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Of what value is accepting to be insulted?

Two weeks ago, this column called out the American President Donald Trump on the despicable comments he allegedly made about Africa.

Sections of The Observer readers were not impressed. I could understand why. But many of them missed the point, with some taking it a notch higher with personal attacks and effortless yet needless ad hominem charges.

There is nothing as priceless to any group of people, be it a race, nation or an ethnicity, as the pride they have in their heritage and history, their cultural values and social mores.

To be proud of one’s society, culture, and to appreciate the many endowments in one’s surrounding is by no means to be oblivious of undesirable conditions and intractable problems.

To the contrary, in fact the key to overcoming adverse conditions and breaking through the shackles of poverty and deprivation is self-belief and pride, ownership of problems and innovating solutions.

To lie down and allow others define who you are as a people and what you need is not only untenable in the short run, it also breeds deeper long-term problems. Africa has been at this for long.

It is most regrettable that with our clearly charted checkered history, many Africans still look at outsiders, especially the West, as our saviors who should have the right to insult us and treat us with unfettered paternalism. It has been more than 200 years of trying to save Africa, going back to evangelism contemporaneous with the horrors of slave trade.

I do not know of any society that has been transformed by the fiat of outside saviors. Development, or whatever one might want to call it, is fundamentally the function of internal social and political dynamics.

In fact, it’s arguable that left to their own devices, African peoples would have charted their own development trajectories, for bad or worse. No one knows!

The mindset that applauds outside insults and sees credence in cheap caricatures of Africa fails to appreciate some important issues. I will comment on only a few here.

First, the tendency to paint a one-sided negative picture of Africa derives from seeing Africa through the lens of the West.

Somehow, we are supposed to reach broad-brush and dismissive conclusions of Africa because it doesn’t measure up to the standards of Western modernity. And many of us do this often lacking a full grasp of the myriad problems other societies, whether in the West or elsewhere, face and grapple with interminably.

The practice of constructing other societies and positing them in negative terms is precisely the art of seeing strict opposites in what outsiders see compared to their own ways and standards. This, unfortunately, draws in sections of the African intelligentsia and government officials who see outside caricatures of Africa as accurate descriptions.

But Africa can never be like the West, whether we are talking about systems of public management of problems or social institutions that govern social relations.

I am not suggesting that African countries have to operate under their own sub-optimal standards or that we shouldn’t subject ourselves to the highest, rigorous criteria of duty, responsibility, and probity. Of course we have to.

But we cannot do so using templates from elsewhere, templates and standards adjudged as being superior and modern.

The Chinese have their own templates, so do Indians and Koreans. Africa has to imagine its own ways of solving problems, and this cannot happen by welcoming outside ridicule. It just won’t work.

The second issue that many of us fail to appreciate is the need to draw a distinction between the everyday struggles of ordinary people and the shenanigans of those in power. There is more to poor African societies than the misdeeds of rulers and the dysfunctions of governments.

I was born to parents of very humble means. My father received very limited formal schooling. But he had the tenacity for hard work and the determination to make a difference in very modest ways without throwing his pride to the wind because of his limited material capabilities. There are millions of Africans like my father.

So, the reckless and rather misguided insults thrown at African peoples and societies fail to appreciate the heroic struggles of millions out there who start from scratch and make huge differences in communities.

Many among Mr Museveni’s critics must have found themselves on rather unfamiliar terrain: the man agrees with them that Africa deserves to be insulted! Strange!

But here is the grandstander and the chief of deception who has spent a great part of his political and military life haranguing the West for supposed crimes against Africa.

The subtext here is that joining the chorus of our ostensibly deserved insult helps Mr Museveni hide his own culpability as easily the leading agent of outside (mostly Western) interests in Africa.

moses.khisa@gmail.com

The author is  an assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University.

Comments

0 #51 ejakait engoraton 2018-02-05 17:38
WE as readers are not here to pander to your emotions or sensibilities, because did you request the permission of your late brothers(rip) children, wife etc before you used their fathers/ husbands name to illustrate your point.

Have you , for instance never written about OBOTE (rip) AMIN (rip) and if so did you seek the permission of their families before you did, and do you think you may not have hurt their feelings by doing so.

Do you think that you do not hurt the feelings, say of M 7s children, relatives when you write scathing articles about him. IT is called freedom of expression, and if you do not want your brother, wife , children(just like you have mentioned them without anybody asking), your degrees etc , to become a point of discussion, do not mention them.

Read to yourself the MIRANDA rights,; you have the right to silence, but what you say will and can be used against you. That is what self censorship is and its nothing personal.
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0 #52 ejakait engoraton 2018-02-05 17:43
YOU claim that you like to interact with your readers. In the last 20 of your articles, how many times, or how many of those articles have you answered posts.

3 out of twenty, and almost exclusively where you have been challenged, as when you responded to HOI, so to me 15% can not be used as a benchmark to show how active you are on these forums, unless of course you respond privately to emails.
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0 #53 Mkhisa 2018-02-05 22:20
Ejakait:

Now that you're going down the lane of frivolity, you're sounding quite ridiculous!

So you've been wanting me to let it go, whatever that means. I've never asked you to pander to my sentiments.

My only request is that we stick to the issues. Why do you find it necessary to making me the subject of your gratuitous snide remarks.
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0 #54 Kabinda 2018-02-06 07:30
Very redundant, repulsive and disgusting exchange.

Unhelpful to the main subject of discussion. It begs the question:who is the adult here?
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0 #55 Apollo 2018-02-06 10:32
Dr. Khisa, your articles are a breath of fresh air in this polluted and hazy setting we call home. Whatever your thoughts about opinions expressed, don't ever consider to stop writing your column.

If it is any comfort, your style appeals to our sensibilities, values and aspirations. The fact that you've made good success while applying these competencies, it gives hope to the section of society that has not been impacted by the 'polluted and hazy setting'. Therefore, keep churning them out.
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0 #56 ejakait engoraton 2018-02-06 13:34
Whether I am going down the lane of frivolity and sounding ridiculous is your personal viewpoint to which you are entitled.

The OBSERVER has a policy regarding postings and they censor and edit our postings and if at any point they find them inappropriate, they edit them or refuse to publish altogether.

YOU did ask me to pander to your sentiments, by inference at least thus, " I wonder why you have to remind me that readers.................brother died. Really" and my answer to that is WHY NOT.

This is nothing personal and I am stating just general principles albeit I have mentioned your name or used you as the example. ALL I am saying is that once you mention something in public, it becomes public property.

NALUBEGA has for instance mentioned that she is from MASAKA and a MUNABUDDU so if at any point I feel that it is appropriate for me to mention it, she can not turn round and try to gag me. Likewise GWOK has mentioned his background in law, I can use that against him
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0 #57 ejakait engoraton 2018-02-06 13:49
SO what do you mean by sticking to issues. IT is only if one was born yesterday that they will think that a discussion can be held and one sticks to the STRAIGHT and NARROW.

So what is sticking to the point here. We only mention TRUMP, use the word SHITHOLE or given words and phrases. IF one wrote an article say about age limit removal, are we off the point if we brought in the term limit removal.

Rather than call my remarks or postings snide, just defend yourself. IT is impossible to separate the person from their writings, just like we all refer to M 7 when we probably mean the things he has done or said.

I can not for instance say your articles are brilliant, without implying that you are brilliant.

FOR the record, I have nothing personal at stake , and my record on this forum will bear me out and my argument, whether you think I am right or not, is purely on a matter(s) of principle; it applies to you, to me or anyone else.
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