Former Ugandan president Milton Obote is rumoured to be the person who coined the phrase “politics is a dirty game”. Obote, who was the prime minister at the time, is supposed to have said this as he, with the help of a certain Idi Amin, ransacked the palace of the ceremonial President of Uganda Sir Edward Mutesa. Certainly to Mr Obote, politics was dirty; after all, he wasn’t one to leave an opponent alone while that ‘enemy’ was busy haranguing his policies. That person would either end up in a dungeon somewhere or suffer an even worse fate.
Sadly, Obote’s quip was taken to heart by many, if not all, African leaders. It’s not enough that a leader should beat his/her opponent, no; the opponent should be utterly destroyed, both personally and politically. And sadly, this phenomenon isn’t one that remains at the very top of the political strata. It has permeated into the larger body politic.
I’ve observed these politics of destruction from the lowest level such as primary schools, to even a place where you’d think that people are smart enough not to descend into this dirty cesspool of hateful politics.
The recent trouble in the guild association in the National University of Rwanda is a case in point. Different members of AGENUR (the name of the student guild) executive committee are at each other’s throats because they simply can’t agree to act like people with an iota of intelligence. One camp is acting all-powerful while the other camp is behaving like a bunch of stubborn children.
Mind you, if each camp was keeping its resentment to themselves, I, and many other students, wouldn’t have any axes to grind. Unfortunately, these camps are playing the politics of divide and rule and their bile is infecting the student community. Playing on the whole ‘Franco-Anglophone’ divide that puts so many of the students in a lather, these irresponsible opponents are re-opening wounds that have refused to heal in the bigoted minds of many of the students.
It is quite telling that one camp is led by the so-called Anglophones, while the other is led by those of a Gallic persuasion. Sadly, these problems at the top of the AGEUNR are becoming a point of conflict in the larger student community, with each side trying to galvanize its ‘sympathetic electorate’ i.e. it’s respective ‘–phone’ group.
It’s sad that none of these warring factions can get a ‘real’ issue to get all hot and bothered about. It’s even sadder when you consider that these fellows that stoop to such gutter tactics are the future leaders of this nation. I mean, if they can become downright nasty about a paltry students association, what in the world should we expect when there is an entire national cake at stake?
If today’s practice is any indicator, then everyone should have a heart-to-heart chat with the deity they believe in. Because trust me, we are in trouble. According to these chaps, politics is about numerical advantage and special interests. Sometimes I wonder whether the myopic politics that we’ve suffered from for such a long time will ever be done away with.
In the United States right now, probably the most exciting presidential race is on, especially among the Democrats. Wonder of wonders a black man, of Kenyan origin, is giving a white person a run for her money; in fact, Senator Obama might just become the next president of the mightiest nation in the world.
I’m amazed because, in my narrow thought processes, I never saw the American people giving a black person a chance in hell to assume the White House. I mean, wasn’t America the home of racial violence as seen in the Rodney King beatings?
Wasn’t it home to the Ku Klux Klan? It’s not even been fifty years from the assassinations of the civil rights campaigners Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and now a black guy wants to become Commander-in-Chief of the largest military machine in the history of mankind! I thought he had a death wish either figuratively or literally.
I was waiting for the low blows, the dirty politics of destruction that I’d been accustomed to, but I was surprised to find the two bitter opponents not slinging mud but rather trying to get their personal messages across. As compared to the campaigns that I’ve seen, the US race looks like a leisurely stroll in the park on a sunny day.
I finally found out their secret. They are bitter opponents, yes. However, they aren’t enemies. Maybe that’s a lesson we need to learn. Just because I don’t agree with your ideas doesn’t mean I don’t agree with you personally. You don’t have to throw me in jail.