Tuesday September 4 2018

Politically, Uganda is moving into a state of ‘mental breakdown’



Nicholas Sengoba

Nicholas Sengoba  

Those who study matters related to the mind will tell you that when situations cause more emotional and physical stress than a human being can handle, one is likely to suffer a mental breakdown. Victims of mental breakdown usually withdraw from society, become depressed, or are full of fear and anxiety. Some will turn irritable or intolerant, often resorting to spontaneous violence as a way of arguing and communicating. When in a state of mental breakdown, at times people act like they have no control of their faculties and are not aware of the environment in which they operate. They rarely think about the consequences of the choices they make at a given time.
The last few weeks have brought out a side of Uganda that makes one believe that the mental state of this country is tending towards breakdown. The tragedy and drama that followed the Arua Municipality by-election is a case in point. Nearly everyone who had a point to make did so violently. The security agencies claiming they were trying to find the person who allegedly stoned the President’s vehicle shattering its rear windscreen, went on rampage badly torturing and maiming their victims. They forgot about the rules laid down in the Constitution governing their conduct and the courts of law being the arbiter in such matters. They denied those arrested medical attention and instead subjected them to continuous inhumane treatment. Many who should know better, justified their actions claiming that they were ‘protecting the life of the President’ and that soldiers are only trained to be violent so you mess with them at your own risk. Journalists covering the resultant violence were severely beaten in the course of doing their duty.

At the weekend, singer Moses Ssali, aka Bebe Cool, was humiliated. He was pelted with urine laden bottles, rocks and all manner of projectiles which stopped him from performing on stage. Performing is his trade from which he earns a living. Now many of those who were miffed by the treatment security agents meted out against journalists and Opposition politicians rejoiced that Bebe Cool ‘deserved what he got.’ Bebe Cool’s ‘only’ crime is being a staunch supporter of NRM and President Yoweri Museveni.

Because his nemesis MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, has been treated shabbily by the government and State organs in the last few days since the violent Arua Municipality by-election, Bebe Cool became the point of comeuppance; a far-fetched wicked version of an eye for an eye. Those who agree with Museveni are treated as ‘enemies’ by those who oppose him and vice versa. Now it is okay to have a different opinion because as they say, an opinion is like a nose, everyone has their own.
In Uganda, because of the extreme anger that has built up overtime in the market place of ideas, to have a different opinion is now a crime which is better settled violently and not through reason or persuasion. Many feel they have reached a dead end on the road of the political argument. They feel that Museveni and his government cannot be contested with because the military will direct the delivery of the result and perpetuate the current political inertia.
Frustrated, they have it in their minds that NRM cannot be debated with because they will resort to violence in case they are losing an argument.

You cannot take NRM to court and expect a reasonable outcome because the courts are filled with either cadre or intimidated judges. On the other hand, NRM views those opposing it as bad losers, who have deliberately refused to acknowledge their overwhelming success politically, socially and economically. It, therefore, has given up trying to persuade them and instead resorted to ‘dealing with them’ when debates turn violent.
Politically, we have reached a stalemate where people feel like they are met by a solid impenetrable brick wall when it comes to the discourse regarding the future of Uganda. These situations have forced many to be overwhelmed intellectually, emotionally and physically. The most that they can attempt to do by way of argument to make a point and leave a lasting impression is by being violent. Their impact has to be felt physically before it can be digested mentally. If one scans through social media, especially Facebook, nearly every argument is settled with insults and profanities. If they have nothing to say about you or the issue at hand, they will attack your mother, your child and your pet dog just to get at you.
They will spread lies and unfounded rumours in this virtual environment.

Now when they are with you, physically they will hit you with whatever object they can lay their hands on or destroy property dear to you because they see no point in holding arguments that won’t convince you and move you from your ‘wrong’ standing point.
The scary thing about the mental breakdown of an entire society is that it eventually results in a failed state where anarchy becomes law. Good men and well-intentioned women take a back seat resorting to prayers for divine intervention and leave matters in the hands of hard-knock who mobilise the youth, arming them with sticks, guns, drugs and alcohol to fathom their cause. Ask Somalia and Sierra Leone.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social
issues. nicholassengoba@yahoo.com.
Twitter:@nsengoba