least excited about this commission, not simply because of the dramatics of the commission head, but the object of the entire project. For me, this commission is nothing but a farce.
This conclusion struck me more powerfully when minister of Lands Betty Amongi appeared before the commission. She was belittled, squeezed and discarded to the wastebasket.
In her vivacious performances, the lady judge sought to demonstrate that no one was above the law, including the minister who actually swore in her commission. But frankly, that is where it will stop.
Junior ministers, middle-rank and senior public servants are being utilised in a theatrical display of accountability and lawfulness. Nothing more.
For anyone who has lived in this country long enough, it is easy to tell that Minister Amongi has not mastered the game, but she is a vivid representative of all the men and women with power and influence – the real thieves par excellence – who have become so rich despite their well-known meagre public service salaries, and no business dealings at all.
Indeed, if this land commission were not a comedy of errors, and attended to all accusations, even ‘Number One’ would not be spared. He would have to appear before it and sit through a Bamugemereire musical.
There is certainly a crafty Indian returnee keen to accuse him of threatening their often illegally repossessed property or land. This would not stop at the president; Bamugemereire would have to sermon colleagues in the judiciary to appear before her.
Isn’t former deputy chief justice Steven Kavuma a candidate of the Bamugemereire grill? As day follows night, the good justice would have to sermon herself to appear before herself (or at least, members of her commission).
Then she would be blown out of the waters. The hens would come back to roost especially since in her commission, any accusation is a guilt sentence.
But, of course, I am daydreaming. The scenario described above can never happen. The commission cannot declare an entire political establishment and – by extension – itself as constituted by a bunch of thieves.
Like the X-men, this is capital transforming itself and setting traps for its victims to survive and reproduce itself.
After reaching a tipping point where capitalists were being lynched (Mabira, Kayunga, Amuru, etc.), a commission was put in place to calm the tensions of the victims.
Televised and satisfactorily theatrical, it serves a double purpose: firstly, the state makes itself visible through such performances, giving its subjects a false sense of security and accountability.
Secondly, it is an experiment in the laboratory of land grabbing. In actual sense, the commission is serving the function of exposing not the thieves, but the whistle-blowers and their modes of complaint registration.
This sets the ground for the next phase of land grabbing. Capital always wins.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.