By Denni Muhumuza
On the 20th January, 1961, the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, made a profound statement that continues to strike a chord in the hearts of patriots everywhere around the world: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” As we commemorate 56 years of independence from British colonialism, the sheer power and timeless relevance of Mr. Kennedy’s words hits me like a ton, challenging me thus: “Mr. Muhumuza, are you really doing all it takes to build your country and make it a better place for your children and children’s children?” Take it or leave it, it’s the political duty and moral mandate of every citizen to rise up and speak truth to power especially where there is misuse of power.
In our banana republic, moments like when Stephen Kiprotich or Joshua Cheptegei winning us gold at the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games thus winning us good publicity, are rare and far in between. We’re mostly known for the bad reports that are unfortunately part of our everyday reality. From Idi Amin’s reign of terror in the 70s, to the cultic massacres like the Joseph Kibwetere-engineered annihilations in Kanungu in 2000, to the Rwenzururu Palace killings just two years ago, it seems like a trajectory of only the bad and the worst.
I’ve not even touched on endemic corruption, the explosive youth unemployment, a toothless parliament of bootlickers that rubberstamps everything from the president against the wishes of the masses as witnessed during the presidential term limits constitutional amendments, a partisan police and army force that has become notorious for brutalizing citizens.
The constitution mandates them to protect child sacrifices, assassinations of prominent citizens, high maternal deaths, poverty, jigger infestations as was the case in Busoga region, hundreds dying in bus accidents, burning of school dormitories, endless power outages and a constantly weakening shilling against the dollar, the debt burden and overreliance on donors, high cost of living, an education system that churns out half-baked products because of teaching by rote memorization, unfair taxes like the recent social media tax that sparked protests around the nation, compartmentalization of districts in the guise of bringing services closer to the people while expenditures on leaders of these units weigh down the taxpayer, and breakdown of public facilities to such a degree that the moneyed have resorted to flying their patients to Nairobi, India, America and other developed countries while the poor; “the wretched of the earth” (to borrow Frantz Fanon’s words) are left to wilt and die.
This is the story of Uganda and it makes you wonder how a country whose awesome beauty mesmerized Sir Winston Churchill to the extent of christening it the ‘Pearl of Africa’ has since degenerated and transmogrified into the ‘peril’ of the continent. The frustrations of the masses against the establishment and against the cohort of 1986 who emerged from the bush and took power promising a fundamental change, have birthed a rookie in politics named Robert Kyagulanyi fondly known by his musical name, Bobi Wine. He is currently the image of all those Ugandans trying their best to engage the paradigm shift gear and become the change they want. There’s a general consensus that change is needed at the top, otherwise the 69 years of colonial bondage (1893-1962) coupled with 32 years of one man’s rule (1986-2018) are plunging us deeper into what John Bunyan called the “slough of despond.”
As a nation with a population of 80 per cent professing Christians, perhaps the general state of affairs should give us a burden to go back to the prayer closet and seek God’s intervention. Wearing out our knees interceding on behalf of the nation is something pleasing to God because He says “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
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