A young man died, but we should not let that distract us from the political fighting

Thursday August 16 2018

Daniel K. Kalinaki

Daniel K. Kalinaki  

By Daniel K Kalinaki

I would not encourage anyone to throw stones at passing cars. I would particularly not encourage anyone to throw stones – or anything for that matter – at a presidential convoy; it rarely ends well.

So if Yasin Kawuma had thrown a rock at the presidential convoy and received a high-calibre bullet in the head in return, it would be okay for us to shake our heads at the foolishness of it all, take a sip of coffee, lick one finger and turn the newspaper page on to other things.

If he hadn’t thrown the rock, but was standing near or among the cluster of people whence the said rock allegedly originated, we might stretch things a bit, judge Kawuma guilty by association, and proceed to the crossword puzzle.
But Kawuma, from all the publicly available evidence, did not throw the rock that allegedly smashed the rear windscreen of one of the cars in the presidential convoy. In fact, it is not even clear whether Kawuma was at the scene at all.
He was at least several hundred metres away, and more than half an hour had passed since the alleged stone-throwing incident, when Kawuma was shot and killed inside what is understood to be a parked car. That’s a very incompetent way of catching a stray bullet.

The biggest problem here isn’t that a young man died, as sad and tragic as that is; it is that a young man died and we carried on fighting.

The matter-of-fact statements from the police and from the presidency carried no sympathy or no acknowledgement that a young man died. Those from the other side of the political aisle did not acknowledge the coming together of the rival groups that sparked the violence.

Long before rigor mortis set in Mr Kawuma had been stepped over and added, in passing, to the long and ever-growing list of victims of our political violence.
Long before he was put in the ground, Kawuma had been buried under an avalanche of partisan rhetoric, lies, cover-ups and the empty cacophony of phony laughter from the playground where this blame game was being played.
The referees of this political contest, the Electoral Commission, had a quick glance then waved play on; there was contact between bullet and flesh, they seemed to say, but it happened outside the ballot box so no penalty there and no free kick either.
A young man died and dozens were arrested and assaulted, including one of the candidates, but it was not enough to substantially affect the outcome of the contest. He wasn’t even a registered voter in the constituency. Nkebyo.
We did not get here by accident. When we allowed open and wanton rigging in 1996, we accepted that the vote could be stolen as long as one was not caught. When we allowed brute force and violence in 2001, we accepted that our infant electoral democracy had to be bathed in blood.

When we allowed one candidate to spend more time in prison than on the campaign trail in 2006, we accepted that the road to power would have to be an obstacle course for everyone other than the incumbents. And so on and so forth. Nkebyo.

So we now find ourselves in a place where the President – elected President, mind you, not presidential candidate – can openly tell taxpayers that they will only get social services if they vote for candidates from his political party! The more the presidency shrinks to partisanship, the less popular appeal and respect the office enjoys.
Before long, hotheads go from throwing insults at the person of the President to throwing rocks at his motorcade. Politics gives way to a pantomime of vulgar absurdities; the bottom of the barrel is dredged and the worst in and amongst us rises to the top.
An electoral democracy is built on the premise that competing factions with alternative views put forth candidates and voters make their choices freely and fairly then refresh the mandate regularly.
What we have is a situation where power is like a golden cup at the top of an altar and there is a maddening stampede to get it by hook or crook, by bullets or ballots, by threats or by morsels of lies and empty promises shoved down the throats of hungry voters. It was never meant to be this way. It does not have to be this way.

Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and a poor man’s
freedom fighter. [email protected]
Twitter: @Kalinaki.