Friday, April 15, 2011

I am NOT an enemy to the State!


 
So this is to clarify I AM NOT a politician! I do not have the intention to anger or promote any kind of inciting of violence in any way shape or form. And if I do manage to offend or anger please be aware that it was not my immediate intention.  I am simply of the belief that it is still my right (for however much longer I have it) to express and extend my opinion to those who are willing to hear it in a public and free forum.  I would also just like to say that the only reason I am in fact expressing myself on this issue publicly is because I feel that it is our right as citizens to peacefully express our issues with the current state of our country, and that the recent occurrences in KLA and all around UG can only be described as Neanderthal acts of bullying on the people.
O.K. so with that said….I think most people especially in UG probably already know what I want to talk about. For those of you who don’t this is a quick bullet point presentation to catch you up…. Basically what had happened was;
·         All our fuel prices in Uganda rose by a ridiculous amount of money
·         So have all the prices for things like veggies, sugar, milk etc
·         As a result, the opposition of the current governing body  decided that they would activate the people (who were all already complaining about the rises) to activate themselves and become agents of change
·         They decided that they would abandon their cars and take the issues out of offices by walking to work and encouraging others to do the same
·         As a result the people gathered and began to walk to work, which seemingly pissed off the police, because (for those who may have thought otherwise) walking is a criminal offence
·         The walkers did not make noise, they did not promote/incite violence or ill behavior and they did not taunt or provoke the police who intercepted them at any point, simply saying that it was their choice to walk to work today.
·         As a result of all this peaceful action, OBVIOUSLY the police became irate, and as we know very well here in Uganda once the police become angry they call on their friends the military police and the anti-riot squad who always come fully equipped with the necessities, you know, tear gas, rubber bullets, real bullets and giant water hoses….
·          I think most of you can pretty much guess what happened when they arrived and it wasn’t pleasant, friendly or peaceful.

So that’s the juice of it. And why am I writing about it? After all it is blatantly unfair and there is maybe nothing I can do to radically change the situation. What will my words accomplish? Maybe nothing, but maybe they will encourage those who have been in the thick of it to not be defeated, and maybe someone will feel the gratitude I have for them for trying to benefit everyone with their actions, and maybe it will make those of us who haven’t done much or anything to support our fellow people and do what we can to contribute….
It started when it became 3500ugsh for a liter of petrol. Starting my car I dread to look at the meter, I see two bars…a small sigh of relief, but is it a full two or is it going to be one soon? Either way I know I can make it from Kansanga to Kamwokya to pick up my daughter and get back home. I take a deep breath abandoning the vision of me and Imogen on the side of the road somewhere making that embarrassing call to say I ran out of fuel, and thank the universe (and my mother) for a very fuel efficient little runner!  And then it hits me, it wasn’t too long ago that the fuel prices were much lower, where my 50,000ugsh fuel input would last me well over a week, and didn’t I just put fuel in my car? Am I not traveling the same distances, if anything I am moving around less than I used to? But in the thick of it, what can be done, I don’t have a friend who can get me a deal on some cheap fuel, and if fuel is up for me then it is the same for public transport providers so I might as well just keep using my car, after all I have it for convenience and I don’t see Imogen sitting peacefully in a taxi.  And so we push these things to the back of our minds and just ‘deal’ with it.  The unchangeable facts that cannot be changed because you know that higher powers wouldn’t listen to your one lone voice anyway and might simply tell you to get a better paid job to suit your lifestyle, which is commonly said when you’re trying to convince people that being an artist is a legitimate career choice!

And then someone said they were going to walk to work.  And what logic! It’s free, and other people will do it too, so you’ll have company, but most importantly (not really but it was a vital point) it will most defiantly help me get back into my size 12’s comfortably! If anything I need to start walking for my figure!

The day everyone walked everywhere……I didn’t walk anywhere. To be honest I didn’t really have anywhere to go. But I felt grateful for the brothers and sisters who did, because really it was in my opinion a really great example of the capabilities of Ugandans as a united people to peacefully demonstrate their united opinions.  There was no violent agenda, no one made a fuss, and they simply walked.
Now in my opinion the ruckus was caused by the opposition parties, this is not to say that they are to blame for the violence, but obviously they were not walking in groups of 10 people, they had an entourage.  And this was done to show that as the people they were moving together on this journey both physically and politically.  As a result, in order to assert themselves as the more powerful group the police (government) needed to stop their actions.  What was not taken into consideration, in my opinion by the police (government) was that the people and in fact the politicians were not moving as entities of their political parties but simply and innocently as members of the general public who are displeased with their governing party. And therefore in bullying/attacking/keeping public decorum in fact what the police (government) were actually doing were creating more and more displeasure and distance between themselves and the public they are trying so hard to keep the peace for.

