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HomeOPINIONS AND COLUMNSPOLITICAL RELIGION: How Museveni Uses Religion To Govern

POLITICAL RELIGION: How Museveni Uses Religion To Govern

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By Oweyegha-Afunaduula
Gradesfixer.com (2021) observes that “throughout history we often see the relationship between church and state to be quite complex. Unlike modern times, there used to be a lot more relationship between the government and the church.

This led to many clashing ideas, values and ways of doing things. We get to experience examples of religion, primarily Christianity, in relation to government and politics. in Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ through the historical accounts and the personal observations/opinions he shares”.

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Yes, if one wants to discuss, write or intellectualize on how politics, government and the politics of a country relates with religion, one must start with Machiavelli; specifically, his The Prince”.

Although Machiavelli uses a sarcastic tone to discredit the values and logic of Christianity, he prescribes the best way for a ruler the best way to hold power and rule over a territory. He recommends virtues that will be automatically praised by others.

Such virtues include generosity, compassion and piety. However, even vices such as lies can attract people and earn a ruler praise and worship, especially if they are sustained by repeatedly being pronounced so that over time they appear as if they are the truth.

The Renaissance “universal man”, Machiavelli, was interested in everything: grammar, rhetoric, art, history, moral philosophy, theology, mythology, mathematics, magic, politics, and so on even when he was a government employee.

He was much intrigued by the exotic – kabbalah, esotericism, astrology, gnosticism, the Pythagorean and Eleusinian mysteries – rather than by scholastic routine. Being government employee did not dictate that he allowed his mind to be narrow or to think in a box.

He wanted to use all the dimensions of his mind or brain to influence and bring about change in a world, which was at his time dominated by theology, religion and philosophy.
Machiavelli wrote his most famous works, The Prince and The Discourses on Livy when such works were needed in Italy.

By that time Italy had been invaded three times by the French. Machiavelli was keenly concerned by the liberation of Italy from foreign rule and by the survival of Florence as a free and independent state. He did not think that a unity of religion and politics would liberate Italy from foreign domination.

In the Prince, Machiavelli prescribes what makes a ruler appear invincible: possessing prowess and being able to build own dynasty on own terms or agenda, free from influence from anyone including the clergy, academics, intellectuals, even own family, executive, legislature, judiciary or Constitution.

Because he saw how the religious people were becoming powerful and not ascribing it to God, thereby having enormous power over the people and Church itself, Machiavelli to advise that any prince (in this case ruler) seeking to capture power in or control in an area, could use the tactics of the religious leaders. He was of the view that the prince must seek as much power as possible and create ways to retain and maintain it for as long as possible.

Thus, in his The Prince, Machiavelli teaches the virtue and value pf personal power and legacy and all the choices that come with them, good and bad. This way his mindset is guided by the belief that it is the end not the means that matter in the power game of a ruler. Not only that.

Even if he emphasizes personal reputation as critical, he does not consider it as something that should stand in the way of someone seeking absolute power. This teaching meant that lying is superior to truth-telling, and will captivate subjects far more.

One can lie to the subject any number of times and go away with it to the ultimate thing: power. Ultimately, one can use power to institutionalize ways of keeping the power perpetually.

It becomes possible that the governed begin worshipping the ruler instead of questioning his choices and ways in leadership and governance or organization of society. Without religion standing in the way of power, the ruler, his ways and choices become divinized even by those with the highest faculty who soon start dancing to the tune of the ruler. Politics free of religion is secularized politics. Everything begins with man and ends with man.

The basic idea in Machiavelli’s The Prince is that is not the responsibility of the prince (ruler) to be well liked or loved by everyone, but it is better that he or she is feared/respected among the people.

It is, therefore, not surprising that many a ruler devise constitutional and unconstitutional means to enhance fear, respect and or the perception among the people he or she is irremovable, unreplaceable and invincible. He or she is lucky when the largest portion of the rules throughout society collectively perceives that the ruler is irremovable, irreplaceable and invincible.

