Lukwago is a human rights activist, not a political joker
Posted Wednesday, March 20 2013 at 02:00
All of us agree that this world would have been hell if God had not blessed us with a few men and women who are ready to sacrifice their honour and prestige in defence of the most ordinary and vulnerable members of society.
John Abimanyi’s analysis of the Kampala crisis in the March 16 Saturday Monitor titled, (Erias Lukwago: Fighter for the common man or joker?), has kept me wondering why this story could have such a misleading title yet offered no verdict. While still carrying that sinister and misleading headline, the writer’s, other than any other person’s voice and opinion, are very loud.
As writers, we sometimes assume a partial stance and this is understandable. But bias, however disguised, is hard to conceal and it comes out clearly in one’s tone and the choice of parties for the debate as it was in this article. Thus writers ought to remind themselves everyday of the social contract they have with readers.
In this article, both the writer and his analyst, DP president Norbert Mao, attacked the Lord Mayor in a way that left me thinking the two would have authored a similar story of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther if they had been of capacity during civil rights struggles by these activists.
For those who might have missed the article, Mr Abimanyi and Mr Mao in a rather cynical way, are of the view that two years into his tenure, Lukwago is now running the risk of making his reign an exclusive affair of conflict and dispute, denying him the ability to deliver on campaign promises and hence harming his future political prospects and advise that the Lord Mayor will be better off if he abandons this stance, join hands with Kampala Capital City Authority Executive Director Jennifer Musisi and her sponsors to share in the credit of their “achievements”. To crown it all, the editor gave the article an open-ended headline, clearly showing that even the Monitor editorial team is in doubt of what Lukwago will leave behind as legacy if he was to depart office today.
Somehow, the Monitor team is uncomfortable with Lukwago for choosing activism instead of the cheaper and risk-free approach of compromise. When Martin Luther was faced with a similar situation, he authored the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in which he told his censors that “You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.
I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”
It is reckless for anyone, especially a person of Mao’s calibre, to dismiss activists as ‘political jokers’. I know it is easier to look away from victims and wrongs. It is easy to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, and our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person’s pain and despair or to continuously engage one’s mind to issues affecting a community or ones country. But it is also unacceptable to allow a person who has abdicated his role to fight for social equality to discourage others fighting for truth and justice.
All of us agree that this world would have been hell if God had not blessed us with a few men and women who are ready to sacrifice their honour and prestige in defence of the most ordinary and vulnerable members of society. Men and women who are prepared to confront injustice, however risky it may be. Taking the advice of Martin Luther, Ugandans should not be content with the shallow “achievement analysis” being given of Kampala that deals merely with the little that meets the eyes and does not tackle issues of accountability and justice.
In Abimanyi’s Article, Mao invited Lukwwago to form “opponent –rivals team” with Musisi, just like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He still misses a point when he fails to appreciate that Ms Clinton and Mr Obama had almost a common manifesto for they belonged to the same party. In Kampala, Lukwago was elected by the people and Musisi was imposed on them.
Lukwago cannot, therefore, join hands with Musisi to unconstitutionally overthrow the Kampala District Land Board, frustrate efforts to establish the Kampala Public Accounts Committee, block the convening of KCCA meetings, among others. If Lukwago was to do this just to appear as the face of Kampala, then this would be nothing but conspiracy and betrayal of the people.
To our colleagues who are disturbed by our approach to injustice in Uganda, our answer lies in the words of Martin Luther, “You may well ask, Why direct action, Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation.
Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Non-violent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatise the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”
Hence Lukwago is not a political joker but a human rights activist and we need many of his kind to liberate Uganda.
Ms Nambooze is the Mukono Municipality MP.