We cannot be ignorant by saying that the opposition had absolutely no political agenda of their own, but in my opinion it was not one which was offensive or threatening to the governing party. In fact I can only compare it to that of celebrities who swear off fur for PETA or become UN ambassadors. Not only does it increase their profile as Celebrities but they expose themselves to being considered of the people and for the people and their concerns.  And it is also not like this is the doing of just one political party, no I think there is credit to the fact that all of the opposition came together to say this is beyond our individual presidential aspirations, this is simply for the people and about the people.  I mean they are not the only ones who took the opportunity to make a stand; they were supported by the taxi parks that refused customers and the boda bodas who halted themselves because they too are feeling the pinch by having to increase their transport prices to a place that their target markets cannot afford. And this to me does not sound like the political agenda of one but the unified opinion of the masses.  

It is not only the fact that the police (government) are arresting people, when I first read about the likes of Mao and Besige  being arrested my question was, ‘well what exactly did they charge him for exactly walking?’ Only to find out that the charge was ‘inciting violence.’ If I am honest, I had not seen any footage or pictures and so living in Uganda there was a part of me that thought that maybe some people had got rowdy as they are known to sometimes, but then I watched the news….Police pickups blocking roads and pulling up, arresting whichever opposition candidate with no problem and loading them into the back, and as they drive off the officer pulls the cap of the gas and throws it into the crowd! You see the back of one truck but also now the military pulling up to finish the job! Now I do not claim to be an expert on social behavior but I do pride myself of having some common sense, and well if you throw a crap load of teargas into a crowd and then shoot a bullet in the air I am almost 100% sure that this would cause a general state of pandemonium and disorganization! Now is that the fault of the people in the crowd or the fault of the clever young man who threw teargas at them and his friend who thought it would be funny to shoot some pigeons!
So that is my general opinion…..and where do we move forward from here? Part of me is hoping some of you my friends and peers will leave a little comment of inspirational thought, but on my front I think that it is now in the thick of it that we as the people need to soldier on! I love the t-shirts I been seeing people rocking and as an individual have made the active choice to walk from A to B as much as possible! I am going to drive to pick up my daughter this afternoon…. on one bar of fuel…… but I think we need to show those in control that we as a people will not be moved….And they as the governing body will have to realize that if they were voted in ‘fairly’ then surly they should be listening to the voices of their people, otherwise just tell us that we are living in a dictatorship and let us move on from there!

Below are some of the more powerful images from the press, the one that moved me the most is of the woman, not only because I am a woman, but as a mother I find it hard to believe that this young lady holding her heritage inside her and one of our future brothers or sisters would have deliberately put herself in the position to be harmed. Sometimes the casualties of war are not those at the forefront of the picket line but the bystanders who meant no harm and had no choice but to continue their days and lives trying to survive amongst the chaos.




P.S If anyone knows where I can get a license to walk to let me know….I is after all one of those people who likes to be legitimate innit! Tho I do wonder how hard the test is… 

3 comments:

  1. Hi Roshan,

    Very well expressed. I got the gist of what is happening in Uganda at the moment. Rising fuel prices since January this year, is caused because of the middle east / north africa uprising. Libya exports about 10-15% of world oil, and due to crisis - you see the roll-on effects.

    The president has to keep control of the situation, also due to rising inflation. Fuel prices drive other commodity prices up as well.

    It is remarkable that peace is prevelant in most of the country now, except for the north.

    It just takes a small incident to get the good crowd unruly! We have seen similar incidents during the protest marches in 2007, when Mbira (forest) land was allegedly given to some sugar planters. Let's not forget that the neighbouring countries surrounding Uganda still aren't very stable yet. An iron hand with leadership is highly needed in such situations.

    If you were elected the president, what would you have done ?

    Options:-

    1. Subsidise fuel - We very well know the side effects of price controls as seen in the Russian / Asian economies. Free market is a bad way of allowing the market to run, but other ways are worser!

    Uganda still has a long way to go when the fuel starts to come from Lake Albert.

    2. Control inflation / Subsidise public transport - This wouldn't work, as Uganda still depends on donor countries. Uganda is a very young democracy, and it takes time to become a well governed society with no turmoils. The government needs enough revenues to allow such liberties.

    3. Raise taxes:- The country still has an underground economy and people escape taxes. Need for an efficient IRA is important. URA had done a good job revamping the system with some good leaders on the top in 2002-2006. I wonder if the systems are still in place.

    It all comes back to economics!

    Best wishes!

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