General

My heart bleeds for the PEARL

At a certain t, while growing up, in my country, we all gladly, with joy on our little faces, enthusiasm, love and happily sang the words:

“We young women and men of Uganda, Are marching along the path of education. Singing and dancing with joy together, Uniting for a better Uganda.

We are the pillar of tomorrow’s Uganda, Let us rise now embrace true knowledge. Yielding disciplined resourcefulness, To rebuild a great, great, pearl.

We know the way into the land of enlightenment, has thorns, creepers, vales, and mountains. Come what may we shall overcome, For the glorious times to come.

Parents and teachers and the youths of this nation, Rise with us, support our endeavors. Lead by God who is the Source of Life, To Uplift our motherland.”

at school assemblies, or during ceremonies held at school. When you ask me why? It should have in my understanding; been a way of igniting the spirit of patriotism in our tender souls, while at the same time seeing the beauty there’s inn our country, plus glorifying our creator of heaven and earth. We are God fearing country; as you can hear in our national motto: ‘For GOD and my Country’.  This national school anthem’s lyrics aren’t the only quotable symbols of nationalism and songs we sang back then. There were a whole lot of others; as far as my memory can recall. But again, you do not expect a devastated, and bitter 21-year-old to pay interest to issues of the past when we are even living in a whole lot of worse at the moment.

As an ardent user of social media (I am online for most parts of my day) more so Twitter, I have always asked myself ‘WHY IS MY GENERATION SO ANGRY? And easily TRIGGERED?? WHY ARE WE BITTER? With each day that goes by, I get to understand why. I have also come to terms with the fact that I, too, am a part of the bitter lot. Not because I lack compassion but I have finally come to terms with the fact that our system socially, politically, economically, academically and all that was just designed to break us and our spirits. First, we come from a history which had normalized a lot of things that were un- upright and unfair to our rights as children and we just did not know or even have a voice then. Things like staying silent amidst abuse, because we were raised while being told and made to understand that ‘an adult is never wrong”, it’s always us the kids to apologize, we were abnormally raised to and always expected to be submissive to the system. Heard of things like food taboos? Where women were not allowed to eat certain foods and the various myths that were attached to it; in case one disobeyed. There was also this “it takes a village to raise a child” saying, which gave many members of the public entitlement over us as children; whether they were your parent(s)/ relatives or not.  A society that formerly normalized literally selling off girl children in exchange for items sugar coated in the name of dowry/ bride price, once in those marriages, forced or not, it is so unfortunate that our girls turned women were again trained to bear with all the toxicity that came with some of them being there, such as bearing with the battering, staying silent amidst all this as we have sayings in place like: “eby’omunjju tebitotolwa” translated as “issues/ problems of anyone’s household should not be uttered out to the public or to anyone else”. This further drives me back to my line I talked about at the start of this paragraph.

A society that normalized adults making sexual jokes about kids with mini statements such as some referring to other people’s young daughters/ sons as “my wife” or “my husband”. Back then while kids, to us it felt like some sort of recognition or love I mean. Now that I have grown, the people of my generation do see and partly blame this for being another element that cemented other modern forms of abuse. I mean, we do hear and see and read of cases of children being defiled by relatives, parents sometimes, or even siblings; with some raped, and what’s unfortunate and  sad at the same time is few of them make it out alive, with some suffering in silence because of again, what I mentioned, traditionally, society was raised to stay silent amidst injustices. A few are lucky to get their stories captured by the media, and that’s how we know of their existence. Some parents do actively know this is going on but will again look at their reputation and position in these traditional set ups, and again just stay silent while their daughters and sons go through this hell hole of a situation.

So, my generation, which is now made up of you and I are angry! Yes, we are. I mean, we are single handedly BREAKING THE SILENCE on these many norms that have been swept under the carpet for ages. Things like rape, tribalism, bullying, toxic work environments, corruption, uneven distribution of opportunities, racism, early child marriages, unemployment, police brutality, favoritism, mental health, generation x’s stereotypes on religion and tribes in relation to marriage and dating, among others. It’s a lot on our plate and the systems in place meant to fight along with us, just sleep on job and since we too are unable to make as much a difference given our positions in societies since most of us are students, others fresh graduates, our weapon is social media, which we do use to bring to book the responsible parties.

