Ugandans closed 2019 and started 2020 with some free but highly valuable lessons in publicity. The big two that come to mind here are both clothed in yellow.
Two of the strongest entities in the country are politically, the country’s ruling party called National Resistance Movement (NRM), and financially, the country’s biggest telecom company—Mobile Telephone Network (MTN).
MTN ran an advert on TV that had middle and upper class folks frowning because it focused on table manners that our mothers never approved—slurping. It is about ‘supu’ which means soup or gravy.
The way the actor in advert slurps at the gravy would earn a kid heavy scolding in an average family or would terminate any relationship between a couple that hasn’t yet taken marital vows. But such loud enjoyments of tasty food appeals to the masses and MTN’s public relations gurus know it.
And over the past couple of months, NRM has been glorifying ghetto characters which has left middle and upper class folks with raised eyebrows.
The NRM chairman who is also president of the republic, Yoweri Museveni, decorated them, to the chagrin of some of his own party officials.
The newly elevated ghetto heroes in dreadlocks and apparently unexercised bodies then came out charging, laughing at the sulking senior party members.
A new party star, an amply bodied lady had a video of herself shot as she enjoyed a sumptuous meal in a restaurant, with a wad of banknotes placed visibly next to her plate of oily food. The largest party knows that that the socially lower people have more votes and the general election is now just a year and a month away.
There is a Luganda saying about rich guys moving together the way a growing beard bypasses eyebrows and goes to join the hair on the head. Uganda’s two rich yellow boys also have that tendency.
Hardly a year ago, the NRM government was furious with MTN that it dismissed several of their senior managers summarily, accusing them of the high crime of espionage.
But if you were expecting big time trials for such an offence only comparable to treason, that never came to pass.
MTN and NRM kissed and reconciled. There was also accusation of tax evasion through under-declaration. Who remembers how that one ended?
As the country goes into campaigns for the 2021 elections, the political opposition will engage in their sophisticated talk about misallocation of resources, human rights statistics quoting Amnesty International, environmental degradation and such stuff that in Kampala is called “a lot of English”.
The NRM campaigners will go for the basic stuff, with the president donating consignments of hoes and crop seedling that are supposed to enhance ‘wealth creation’.
The new ghetto heroes will invite the masses to join them slurping oily gravy and chomping away at chicken thighs. The thick wads of cash will be visible and the voters will know they stand high chances of getting a note off the wad. The chicken and the cash are tangible while the promise of enhancement of democratic governance is not.
Welcome to 2020.
Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email:[email protected]