I am getting accustomed to this mixed compliment in response to some of my writings that are critical of government.
Interestingly, the caution comes both from within and outside government. So much is the fear that some will have to first fence off my ear with their hands to safely whisper it in.
They ask if I have some connections in the system that make me feel that no harm can happen to me, like the proverbial rat that only laughs at the cat when it’s near its hole.
You cowards that think with your legs, come out of your holes and hear this. Must I remind you again that we were liberated and that such fears are misplaced?
Under Uganda’s democratic environment that is every African’s envy, why do you cower to imagine that one can be arrested for calling government to order?
You are the people that go around tarnishing our government’s image, creating an impression that what we got was a Trojan horse!
When will you understand that this is a different regime? When will you overcome those fears of old when society was filled with spies and where every spy had another one spying on them too?
We are not in those damn days of Amin and Obote when people would be arbitrarily tortured at state facilities, except if you misguidedly believe that ‘history is a catalogue of lies compiled by those in charge’.
Read your history with the right lenses and learn that we have since moved on. The mustard seed that was magnanimously sowed for us is now a thirty-year-old tree, yet you still think if I freely operate under its shade, it might fall on me! Ideologically bankrupt fixation!
I will continue being a diplomatic critic, diplomacy meaning the art of saying ‘nice dog’ while looking for a bigger stick. And why the stick anyway? It’s a nice dog that only barks at thieves and other enemies of the state.
Don’t tell me about the summoning of Dr Stella Nyanzi, allegedly over her remarks on government’s sanitary pads promise. You got it so wrong. Stella was not summoned because she poured scorn on the First Lady for dilly-dallying over the issue.
No, she was invited for a cordial chat with the police, and to thank her for mobilising for pads for our poor rural girls whom government cares so dearly about. Police doesn’t always have to inform you about what it does and how.
You see, Stella is an understanding woman. She knew that reasonable priorities such as the presidential handshake had left government short of funds for things like pads which can wait. Why wouldn’t government thank her for filling the vacuum?
Government is not as cold-hearted as you want people to imagine. If that was the case, they wouldn’t even make the empty promise. But they did that during the presidential campaigns because they sincerely care and could not leave those young girls without a message of hope. An empty promise is better than no promise at all. Don’t you know that hope is therapeutic?
Nevertheless, the police only had one small problem with Stella Nyanzi. You see, in our cultures here, menstrual things are private – so private that even when you are lied about them, you just have to remain quiet. It was a cultural issue, not political. Criticism is not the problem at all.
Some will hurriedly ask, how about Charles Rwomushana, Kalundi Serumaga, etc? Again, context my comrades! For instance, the problem with Rwomushana is not that he harshly admonishes government. Not at all. It is just that he shouts a lot. He was arrested for noise pollution.
Government cannot simply watch as he shouts beyond levels acceptable by Nema on TV and radio talk shows. That is what you misinterpret as restricting freedom of speech.
Look at Facebook’s TVO. Doesn’t he speak his nonsense freely? When police tried to find him for a talk, again you cried foul! Our good government does not really mind the barrage of stuff that he leaks on his page.
Government’s little concern is about the traffic on his wall. Isn’t traffic regulation one of police’s principal duties? It was also felt that a Ugandan with such following needed a national ID; how else were we to take his picture?
Of the many that choose to remain quiet, even where government expects them to speak out against evils like corruption, did you want government to force them to speak? If people choose to gag and censor themselves out of the fear created by themselves, that is their choice that should be respected too.
For instance, government did not ask religious leaders to speak against all evils except the political ones. They are free to choose where to concentrate. The donations are given to them in good faith. The president only advised them to focus on spiritual matters. Maybe in their assessment, political sins do not really matter to one’s salvation.
And again, it is not fair to say that the clergy went into silence; isn’t Fr Simon Lokodo talking? Has government stopped Pastor Robert Kayanja and Mufti Shaban Mubajje from speaking?
Even when they speak in suspicious tongues and collect baskets of money to take to ‘God’, no one ever touches them. Don’t ask me about Bishop Zac Niringiye, I am not his keeper.
So, dear fellow cowards, come out and speak freely. Do not let all this peace go to waste. Our dear liberators fought so that you do not have to burst with internal rage. No one will arrest you, for how will our good government ignore thieves within to run after a complainant?
The writer works with the school of Postgraduate Studies and Research at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.