But it gets even worse. Recall the title of this post? It was ‘My heart bleeds for the Pearl.”

When you mention “the Pearl”, you know the country that comes to everyone’s mind first, right?

Well, in 1907, Winston Churchill popularized Uganda as the Pearl of Africa, and he even wrote a book about it; titled ‘My African Journey’ because he was quite enthused about what he found here. He largely praised the magnificence of the natural set up of our country in every form; both living and non-living, the wonders here plus not leaving out our friendliness and hospitable as a people. He was right about all this after all.

However, in the recent past, I have got to say, my motherland weeps, it sobs. And it is all because of the people up there and failing to live up to their roles rightfully. Right from the legislators, the judiciary and the executive as well. One could say, I am being biased but well, imagine living a life of seeing the fate of your country lie in one man’s hands, bundled with a whole lot of wreck of broken systems. Stemming from the education system that has for the past 34 years plus been training hundreds of thousands of scholars what is in the great books but not how to make it in life. This has been put to the test by this COVID19 time, and the Minister of Trade too addressed it recently. The way our education here in my country is set up, it has raised more job seekers than creators because of the impracticability of most of what is taught to us. If my memory serves me right, we do follow the British (England) style of Education, and are taught as per their standard. But again, my question would be “Are we in position to guarantee employment to our very own? Yet both countries clearly have different economic set ups, population wise and policy wise.  I’ll leave that to you to answer.

So, what happens is in most cases is as a fresh unemployed graduate, some venture into self-employment with some people starting up Small scale medium enterprises, or becoming creatives. What trouble faces both scenarios ahead? well in the first instance, the hefty taxes charged on our local traders are alarming, whereas foreign investors get to free enjoy tax holidays/ exemptions. And as for the creatives such as musicians, software/ app developers, mechanical assemblers etc., there is no law on copyright, meaning there is no protection over ideas and rights of distribution which causes many not to enjoy the fruit of their sweat. Some their ideas have been illegally been taken up or claimed by entities with more influence and financial stability as their own which has been happening, and may still go on for years if our country does not wake up and come up with a law on this because it surely is suffocating many young creatives, more so since even when their ideas are copied, or for lack of a better word “stolen”, it leaves them with no legal backup to make claims.

What used to be ‘For God and my country” has ironically turned to “For God and my Family/Stomach’. I have always kept away from the news because it is always awful watching the people, we entrust with authority to go represent us as a people instead focus on their own interests instead of those who they represent – us. From demanding salary raise, which by the way their salary was already huge, to endorsing a tax on social media in July of 2018, removing the age limit, demanding big burial budgets for the case that they are to pass away. Ladies and gentlemen, am talking about the same folks that have done nothing but eat, eat and do more eating during their stay in parliament. The 10th has surely failed us.

This brings me to the most painful bit; our law enforcers. This group consists of the police, the army and other sections of security. We grew up being taught in Social Studies class (SST), that these are meant to “keep law and order”. I was a child then. Am grown now. And have to see the world for what it is, not what I was taught/ told it should be. The same people meant to be protecting us are the very ones claiming our lives and doing a hell lot of worse. This comes at a time where in my country, just like everywhere else are facing and suffering from a global pandemic, and various guidelines for us as citizens are there so as to stop the fast spread of the virus.  One of them being a curfew – that starts at 7:00pm till 6 o’clock in the morning. We are at a time where as a country, we have registered “ZERO” (0) COVID19 deaths. I have put the zero in quotes on purpose because much as no one has succumbed to the deadly virus, worse emotional and physical atrocities have happened. From intense child labor, rape, defilement, suicide, increased cases of domestic violence, among both children and adults as schools were closed as another measure, and people encouraged to stay home. Not to get you started on the cases of pregnant mothers who have some unfortunately got miscarriages, lost their newly born babies, and some even lives due to the poor medical facilities in most remote areas here, because of the reluctance of the medical personnel; which we would partly blame on poor pay and lack of equipment and facilities, and still our members of parliament’s worries are far from this, and other incidences and concerns but rather more allowances, and suggesting newer taxes.

