Can the elite forge change in Uganda?


By Phillip Matogo


The elite have been overly maligned.


First, Dr Kizza Besigye rabbit-punched them. Not to be left out, President Museveni then sucker-punched them.


After that, Ugandans with ringside seats to this grudge match started chanting “Our money, our money!” when they saw the elite were still standing.


Oftentimes, I wonder if our elite are victims of a collective envy. Since they are, by definition, “a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.”


Ironically, the elite are actually made up of Besigyes and Musevenis.


So the two elite bashers are really just posturing to deceive the downtrodden that they’re part of them.

They know the elite would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism, so such attacks on them also serve a masochistic streak in both leaders.


Furthermore, knocking down the intelligentsia is also a ploy to demonise and deny them their rightful position as leaders of progress.


Indeed, persons of property and standing must use their property and standing to create a third force in the same way Ghanaian intellectuals did in 1947.


These Ghanaians formed a political party called the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) under Dr Joseph Danquah.


However, the problem with the UGCC was that it was too elitist; which is not precisely the same as being elite.

The former is based on perception, while the latter is based on performance.


Anyway, the best thing the UGCC did was recruit Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was educated highly, but was perpetually penniless.

Having worked as a labourer in a soap factory and as a ship’s steward; he had also hawked fish on street corners in Harlem, New York.


He was so poor he’d make a church mouse seem like a fat cat! This poverty readied him to be more elite than elitist.


He thus broke ranks with the UGCC to form the Convention People’s Party. To those who didn’t have two pennies to rub together and had no property, Nkrumah offered salvation: “Seek ye first the political kingdom and everything else shall be added unto you!”


Nkrumah, who had enrolled at the London School of Economics as a PhD candidate in anthropology, could connect with the man on the street for two reasons.


One, he was once that man on streets. By doing odd jobs in America, he learnt what it meant to be a bottom feeder.

Two, he knew that thinking one is the best is different from being the best.

Often, being the best comes with defying one’s own orientation and learning.

Or, as a Chinese proverb says, “it’s better to be without a book than to believe a book entirely”.


Elites must thus commit class suicide.

Then, like Nkrumah, they can lead the charge against all those who threaten Uganda as a country and as a concept about where that country can go.


We all know that the uneducated have never forged change in Uganda. At independence, during Amin’s tenure and throughout the Bush War, intellectuals guided the spirit behind the letter of revolutionary change.


The world over, the elite shape the vanguard of societal progress.


The French revolution was sparked by thinkers, writers and scientists who shaped the French Enlightenment during the 18th Century.


In the digital era, influence comes from boosting search engine optimisation and establishing thought leadership through content creation.


Today, more than any other time, intellect counts for progress as it directs “inbound traffic” to your platform or cause.

The elites, being “brainiacs”, are thus uniquely placed to control our political narrative.

It’s time they did just that.


Mr Matogo is the managing editor Fasihi Magazine.


This article was published by Daily Monitor.

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