In Egypt recently, former president Mohamed Morsi was murdered in prison. Most memorably in Uganda, lawyer Ben Kiwanuka died under inexplicable circumstances under Idi Amin.
Somalia’s Siad Barre murdered politically active compatriots like it were sport to the extent of carpet bombing an entire town – Hargeisa – in 1988.
In principle, all life-governments from Hosni Mubarak, Mobutu Sese Sseko, Hastings Kamuzu Banda to Muammar Gaddafi murder their opposition to reproduce themselves.
Worth noting here is that whenever the world sees one well-known politician/activist killed, about 50 little-known others have been executed before them. The pursuit of no-change, the ambition to not leave, naturally inspires the ghosts of murder among men and women with power. No life presidents/regimes can survive without murdering opponents.
Let me explain this more theoretically (and quickly get Museveni’s surrogates off the edge): once a man declares life presidency or commits to the pursuit of life presidency through the technocracies of democracy [as has proved common across Africa], they have to murder their opponents as a matter of principle!
Newton’s laws of motion are frighteningly accurate in political science: actions and reactions are equal and opposite. Reactively, no-change regimes are simply fought as a matter of principle. For the one who acts fastest takes out the other.
Opponents may be exiled, or locked up for life. But the best option is killing them en masse. Indeed, when a life-presidency stops killing, or fails to kill one talismanic individual, it collapses.
For being in charge of the tools of violence, and controlling the channels of propaganda, life presidents are privileged in their excesses. They kill and explain to no one, and also can bar anyone from attempting to explain or investigate a murder. Or they kill subtly and more technically: as an accident, work of criminal gangs, or a medical mishap.
Let’s deepen this further: most humans prefer being led. The arrogance to lead is limited to a few proud individuals. So, a flock of sheep will follow any other that offers to lead the way without any qualms – even when they are being led into a ditch.
Hence the so-called “herd effect!” But for every once in a while, someone is born, or a couple of people are born or emerge from a series of historical-political process with the pride, arrogance and ambition to lead their compatriots under any organised unit. These characters tend to emerge in a newer time with fresh ideas, and newer directions.
Even before advances in technology and science, it is a well-known fact that ideas may not necessarily die, but tend to become obsolete. New ones under newer circumstances are born, and the old hands – for being old – have trouble repackaging themselves.
Against this regime of new phenomena, the new crop of dreamers emerge requiring that the old hands exit the stage. But once the ambition to lead the new world is fully formed, it hits these young dreamers that the sitting government has no intentions of leaving.
This presents them with a difficult reality, to which, incidentally, they are always unready to acquiesce to. They would have waited for their time to experiment with leading their compatriots. But with a life-presidency already declared, they inevitably find legal and illegal means of taking the challenge. They either die now, or will die trying to upset the old order.
In reaction, a no-change regime also awakens its arsenal of murder weapons: bullets, bombs, criminal gangs, viruses, poison, accidents and several others to deal with these young daredevils.
The no-change regime thus goes on a killing spree. They may murder them in broad daylight as old autocrats did, or more technically and quietly like our new autocrats are doing presently. It is a simple progression of events and all those challenging no-change regimes have to beware of this dynamic.
Content that this is the nature of the matrix, the rest of the country ought to meticulously count the cost. You do not have to have concrete evidence [of say, dead bodies strewn across the streets] to understand that a no-change government would be murdering its opponents. Killing is simply a part of its life.
Or is actually its life. As an African and Africanist reader, a place where many life-regimes abide, I forever mourn the cost of these regimes.
It is huge: I mourn the murder of new ideas; I mourn the murder of developmentalists; the murder of human resources to simply perpetrate a presidency. I cannot count the number of young, talented, smart, hardworking and articulate men and women Africa has lost to deluded life-presidents – whose death also often follows soon.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.