Do political activists really mean what they say?
Publish Date: Mar 31, 2014
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By Phenehas Tukamwesiga

World over, there has been a political puzzle as to why political activists almost change 100% deviating from their own original ideals that shaped their political careers, when they take over power/join the establishment. 

It is not uncommon to watch former comrades in liberation struggles turning against each other with in their first 365 days in power accusing their leader of indifference, corruption, betrayal and deviation from the original ideals that gave life to the struggle.  Even the allegory in the famous book, Animal Farm by George Orwell, tries to explain this political puzzle since time immemorial.  Surprisingly, this happens even in developed democracies.

Let’s look at the following examples;

In USA, through out his 2008 campaigns, Barrack Obama among other things, spoke passionately against the alleged human rights violations at Guantanamo Detention camp and promised to close the camp in his first 100 days in power.

 Definitely, Barrack Obama is a lawyer and a human rights defender. His country, USA is not only the chief custodian of modern democracy but also the architect of modern human rights in the world.

Therefore he has all the reasons to wish the infamous camp was closed yesterday. Barrack Obama is not alone in the quest to have Guantanamo closed. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is quoted to have held similar "The value of holding prisoners there (at Guantenamo Camp) was unclear, but the price we are paying around the world for doing so is obvious," Powell said.

 But todate the camp still exists in his 5th year as a president.

In Africa, the examples are enormous, In Congo (Former Zaire), disgruntled opposition groups picked up arms in 1997 and overthrew Mobutu ending his 31 year rule.  But shortly, in 2001, Laurent Kabira was assassinated by his own comrades few years after taking over power accusing him of betrayal and being worse than Mobutu.

 South Sudan even makes it more puzzling. The black people of south Sudan spent more than 50 years fighting for their liberation from the maladministration of the Northern Arabs. Their independence was granted in 2013. One year down the road, the former colleagues in the struggle accuse their leader of worse leadership than the Arabs and they are now in arms fighting their own.

 Even Nelson Mandela ‘The great’, left many ANC veterans disappointed with the way he handled things after he took over power. In fact Mandela is regarded by many black South Africans as a traitor for accepting to dine and dance with their former tormentors like H.E De Klerk. Almost the entire status quo prevailed in South Africa after Mandela took charge. 

 Even locally, we see constituents voting overwhelmingly for their favourite candidate and after just one term they don’t want to hear about his/her name any more. In fact people in the village, out of desperation, they seem to have ‘resolved’ to give ‘one term’ to their leaders. That’s why most of the M.Ps in the 8th Parliament didn’t come back in the 9th Parliament.

With the above puzzle in my mind, last month I met a friend who was recently appointed RDC in Uganda. Prior to his appointment, he has been in political activism for quite some time as a strong critic of Museveni’s government.

I asked him now that he has been appointed a presidential aide whether he’ll continue fighting for the wellbeing of the common man.

He replied, ‘when you join a regime/administration, you immediately lose 50% of your former self to ‘COLLECTIVE RESPOSIBILITY’  policy of government and the remaining 50 is gradually forced out of you by the environment’.  

Whether his answer is the ideal or an excuse, its merits and demerits is a topic for discussion for another day.

The writer is a former Parliamentary candidate (2011) Kashaari Country, Mbarara District

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