By Dennis Matanda
I called my mother yesterday after what seems like donkeys’ years. Because this life is full of bees, my excuse for irresponsibility is unacceptable but plausible. All that, however, went to the wind after I saw videos and news coming out of Uganda. After being glued to the clear videos and documentaries, I could not help but call my mother! How could they treat Kiiza Besigye like that? If you do not know what I am talking about, then I am glad. If they could do this to a high profile politician, what would they not do to my brothers? Sisters? Cousins? Friends? Former schoolmates? Former colleagues? Did you see the way he was bundled into the bottom of the police pickup truck? How can anyone forget the smug faces of the security agents as they did their bidding? Their sheer callousness and lack of shame as they acted in front of the media was beyond anything that could have happened during Amin’s time. At least, then, State Research Bureau employees tried to disguise their identity by wearing dark glasses. But these ‘new’ men did not seem to care that the world was watching. [More on this later]
I, then, caught a glimpse of what brutality to ‘small people’ meant. There was a video of a man pursued into his ramshackle house by four or five police cum military personnel. They dragged that fellow out screaming and pleading. Then he was beaten and utterly humiliated before he was dragged to some detention facility leaving his broiling dinner and property available for even poorer people to help themselves to. That was not even the worst of scenes. One man lost an eye – gouged out due to the violence meted out by the people who were supposed to look out for his rights.
The largest amounts of wretchedness are that I do not want to go home anymore. I do not want to join my comrades in building the nation. I am going to enjoy these empty acts of packaged food and cold air. I am ashamed of the scenes from the place I used to call home. I am in shock that I actually know some of the people responsible for the despondency. How can Kale Kayihura, the police supremo justify this violence? On the other hand, I wonder if President Museveni is blind to what is happening in the Middle East and Maghreb. And even if he were blind, can he be so divorced from reality and so be deaf to the sound of pending doom?
But maybe, there is respite for Uganda after all. In what is purely cosmic karma, the Monitor Newspaper did a profile on the officer nee tormenter who smashed Dr. Col. Kiiza Besigye’s car with the butt of his handgun. Anyone with any sense would have seen this coming, anyway. The cameras had eloquently captured Gilbert Arinaitwe keeping law and order. The Monitor profile showed his beaming, beautiful wife. The story quoted his friends, former teachers and former schoolmates. They mentioned that he is a devout Christian. But how can Gilbert show his face at church now yet his own family is seemingly distancing themselves from him? On the other hand, because he came from humble beginnings, some say that this was all in a day’s work for him. He was just trying to feed his growing family. However, conversely, in the age of social media; and in the age where everyone knows everyone, you cannot get away with doing just about anything to survive.
I remember my friend Bob Drani after the infamous Black Mamba incident at the High Court in Kampala. The media showed his picture commanding those who used brutal force to prevent justice from being carried out. I do not think Bob feels as secure as he used to before the incident. I believe that this is the kind of social pressure that will probably save Uganda from the acts of violence from state agencies. Uganda has radio stations, televisions, newspapers and all kinds of things that give the Fourth Estate the opportunity to thrive. Also, being a most interlinked and small society, Ugandans know almost everything. Just like I wished for Bob Drani’s family, God forbid that anything should happen to Arinaitwe’s pregnant wife. However, if someone took revenge on this woman, wouldn’t that send a message to other state agents who carry out their acts of violence with alacrity?
Penultimately, we need to ask: Who is to blame for all that is going on in Uganda? The spoils of war could be laid at the feet of an insufferable President who has been in power for too long; or, on the circumstances leading to high gas and food prices. Nonetheless, blame or impugnation aside, one thing stands clear: excessive violence is not necessary. Experience shows that if politicians and youth want to walk, let them walk. If people want to protest, let them protest. Just leave them alone. However, only imbeciles and dictators do not seem to understand that like Einstein found, mass is a manifestation of energy. It may also change forms; meaning that if you add ingredients like force and pressure, there could be an explosion. We have seen mass and energy work in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Libya and Tunisia. You cannot, therefore, tell me that it cannot have the same devastating effect in Uganda.
I am just glad that most of my cousins and other relatives are not as political as I am; that my mother lives far away from the capital; that my incorrigible father is too busy with booze and lastly, that my provocative brother Ernest is now sequestered away for the next three months.