More than two scores and five years ago, Martin Luther King uttered these words: Peace is more important than all justice; and peace was not made for the sake of Justice, but Justice for the sake of Peace.
As Ugandans now settle into the consequence of an electoral outcome, there isn’t a better time that these words by King find penetration into our households, offices, streets and other public spaces here in Kenya.
Kenyans are asking why Museveni again? And despite the fact that there have been widespread allegations of electoral malpractices, as cited by most observer caucuses which include citizen teargassing, ballot marking, late arrival of election materials in perceived opposition strongholds and brutality against female citizens, it cannot be ignored that a considerable percentage of Ugandans still voted for President Yoweri Museveni again, thus granting him a fifth term in office.
And so we ask why.
For a country riddled with heavy political instability right from independence, it is not hard to see why a man in the form of Museveni would be granted another term in office. As a young man in his early fourties, Museveni took over power under the NRM (National Resistance Movement) in 1986 following Idi Amin’s eight-year iron fist rule that saw more than 300, 000 Ugandans killed and left a tattered economy behind. Idi Amin, Tito Okello, and Milton Obote’s regimes cumulatively produced economic decline, social disintegration and massive human rights violations in Uganda. And then in the nick of time, a savior in the name of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni appeared. Immediately after taking over power, Museveni formed an all-inclusive government with a balanced tribal representation, put to an end human rights violations by his predecessors, initiated political liberalization, pushed for media freedom and occasioned economic reforms that sought to build bridges with the Asian populace as well as the rest of the business world. In the spirit of pushing for democratic reforms, multiparty politics were re-introduced by Museveni and in July 2005, a referendum occasioned by the NRM government opened up the political scene for other party actors. Ugandan monarchies were also restored under his rule. Museveni was slowly becoming to Ugandans what Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal policies were to Americans, at the wake of the economic recession of the 1930s. He was becoming East African’s foremost political crusader.
And then everything changed.
Today, as the world opens up to the need for media freedom and human rights, Uganda is still struggling out of its diapers. Multipartism is supported by law, but unfortunately enough, the law in Uganda is not far from the NRM’s palm.
I have been to Uganda afew times in the past and one of the most striking observations I made as I conversed with folks from both the capital city and the countryside was a strong sense of acquiescence. Their stories confirmed to me that indeed, the power of exhaustion is gripping to mankind. In them, I saw men and women resigned to fate. They had adjusted themselves to oppression and injustice, and now seemed conditioned to it. A Ugandan friend jokingly told me that you’ll rarely hear kids in Uganda claiming that they would want to be President when they grow up. That is not a valid dream in Uganda. It is okay to be a teacher, driver, doctor, minister or even a member of parliament. But President is a No-go area, even for dreams. This paints the picture of a people so worn down by the yoke of frustration that they end up despairing in their hope for democratic change.
And so we ask, what was more important for Ugandans in 2016? Was it peace and justice, or change to be fought and died for? And if most of them are tired of the one-man rule, why are the election results proving otherwise? While acknowledging the reality of what an incumbency can do to alter an election result, the question remains: Why has calm settled in, despite a general expectation for the alternative, if this be the case? Is it apathy, fear for repercussions, a deep sense of acquiescence, or these people just love and adore Yoweri?
It could be one or afew of these. But from where I sit, Ugandans in 2016 favoured Peace over Justice. But as for how long this will last, only time will tell.
The writer comments on topical issues.