Back to my point of the security status; which is by the way my final rant. In case you have made this far in reading this, I Thank you.

The security organs are meant to serve us as the citizens, isn’t it? To protect. And be our shield. It has become a rather other unfortunate incident that the people bred to protect and serve the men and women of our motherland are instead the ones brutalizing us; in broad day light, without shame or a single dose of remorse. The army and police have turned on the citizens and like I mentioned somewhere, as people in my country we are used to all forms of suffering and paying the price for belonging to this once beautiful and acclaimed country that has turned into a nightmare. From having an inefficient electricity/ power supply, to paying taxes for almost everything- of which these do not help fix simple pot holes on roads but rather are enjoyed by the gallant elites at the top of the administration table, having terrible road networks, illegal land evictions and so much other forms of suffering. But the army, police, and LDUs beating, crippling, and killing us is below the belt. IT IS TOO MUCH TO TAKE IN. They have not only arrested many innocent Ugandans but they have done it while hitting them with guns, shooting down people who are using motorcycles all in the name of ‘enforcing the presidential guidelines of stopping the spread of the corona virus’ since motorcycles were banned from having passengers since it is impossible to social distance while on one. My rage makes my head ache, and hands shake as I type out this, because what I happening right now in my country is alarming. Still on the LDUs, the same group has single handedly put many countrymen through frustration, to a point of some even committing suicide, assaulting human nature in various other unspeakable ways. Have some of them done good deeds. Yes, they helped in supplying food during the lockdown, another security personnel helped the people of Kasese during the floods, and the District Police Commander of Mbale who assisted a pregnant lady access a hospital during the night so she could safely give birth.

However, the bad outshines the good these people have done and are still doing to us as a people. In some instances, it is what one would call ‘’applauding a fish for swimming’.

The most devastating recent occurrence being the one of a Makerere University student Emmanuel Tegu who was alleged to have been breaking curfew laws since he was found moving at around 10pm, as he was from saying his prayers at the campus’ chapel which is situated in the university premises and becomes the latest victim of police brutality; the LDUs to be specific. As expected, the army/ police spokesperson always come out to deliver us the usual rehearsed routine of either denying the actions of their army boys or even delivering press conferences to tell nothing but lies. Lies such as promising that they are still carrying out investigations and also that whomever is found out to have been the sole perpetrator will be brought to book. We have heard it all before. you know what else is awful, they will keep telling one lie to cover another that they themselves created.  It is awful and absurd at the same time that all these go back to primarily the top executive since they have the authority to either disband these LDU folks or even disarm them; the way they withdrew guns from the people of Karamoja a long while ago. And with absolute control over mainstream media through the regulator, the people at the top do have control and influence over how much media can tell us about what is going on more so in such sensitive cases like this one. Therefore, we cannot heavily rely on media to tell our story. This is why our only voice for now is social media. Maybe these LDUs would not be as untouchable and egocentric if it weren’t for the firearms that they are handed as they join the field. Maybe it is the tough training they go through during time of recruiting and training. I come from a school of thought that thinks whereas some join because they wish to serve their country, others join the forces as a last resort when life fails and go into it with this other unsympathetic side of them. I could be wrong; I could be right. A petition has been started requesting the parliament to disarm these folks; the Local Defence Units  forces (LDUs). Kindly add to our voice and sign it here.

I love and celebrate my country. Always will. But one thing is for sure. We need things to get back to how they were. This article is not by any means affiliated with any political party but rather an eye opener, that we need better; not only for us, but our little siblings, future children, and great grandchildren. We need to feel safe once again. Like it was. I do encourage my fellow young people that come next year 2021, it’ll be time for the polls. Please use your voice, let your vote count. Remember, your vote is your voice. Step by step we shall get to a more developed, safer, and more calm and peaceful nation that we were. Like my primary school motto went “Build a Better Uganda.”, one day you and I will live to see that day.

For God and my country.