The question that is topmost in my mind is: what the heck was all the countrywide violence last week about? I read one brilliantly funny suggestion on popular Kampala entertainment website Urban Legend Kampala: Walk to Work was a public holiday for government to celebrate its annual arrest of Kiiza Besigye. It happens at least once every year.
If you don’t learn to laugh at your problems they will overwhelm you, but all jokes aside, what happened was frighteningly surreal. I can see where the Police are coming from: If you have an opposition leader walking through town for any reason, you might have lumpens and trouble makers following him and finding ways to disrupt the peace. The police must anticipate disorder and act to prevent it.
On the other hand, in many well recorded and televised incidents, if the police had not paid unnecessarily disrespectful and brutal attention to some of these opposition MPs, the lumpens would not have been attracted to the situation in the first place. If the police had merely followed these people down the road to town I am sure that many of them would have run out of steam like Lukyamuzi or gotten to work uneventfully like Odonga Otto. Beatrice Anywar, for instance, was all alone and would have got to work uneventfully. Yet they bundled her up, manhandled and insulted her. I suppose she should have hung on to that sh20m for fuel…
I watched a military policeman point a gun at someone and threaten them in Swahili (as if that is the most common language used in Buganda) and yet the poor man was standing outside his own rented room. I doubt that a single charge will stick against anyone they arrested. My heart goes out to the common folk who were whisked away but who have no fancy lawyers and no tv cameras following them. I won’t get started on tear gassing schools, health centres and private residences or shooting pregnant women.
The Police will harp on about legal assembly and written permission for demonstrations, but was permission ever going to be granted? While the walk was in solidarity against high fuel and other prices and could therefore constitute a form of protest, walking by oneself to wherever can hardly be considered a form of assembly or procession. Plus, it is not my job to control how many people walk behind me. When I was younger and wore shorter skirts I had people follow me through the taxi park but no sign of police protection. If they are going to be so pro-active, how come the police do not arrest my co-wife in anticipation of my desire to bash her head in? Do they not see that violence coming?
Their error in judgement and so called ‘intelligence’ reports is in thinking that this protest is about Kizza Besigye. It is not. His party and mode of opposition entered my ‘Twakoowa’ list long ago. He is not going to win any elections tomorrow and perhaps you should have accidentally shot him in the knees for good measure so he can’t walk tomorrow. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water; this protest is about reality, frustration and desperate times. I am buying a litre of Ugandan made and grown cooking oil for sh6,500. I am paying sh3,600 for a litre of fuel. A tomato has gone up to sh300 at the very least. I don’t know about you, but that is breaking my budget. No one is paying me any more money for my work – in fact, I am chasing debtors left, right and centre. In one short week, Easter and school holidays will be upon me. Three short weeks after that, I must rustle up school fees and requirements.
What is the government doing to explain, empathise and alleviate my suffering besides asking for six billion shillings to have a party to confirm that our beloved leader never left? What a difference just sh600,000 would make in most lives today! Do not tell me about inflation: I cannot see it or touch it and I sure as heck did not cause it. Tell me that for 6 months you are putting a price cap on fuel and cooking essentials so that I can catch up on my bill payments as I figure out the most lucrative street to sell myself on in order to afford to live here or buy a bus ticket further inland, where petrol is made from recycled paper and therefore costs less.
What the puppet masters are misjudging is how deeply this affects all the Ugandans who do not have their grubby hands in the national coffers. Don’t mock us; help us!