The Fountain of Honour has spoken. Again. Fire must be met with fire. The villains that are killing innocent, patriotic and peace-loving Ugandans such as the late Ibrahim Abiriga will be hunted down. As clearly stated by the founder, the NRM government has a long history of violence. This is the way it came to power, and this is the way it has sustained itself in power, so anyone that attempts to play on the same field will surely be decimated.
Then comes the means by which the killers will be prevented from carrying on with the mayhem. Identify the boda boda riders. Ban hoodies. Put cameras on highways, in villages, homes … just about anywhere where a serious crime could be committed. (A CCTV camera set costs in the millions.) Mark helmets. Identify all Ugandans (of course, we all know that foreigners cannot commit these sorts of crimes…)
First, let us be disabused of the notion that these killings are senseless. I suspect that most people who use the term ‘senseless’ mean they are random, unpredictable, and that they serve no purpose. None of these things is true. The killings are not random, they are predictable, and they serve a purpose.
Those who study the patterns of violence will tell us that if one has an inequitable society, one where individuals and communities lose control of their lives through extreme marginalisation and lack of opportunity, there is going to be violence.
If sections of society feel that there is ‘them’ and ‘us’, and that ‘they’ have the means of, not just survival, which most people seek, but the means to enjoy what should belong to ‘us’, and that they have no recourse, no legitimate means of getting what they need, there is going to be violence. Uganda has been on a steady path of increasing inequality for decades. Obscene wealth sits right next door to abject poverty – sometimes literally rubbing shoulders, or perimeter walls. Youngsters that complete some form of school against all odds, having seen their parents sell land, borrow, and beg from relatives and strangers to help them pay their school fees, then trudge the streets as vendors for some shop owner, in search of the daily meal.
As they walk up and down Yusuf Lule Road, they peep inside Prados, Mercedes, Lexuses, and Hummers. They see cellphones that cost more than their rent for a year. The cars are driven by their age mates. Then over the radios, they hear that Parliament is passing a budget for wealth creation. They understand from previous budgets that whatever wealth is being created, they are excluded. They are invisible. In such moments, the motivation for violence is born.
It now awaits the opportunity and in Uganda opportunities for violence abound. Poorly paid police and security guards carry weapons that one does not even have to shoot to strike terror. And they are hungry and angry enough to rent them for a small fee. The parties to the transaction both understand that the victims are ‘them’. Over the years, these people that have some level of education, but that live on one meal away from starvation, become embittered and willing to forcefully, yes, violently, take not just material things, but life, without remorse.
This is just one of very many scenarios to make sense of the seemingly senseless violence.So the Fountain of Honour might threaten violence, but that is not about to solve the problem. I can say with certainly that the only possible outcome of the threats is more violence, maybe of bolder types. Because when one uses a fire extinguisher, they do not point to the flames, but to the source of the flames.
There are a few things that Uganda must do if we hope for a safer and more peaceful country. Reduce the inequality. Make the so-called universal education truly universal. Shacks and mango tree shades cannot be a part of the same universal education system where other children have computer labs. The children that play in the Kampala Kids League will think that their peers – and one hesitates to call them that – are stupid because they do not know what an app is.
There are no apps for getting a mango down from your classroom roof. But the two will meet on the street where one is driving a Prado, and the other is vending car wipers, and wondering how to take off the Prado lights before the lights turn green. The seeds of violence are being sown under the mango tree classrooms.
I know of exams where some students are turned away for not having ‘cleared’ the tuition, while State House sponsored students whose tuition is still unpaid are allowed to sit the exams. Seeds of violence are watered in such environments.
This conversation started with the gun violence. Now, sense would tell us that it is easier to control guns than to ban hoodies. Guns are no ordinary object. They are not (yet) sold in supermarkets. Each gun has or should have a unique number. They are usually assigned to a known individual, and they have armories. Why is the President not instituting tougher regulations and controls around gun availability?