There are elements within the Ugandan state who admire the working style of President Paul Kagame. So much so, they almost copy and paste everything he does. There are widespread rumors that the Ugandan government is about to strike a deal in which it will place an advert on the shirts of one of the big English Premier League clubs, Manchester United.
The advert is designed as a tourist attraction initiative that reads VISIT UGANDA and it will be placed on the shoulders of team Manchester United players` Shirts. The advert which will reportedly cost a fortune is said to be operationalized next season as the adverts are closed for this season. The phenomenon of placing adverts on the shirts of big European teams started some few years ago. Malaysia was one of the first countries to place The VISIT MALYSIA adverts on the shirts and stadia of the big European clubs.
In fact, Rwanda was the first African country to make the bold step when it struck the deal to place the VISIT RWANDA advert on the shoulders of the Arsenal team shirts. It has done the same thing with French club PSG. Now Uganda is pushing for the same deal which will cost trillions of monies. Uganda has been chasing Rwanda`s shadows for a very long time, trying to imitate whatever Kigali implements! This goes a long way back to 1996 when Rwanda made a bold decision to attack President Joseph Mobutu’s Zaire. Rwanda was healing fresh from the 1994 genocide that saw many perpetrators of the genocide seek refuge in President Mobutu’s territory in Eastern Zaire.
Although there are historic accounts that Rwanda connived with Uganda to actualize the military attack, there is a lot of evidence to show that Rwanda took the first initiative to attack Kinshasa. It is actually believed that Uganda jumped on board after Rwanda had already managed to invade as far as Lubumbashi! This invasion of Zaire was the beginning of the fallout between Uganda and Rwanda due to that small detail. Uganda arrived late for the war party and the UPDF commanders made the mistake of trying to dictate terms on the RPF commanders who had had started it all. Both countries have since fought on three separate occasions culminating into a very terrible cold war.
Incidentally, during the process of this cold war, President Paul Kagame managed to scoop some very good brains (some of them journalists) from Uganda. These fellows managed to generate propaganda that made Rwanda look much better than Uganda in all aspects. Journalists like Andrew and Frederick managed to polish Rwanda’s image to the extent of insinuating that Uganda was badly beaten in the war for Kisangani. They also managed to sustain the narrative that Rwanda was developing much faster than Uganda and Kigali was neater than Kampala.
Mot Ugandans started believing in that propaganda and would start the conversation by suggesting phrases like ‘IF YOU GO TO RWANDA’ you will find thorough organization, discipline and focus. This Rwanda narrative grew into a monster and it couldn’t be ignored or simply bashed off by the Kampala establishment. It was clear that president Kagame’s propaganda had overwhelmed President Museveni to an extent that he started investing in public relations initiatives.
An Avalanche of Mistakes:
Although he doesn’t believe so much in propaganda, this time Museveni started seeing its value. He sought to reverse this public relations dent by sending his son in-law Odrek Rwabwogo to do an advert gig with CNN that promoted Uganda’s image at a cost of USD1M in 2006. After realizing that he was still not matching the public relations game he was faced with, he sent his lieutenants to convince one of the journalists to defect from Kigali. Soon this journalist got empowered enough to write proposals to the President.
One of his first proposal was to deal with Kampala to match or even get better than Kigali. In his proposal, Andrew reasoned that it was the politics which had killed the quality of Kampala city. He emphasized this narrative by suggesting that it was hard to find a single polythene bag strewn on the streets of Kigali because the regime was very strict. So, he suggested that the city was supposed to be controlled by non-political person in the caliber of an Executive Director. President Museveni, who had adopted a liberal approach that made Kampala dwellers enjoy a free ride that had vendors, boda-boda riders and traders freely roaming around, soon changed his mind.
He haphazardly appointed Jennifer Musisi as the Executive Director with powers to do anything that could make Kampala better than Kigali! Soon, Jennifer adopted the same Kigali code and unleashed discipline of terror proportions. What was the net effect? Soon after Musisi’s reign, President Museveni terribly lost the 2016 Kampala elections with a margin as huge as 90%. Out of the four divisions the NRM Party only managed to get one MP, Hon Muhammad Nsereko. But he also professed opposition leaning rebel views against the establishment. It became clear that the President had been misadvised into the belief that he could achieve so much via ignoring the politics and imitating Rwanda.
What happened is that the NRM dwindling political fortunes in Kampala in 2016, soon spread to the whole of Buganda in 2021 elections when NRM was roundly beaten badly at the polls by Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi’s NUP which exploited the loophole and managed to scoop seats which were normally known to be NRM strongholds within the Central Region. Today, the NRM is thriving in the region largely due to the power of the gun rather than the will of the people. The source of all this horrendous loss of political base originated from the idea of trying to imitate Rwanda without internalizing the repercussions. If Museveni had maintained his liberalism and sanitized Kampala using step by step approach, he would still maintain his popularity. Today, what started as a small itch within Kampala has spread to most parts of the country.
Loss of social media:
With the loss of Kampala and the Central Region, Museveni has also lost the social media to the extent that his government had to close Facebook for a full year and still counting, due to the unbelievable hatred directed at him and his family on that platform. Today, when any member of the ruling party or the army dies, like Gen Elly Tumwine did a few weeks ago, Ugandans on social media jubilate as if they have won the world cup! Meanwhile the ruling party has gone on the offensive by adopting extremist policies. For instance, the SMART CITY initiative is an extension of Jennifer Musisi’s reign of terror against the city dwellers.
The copy and paste also had the net effect of leading to the unnecessary revival of the Uganda Airlines. The mantra was like; ‘How can Rwanda possess an airline in the global skies and we don’t’. This was used to persuade President Museveni to order for the bombardiers that have blown lots of tax payer’s money with not a single return in profits. It will not come as complete surprise if you see the VISIT UGANDA adverts placed on one of the powerful European football clubs of the Premier League.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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