Friday, August 20, 2010

Twenty four years later…, the NRM struggle continues
Published in The New Vision of January 26, 2010

By Asuman Bisiika

I was once an active political cadre; a political instructor of sorts. One of my favourite topics was “the management of state power vis-à-vis the armed struggle”.

I used to explain to my students: Revolutionary outlook guides the management of state power. To avoid revolutionary regression, counter-revolutionary and neo-revolutionary tendencies, the sustainability of the struggle is critical; which is the basis of the line: the struggle continues.

Otherwise without ideological clarity to guide the armed struggle and the management of state power, the revolution would be reduced to merely assumption of state power; the quick-fix attitude commonplace with military coup plotters. Reference is the 1966 coup (January) and counter-coup (July) in Nigeria that was later to lead to the Biafran civil war.

Sustainability of the struggle is not about the rhetoric oratory of cadres sugared with wordy bombast and quick-tongued diction. Revolutionary sustainability is about tangible and intangible achievements that constitute a legacy.

Now, as the NRM leadership celebrates 24 years in power, what is its enduring legacy?

The most enduring achievement of the NRM struggle has been the demolition of the colonial state superstructure. The central plank of the colonial state was the chief; variously addressed as King, Paramount Chief or merely Chief.

The Chief levied taxes, collected taxes, arrested you for defaulting on payment and released you as he willed. The chief’s responsibility was to the colonial state not the people he ruled. And as long as he did not annoy his colonial masters, he could do with the population as he wished.

He could be a native traditional leader or appointed by the colonial state like the case of Semei Kakungulu, but brief remained the same: namely to rule on behalf (or wish) of the colonial state which was far removed from the people.

The immediate post-colonial administrations, either for lack of ideological clarity or confidence, inherited the entire colonial superstructure and thinking. With the benefit of retrospection however, we can now say that the colonial state was so much entrenched that its destruction needed more than just being independent from colonial masters.

By contrast, the new chief created by NRM (the Sub County Chief or the District’s Chief Administrative Officer) is supervised by the people. This re-organisation of the state superstructure is irreversible.

The phrases “it was a political decision” and “orders from above” are now in vogue as response to queries over bad buys by the government. Weary administrative functionaries (led by Permanent Secretaries) just look on or take advantage of the politicians’ greed and shenanigans. The Chogm scandals are a testimony to this scenario.

Yet this can be explained. The challenges the NRM leadership face today can be blamed to the span of the armed struggle. The armed struggle was so short that it didn’t give the ‘strugglers’ enough time for a comprehensive ideological discipline, cadre development and grounding to run a state professionally.

The NRM didn’t have the opportunity to run a state-like administration like the UNITA of Angola, RENAMO of Mozambique or SPLA of Sudan. This would have given the NRM Political Corps the experience to transit from survival mode (self-preservations and territorial holding) to sustenance and consolidation mode needed to run state apparatus.

Imagine a ten-year stalemate with NRM holding the Political West (from Kafu to Kagera and from Katonga to the Rwenzoris). They would run the ‘liberated areas’ as a state and use their experience to run the administrative functions of the government.

Perhaps corruption (manifested in messed up procurement processes, delivery of shoddy public works and services) would not be at such destructive levels as it is now. ENDS

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