Uganda Today:Torture is the new standard for true patriotism
We are at a point where activists and “vocal” people are fighting each other. Reason? Because one’s contribution to the struggle for change in Uganda can only be measured by how much trouble their work/voice puts them in. Unless you’ve been beaten severely or summoned several times, you aren’t an activist enough. It is as if there is a competition on who gets into more trouble. I suspect that this is a traumatic response to the sad state of affairs. The military dictatorship of Museveni has set the standard for who gets acknowledged amongst the agitators of change through torture, forced disappearances, trumped up charges and imprisonment. Unless you’ve experienced any of these, “tolina kyotugamba!”
Is it a competition though? How shall we achieve the change we are agitating for if we start to compare how much our contributions have attracted state heavy handedness? Trust me, I have observed this for a long time and like the common GenZ statement, I have receipts too.
Last year, one of the people that I held in high regard as a mentor and friend, told people in our circle that the reason I was not tortured when I was summoned for my poem was because I was from Western Uganda. He claimed that because my name is Ashaba, I did not get tortured. He cautioned the people he told this to be extra careful while dealing with me because I could be a state agent. When I heard that, for failure of a better reaction, I just laughed. I treated it as a rumour. Then we met and he said the same thing to my face. Ordinarily, I would have gone on the defensive and tried to explain how my “chat” with the security officials went.
But you know what? I didn’t. I opened my round chubby cheeks into a brilliant smile and moved on. I didn’t dwell on that but I actually got concerned. I couldn’t blame him either. He had undergone an unfortunate serious attack and may be, that’s the reason he was trying to make comparisons. Never mind that he had reached out to me after my poem to do a certain project and was seemingly concerned when I was summoned and picked from my friend’s house. The most recent incident is when another incredible activist said to me that I was exaggerating my case when we were having a conversation about the state of affairs. When I shared my concerns, his response was, “What have you done that is worse than what people are doing on Twitter/X every single day and in their real identities? Your ka poem was nothing.” At first, I also took this as a joke and tried to change the conversation but he kept invalidating my struggle by comparing it to what the “famous” ones are doing or saying. As was with the previous incident, I didn’t make any effort to explain myself. I asked him if any of the famous keyboard activists have been picked from their friends’ homes at six o’clcock in the morning to be questioned or if any of their colleagues disappeared mystriously. Have they been denied jobs because of what they post everyday? Have they been made to abandon award winning projects because of persecution? Since he was making comparisons between my case and the rest of the comrades, I decided to torch into his work.
I highlighted the perceived advantages he had compared to me. All this was meant to show that we are different and hence we shouldn’t reduce the struggle to comparisons about how much danger and state violence we can potentially attract.
Can you imagine? Of course, we were both wrong because we drew assumptions and conclusions based on our activities and engagements on social media. He got mad that I had highlighted his “priveleged status” or what I perceived was the case and I was unhappy too about what his remarks were about my case. He had been invalidating my case but he turned around to use what I said about his case against me. This got me wondering how we got here. How shall we achieve change when we are busy fighting on who has more torture marks than the other? We have scars, some are physical while others are invisible.
The people who came before us knew this and they have said it repeatedly. That oppressors use the oppressed against one another. We need to focus our guns on the common enemy. Museveni, his cronies and the entire system should be the focus of our fight. And we have the power to uproot that system. We just haven’t fully maximised it.
The few engagements on social media are impressive but more action is needed because the majority of the people we claim to be voices for are not on social media. We need to rethink our organizing strategies.
We are at a point where Lukwago is the enemy when he tells you that the SFC is hoodwinking you into believing that they will fix the roads in the city. How many times has that boy and his team toured potholes and what did they do after the visits?
I know that you will ask me whether I have a single coin in my account but I will ask anyways. What can two billion shillings fix in that capital? We are at a point where Museveni is defended as tolerant when a famous creative says otherwise. And this is the point where Museveni and Musevenism have and want us as they continue to plunder the country. Zukuka Uganda!!
The writer is a human rights activist.