Open letter to President Museveni

Sunday August 2 2020

 

By Philip Matogo

Your Excellency, I salute you. As one of your biggest supporters, I am aware that you take a dim view to sycophancy. So I shall dispense with the pleasantries and get down to brass tacks.

Sir, please refer to the Stage Play and Public Entertainment Rules 2019 and Film Documentaries and Commercial Still Photography Regulations 2019.

According to Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the then minister of Information and Technology, also in charge of creating the Stage play and Public Entertainment Rules 2019 and film regulations, all artists are a threat to themselves as well as their countrymen. This is why Tumwebaze set in train the abovementioned regulations.

Section 6 of these regulations states that each performance of an artist will not happen unless the artist or performer receives a permit from ‘’the commission.”

While Section 7 redounds to the same by stating that “before a person puts up any form of public performance in any location, they will need to apply to the commission for a permit.”

Sir, you are officially registered as a member of the Uganda Musicians Association. Your song Mpenkoni (Another rap) cemented your rock-solid credentials as an artist.

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I, too, am an artist.
As a performance poet who often leaves the audience asking for another rap, I share your surprise at these regulations being parcelled out to envelope our creative conduct in providing another rap. As a consequence, they’re the world’s first ever regulations to take exception to an encore!

Sir, these regulations are the stuff of comedy. A gallows humour worthy of Jonathan Swift, but without the ability to push the line of good taste into underlining fine humour.

I would advise that, next time, Mr Tumwebaze enlist the comedic wit of Daniel Omara, Timothy Nyanzi or Cotilda Inapo. This would make the said regulations less of a joke and more of a reminder that art imitates life.

And life should not be taken too seriously, for none of us are getting out of it alive.
Sir, we know that you place a premium on free speech. Indeed, point number one of the NRA’s 10-Point Programme was democracy.

We also know how you value the arts over sciences. Since you’re a firm believer in all science being state-of-the-art. Again, we all know that you cannot find your cherished Runyankole proverbs in a chemistry, biology, physics or mathematics book. The artistry in such wisdom transcends the Cartesian mind.

So if we conflate your love of democracy and respect for the arts, we are certain that these regulations are offensive to you on at least two levels.
The third level is that these regulations typify the “cancel culture.” Which takes aim at what is considered artistically objectionable by cancelling support for artists.

Mr Tumwebaze’s State-inspired cancelling does violence to the creative impulse of a nation which requires the same for its industry and ingenuity.
More, the realm of taboo is expanded to control and curtail free thought. In this context, there are more lines to cross, more things you’re not supposed to say. Well, unless you have a permit from what could be termed the thought police.

1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell. It was published in 1949. It portrays a government, or the party, as a controlling force in the lives of the citizens. Government puts up cameras everywhere to watch the people, and to enforce good, patriotic behaviour.

So, no matter where you go, you are always being watched. If you dream about saying something negative about the party, you’ll wake up and apologise!
Sir, we cannot afford to reverse our gains back to 1984.

Mr Matogo is the managing editor Fasihi Magazine.
mugashop74@gmail.com

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