Pastor Joseph Kabuleta (the Lord bless him) is in a spot of bother. He was carted away from a restaurant last week and kept in the coolers. His crime stems from his acerbic political missives that cast a spotlight on President Yoweri Museveni, and his mode of governance. Kabs (as he is popularly called,) in this crusade takes no prisoners and often goes beyond calling a spade a spade.
Whether you agree with him or not, Kabs is a joy to read and has earned himself an army of followers on social media. It is not because of what he says about Museveni and NRM, but because of the way he says it. Kabs takes great servings of licence to write with rare verve. His clarity is abundantly peppered with very good idiomatic English, seasoned with colourful metaphors, marinated with naughty sobriquets and is often not done without a garnish of huge doses of sarcastic humour.
His weekly rant is widely read and shared across several social media platforms. Many times one receives the same piece from different sources almost a dozen times until the next instalment of ‘the weekly rant.’
Those who know Kabs will tell you that this is not a man for half measures. He is an all-or-nothing type of person. When he sets himself on something, he dives in the deep end with both hands and feet. When he leaves, he goes all out like he came in.
Such courageous people are a rarity in the Uganda of today where almost everyone fears even their own shadow. If you are talking to someone and their phone cuts off unceremoniously, they will tell you that their phone is possibly being tapped by ‘these people’ so you have to be careful about what you say.
So people like Kabs (and Stella Nyanzi in case you have forgotten her), who take on President Museveni like he is not the general who has fought huge battles and won wars, are looked up to with awe and admiration. This is especially with the full knowledge and visible list of examples of people and institutions that have rubbed the President/establishment the wrong way, suffering several financial, social and political misfortunes.
A business may all of a sudden collapse as its clients will now fear to deal with a person who ‘abuses the President.’ The land on which one built their home suddenly becomes a ‘protected wetland’ that must be vacated.
So Kabs then becomes like the one man who takes on the bully. He is like that ubiquitous drunkard found at every funeral. When inebriated, (many times the booze is bought by cowards and turncoats who cannot come out in the open) he will speak plainly to the rich and powerful neighbour about his meanness and bad manners for blocking the road to the village stream from which everyone fetched water. He will remind him that the death of his child should teach him that all are mortal after all and so he should learn to be humble.
Many times those whom he speaks for, but fear to open their mouths for they know that rich and powerful neighbour will visit all manner of misfortune on them, will make a visible effort to shut the drunkard up. But deep down, they know he speaks for them and are very happy.
Kabs is a teetotaller and a sober mind for all the years I have known him. He is now filled with a passion and courage that sets him apart from others and drives him to say the things that he says.
Social media is as deceptive as those at the funeral for whom the drunkard speaks, but lack the courage to associate themselves effectively with the drunkard. Under the cover of darkness, they will clap and ululate even urging him on, but in broad daylight, will either keep quiet or even condemn him.
In other words, they are quite useless in a cause, for animated numbers are what scare bullies and dictators. Men and women behind keyboards will swear fire and brimstone, but remain at a safe distance when Kabs or Stella Nyanzi appear in court or are sent to jail. They will say their children are still young and need their mummy and daddy so they will not put themselves in harm’s way.
This is the reason why people like Kabs and Stella Nyanzi should never be jailed. They say what many already know and gossip about quietly. Their followers will never amount to any formidable opposition apart from throwing verbal artillery, on social media.
Commissioner of Police Fred Enanga dismissed Pastor Kabuleta as a ‘self-styled pastor,’ when explaining the arrest of Kabs. Judging Kabs in this manner is not only proof of bias, but also exposes the police. For instance, one of the President’s children is a pastor in her own right. Would Enanga also dismiss her as self-styled?
Secondly, Enanga seems to vindicate Kabs and his rants. Kabs and other like-minded pastors claim that there is a wish by the authorities to create a Born-again movement that is compliant to the NRM government.
They are now going to ask themselves if those out of this bracket are viewed as self-styled like Enanga puts it.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.