|"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism"|
The argument I was involved in was sparked off by this video, posted by Bukedde TV on 03 October 2015, about a raid on the Romi Wines factory in Kitebi by uniformed soldiers allegedly because the proprietor was/is providing funds for Mbabazi's presidential bid. This was followed by the events that occurred on Mbarara highway on Saturday, 10th October, when police stopped a convoy of members of the opposition FDC party and press as they attempted to make their way to Rukungiri. In the ensuing scuffle, Zainab Fatuma Naigaga, a member of the FDC entourage was manhandled and dragged by police officers to a waiting police truck. One officer tore off her blouse while others pulling her by the jeans, brought them down to her knees. All this was filmed and photographed by the press present at the scene. The following day the police released a statement, and video footage, claiming she had undressed herself in a bid to seek attention and sympathy from the public. Police further claimed that FDC had hired 'goons' who were ready to undress to create the impression that they were being harassed by security operatives. The IGP, Gen. Kale Kayihura then went ahead to warn journalists not to travel with opposition politicians.
Three distinct sides emerged as the argument wore on; one that believed the narrative proffered by the police, claiming that their (the FDC entourage and the press) being on the road was illegal and thus they deserved to be arrested; the opposing side which maintained that the police had been brutal and has consistently shown itself to be partial to the ruling party; and a third side that was indifferent and increasingly irritated by the argument.
Dissent is a costly undertaking; more so in this economy where you've got to scrap and hustle for every little crumb you can, therefore if you've got mouths to feed you can barely afford to take to the streets. Walk to work? What's that? You ask. I walk to work day in and day out and I haven't seen my MP stop to ask why I don't commute let alone offer me a lift. I haven't seen his opponents either. No one gives a damn.
The harsh truth is that this government thinks you're all idiots; noisy but powerless idiots. Over time it has blocked off most avenues for you to exercise real power. It has paid off parliament to pass laws curtailing your ability to express your displeasure, others to consolidate power in one branch of government while effectively undermining its own. It has squandered hundreds of billions of your money all in the name of your security but you can't even hold anyone accountable for buying a bunch of 'junk' military hardware. It has turned what is meant to be an august house into a forest of vociferous bumbling baboons whose sole aim seems to be to cling onto the branches of power and amass as much fruit as the tree can bear. Your government has no ideals. In fact it has made you believe that to have ideals is at best foolish and at worst dangerous. Words like democracy are considered dirty imports allegedly incompatible with our 'African culture'. 'It's okay when people steal', they say, 'as long as they share the spoils with you, invest in the economy, wealth creation, trickle down effect.' If you happen to find yourself on the receiving end of a trickle or two, you can finally kick-start your dreams because you're now 'in the thing'.
But what can you do? You've got to eat. Baby's gotta have some milk. You don't have the time and energy to go against your government to make it better, so you give in and take your share of the spoils too or keep your head down and say it's okay as long as I can live my life, 'in peace.' But to what end?
How did we get here? How is it that we live in a society where our MPs can sit down and agree to increase their salaries and benefits while hospitals rot and people starve to death. How did we become the kind of people that celebrate theft and the perversion of justice? That one is a long history but I'll wager it started when we allowed the fear of insecurity to be used as a weapon to control us. The generation tasked with heralding a truly 'fundamental change' in this nation has spent the summers of its youth cowering in the shadow of fear; fear of rocking the boat and shattering a fragile 'peace'. It has surrendered its rights, neglected its duty and willingly become an accomplice to the rape of our great land.
But it is not the end. This nation will prevail and the ideals we held at the start will once again light our way. It must begin with us. We must not cower and hide our heads but stand tall and have our say. Today. It has to be today, for when we get to the end, we must pass all this on to those who will go on ahead.