This is best when such perception captivates a ruling party, the Executive arm of government, the legislative arm of government and the judicial arm of government, the academia, the intelligentsia and all the communities of humanity in and outside a country.

According to Emmet Kennedy (2006), Niccolò Machiavelli, indeed, invented secular politics by liberating it from religion and natural law. He abandoned these mainstays of morality, so goes the argument, in order to observe political life as it actually existed, rather than as it should exist.

When he secularized politics, some thinkers argued that he made politics more realistic. Thus, religion and politics came to be looked at differently after Machiavelli leading to secularisation of politics. No doubt, although

Machiavelli died many centuries ago, he is one of the most talked about, written about and intellectualized about in academic institutions and whose thoughts are most applied in leadership and governance. Apparently, rulers that ignore the thoughts of Machiavelli in leadership and governance end up being despised, belittled and removed from power. Many lies can be told about them to justify their removal from power or prevention from accessing power. By nature, people prefer lies to truth. One who tells the most penetrating and enduring lies will be assured of power. He or she is likely to manifest as owner of a cult in political terms. Even if he or she despises religion he or she will appear to be more religious than the religious and do every thing possible to keep the religious at bay or in his sphere of influence.

As one writer put it, the nineteenth century, which had not yet witnessed the worst uses of Machiavellianism, on the whole, judged Machiavelli harshly by moral criteria. The twentieth century, which saw the worst atrocities in recorded history, strangely (or maybe not so strangely) came to view Machiavelli in friendlier terms. Perhaps its scholars had become inured (i.e., accustomed) to violence by its frequency and magnitude.

When violence on life becomes frequent and almost normal, people frequently begin to think that they cannot do anything to end it. Even institutions whose duty and obligation is to keep law and order or to secure lives and properties of the citizens more or less give up. They turn the duty and obligation to the citizens so that they end up blaming the citizens every time violence occurs. Or else, they may offer large sums of money to convince the citizens that if they do what the instruments of power fail to achieve, say establishing the killers of a victim, they will become wealthy in an instant. Otherwise, violence is a source fear for the rulers to keep the ruled under check.

Let me make it clear. As one writer clarified, Machiavelli was not against religion; he was only against the Catholic Church. He was against the interference of church in the state. According to Machiavelli, a Prince can use the religion but a prince should not get used by religion. Machiavelli has given a Utilitarian approach towards religion. He believed religion as a disciplinary force and a means of social control.

Thus, he considers religion very useful for creating discipline among people as they won’t commit wrongs for fear of God. They would stay away from doing anti-social activities in the fear of God.

Have I forgotten to tell you how President Tibuhaburwa Museveni governs Uganda and to what end? No, I have not. I have written this article in such a way that as you read it you make your own conclusions on how the President is governing Uganda and how things are the way they are and to what end. As you read ask:

  • Why is Uganda so bantustanized?
  • How is the relationship between religion, politics and the President Constructed?
  • How are the different arms of government actually related functionally?
  • What is the relationship between the instruments of coercion, the people and power?
  • Why is it next to impossible for Opposition to bring about change through the ballot paper?
  • Why is free and independent thought almost dead in Uganda?
  • Why is the quality of life plummeting meteorically as the national budget and borrowing for development, transformation and progress spirals supersonically upwards
  • Why are the clergy and academia united in the conspiracy of silence on many issues of public interest?

Fontana (1999) writes that Machiavelli’s political theory develops a politics without moral, theological and religious foundations. Many rulers of the 21st Century prefer such a politics, and to use the clergy to do their bidding Nathan Tarcov (2013) writes that Political success and failure are affected not only by force and arms but by religious belief in particular, and more generally by the beliefs and opinions of peoples.

Princes can also be the beneficiaries or the victims of their own beliefs and opinions. Machiavelli occasionally explicitly states a view as his own belief or opinion such as his belief in cruelty well used or his opinions that a prince should found himself on the people and avoid their hatred. His beliefs and opinions both contrast with common beliefs and opinions and are modified in response to them.

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