There is a developing story that reveals a clique within the corridors of power, propagating the idea of placing President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s portrait on the Ugandan national currency, as a ‘sign of respect and recognition` for the historical role he has played in his 36-year reign, the Investigator reports.
The story, which was first mooted immediately after the passing of Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile almost a year ago but was downplayed by the President at the time, has regained shape as a package of the new currency reforms.
Sources revealed that a clique of loyalists from within feel that President Museveni has not been appreciated enough for his nation building efforts, and therefore assert that he deserves to be recognized through monuments, statues and his portrait placed on the national currency.
Although the President has rejected the idea on several occasions in the past, this time he will have to be persuaded to embrace it by friendly forces. This idea of ‘canonizing’ Museveni seems to have already started by the armed forces where, part of the building of the Special Forces Brigade was named after him (Yoweri Museveni building) and his statue (in command posture) erected at the entrance of Kabamba barracks, to commemorate the 6th February 1981 attack that launched the five-year bush war which culminated in the capture of power by the NRA forces in 1986.
Former Bank of Uganda Governor, Mutebile passed on last year and therefore his signature has got to be replaced from all the Ugandan currency notes with a new signature from the new prospective Governor, provoking calls for an overall redesign of the entire bulk of Ugandan currency. When asked about the issue early this year, the NRM Director of Information, Publicity and Public Relations, Hon Emanuel Dombo revealed to this writer on phone that he cannot rule out that possibility (of president Museveni portrait gracing the currency) because there are very many cliques in the ruling party that propagate and brainstorm ideas for the good of the Party.
He however stressed that the issue had not reached the Central Executive Committee, for which, he speaks. ‘’I am not privy to that information but when it comes up in our forum, we shall take it up and I will be the first to let you know. Actually, what I know is that President Museveni had declined to use his portrait on the national currency on several occasions. But of course, what is true is that there are very many people who bring up ideas for the NRM.
So, it’s not completely a deniable development. We can discuss it when it comes up,” Dombo stressed.
Apart from replacing the late Mutebile’s signature, there are widespread suggestions that the Ugandan Shilling note is too ‘shabby’ and needs some little bit of polishing. It’s also suggested that most of the features and symbols that appear on the notes don’t carry enough weight and will therefore be dispensed with, and replaced with more meaningful features that carry historical weight. For instance, the 50.000-shilling note has a baboon to signify the importance of baboons as a tourist attraction and in extension, a big foreign exchange earner for the country. The one-thousand-shilling note has got a farmer in the garden, which in essence symbolizes agriculture as an economic activity in the country.
But the problem with those features is that same agricultural activity and the baboon exist in most of the African countries. A country like Rwanda has baboons as a tourist attraction, therefore Ugandan doesn’t enjoy its monopoly. “We should look at the overall value placed on our bank notes, not just sentimental value attached to our national symbols,” one NRM insider, who supports the idea but preferred to remain anonymous, revealed. ‘’ Great leaders all over the world are recognized by getting them placed on the national currency.
Wartime leaders who have played a pivotal role in the history of any given country grace the national currency. “We all know how much sacrifice President Museveni made to secure this country from state-inspired killings, poor management of state affairs and his efforts in rebuilding the country from scratch, so why not?’’ stressed the NRM loyalist who is part of the group making final touches in selling the idea to the country but vigorously declined to be revealed by name.
But when contacted by phone, the NRM Secretary General, Richard Todwong around March this year said that he was also not aware of such an idea and stressed that he was hearing it from us for the first time. He however said that the President had rejected it many years ago. “No, I am hearing it from you for the first time. But it’s true that the law provides that when a Governor passes on, his signature is replaced with the signature of the new Governor that assumes office. But am not aware of the President’s portrait also coming in the new bank note design’’ he stressed.
Although it’s true that the Ugandan President had rejected this idea before, he has also set the precedence of turning around on his word. For instance, he was on record as having said that he would NOT be running the country beyond 75 years of age. But today he is past 78 years and still firmly in charge of the country. In any case not every idea that crops up has had the original blessing of the President. In most times, he has had to be convinced through protracted engagement.
The Nitty Gritty
If the debate gains momentum, it’s likely to generate confusion of choice as to which currency note Museveni should appear on or probably appear on all the bank notes.
To give this idea credibility and detach it from President Museveni, one anonymous protagonist of this proposal suggests that apart from President Museveni, the Ugandan currency should PERHAPS, also be featuring portraits of former leaders like the late President Frederick Muteesa, the late Bishop Janan Luwum, Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, sports icons like John Akii Bua, who was the first Ugandan to win the Olympic gold medal in 1972 and other notable Ugandan personalities.
To begin with, the American currency, the dollar, graces the portrait of civil war leader and first American President George Washington who, played a sterling role in the war of independence whose portrait features on one $1 bill, President Thomas Jefferson features on the $2 bill note, President Abraham Lincoln features on the $5 bill, Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill Ulyss Grant on the $50 bill, and Benjamin Franklin on the $100 bill.
It must be stressed that Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of State and Benjamin Franklin (who was a writer, scientist and political philosopher) are the two none presidents to feature on the USD bills. The NRM loyalist actually tasked this writer to ‘go and look at the Chinese currency which is graced by revolutionary leader Chairman Mao Tsetung. “If you agree that Gen Museveni is a revolutionary, you should be the first to accord him that privilege,’’ he stressed.
In Britain, the portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth has graced the Pound for many years but will soon be replaced with King Charles after her demise. In neighboring Kenya, the national currency has got the portrait of the father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta on all bank notes. And before that, the Kenyan currency had President Daniel Arap Moi on all currency denominations before they carried out reforms to remove it. It’s the same case with Tanzania where, the late President Julius Nyerere features prominently on the national currency.
For the case of Uganda, Presidents Apollo Milton Obote and Idi Amin had their portraits on the national currency starting from the lowest to highest denominations.
It must however be stressed that on so many occasions the NRM top organs of CEC have not originated ideas. In most cases proposals have emerged from anonymous sources and then subjected to debate by the central executive committee, the NRM caucus and then taken to parliament.
So, the proposal may not necessarily need to have an immediate blessing of the president until it undergoes a complete cycle of scrutiny by the top organs of the party and ultimately tabled on the floor of parliament. Given the precedent that has already been set all over the world, the idea might be easily embraced and passed by parliament given the tyranny of numbers that the NRM boasts of in parliament.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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