To protect and serve  or to violate and kill? 

At the current pace, we are on track to kill about 100 fellow citizens in the midst of a non-military campaign. The general election campaign looks like it is not about to get less bloody with several dozen Ugandans already killed, almost entirely with bullets. 

We have had a blood-soaked political past. But that has occurred largely within the context of some form of military action — a coup here, a civil war there. 

It would appear that a new record is being set given the numbers killed within a month during what is supposed to be a contestation, however vigorous, for political power whose victor will be decided via the ballot.

It is not clear how the current situation will define Ugandan politics in the future. What we have a good sense of is that a most bloody general election campaign is unfolding right now. And that this is a blossoming of what has been in the making over the last decades.

In 1967 Milton Obote did not bother to hold elections — that would have been Uganda’s first election since independence. 

He didn’t want to face the people so they could hold him to account for his violent resolution of differences with Kabaka Muteesa II, the titular head of state he ousted in 1966 through a military invasion of his palace.

 The man who commanded the attack on the palace, then army chief Idi Amin, deposed Obote in a military coup in 1971. Well, elections were the last thing he thought about until his ouster in 1979.

The current leaders may despise Obote and Amin, but they sure love the violent tactics those past leaders used to protect their power. History threads its way through time in consistent ways even when that consistency is not so obvious.

Talk about overstay in power or the attempt to. Talk about use of State entities such as security agencies and Parliament for power-retention purposes. Talk about impunity by politically exposed persons. These are all common threads.

Today, these aspects are merging with a large and growing population made up of young adults desperate for jobs and other such opportunities for self-advancement. 

They don’t see those opportunities, or rather feel that the opportunities are available to a select few. The sense of grievance just builds up, like it has been for years. It is getting to a combustible stage.

Mr Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) emerged at the right moment with name recognition from his (occasionally politically conscious) music and also by being largely a member of the young and disaffected generation. 

He is drawing these people to himself — whether they share a common cause and common vision is another matter. 

And the security services are mowing them down on the streets or throwing them into jail in the name of ensuring they follow the SOPs that limit numbers that can mass so as to stem the spread of Covid-19.

 It is not like security services have not killed or variously violated Ugandans before during general election campaigns. 

Enforcement of Covid-19 SOPs is a good excuse to hobble potent opponents. Supporters of people like presidential candidate Kyagulanyi see through this. 

So, they are ready and willing to put up a fight. It looks as though these immunised bazzukulu are losing their sense of fear of death. 

But who are these Ugandans being killed by fellow Ugandans who are mandated to protect and serve them? They should not just be statistics. It is important that journalists identify each one of them and present their profiles complete with pictures.

 They should be humanised. They are not just things. Even better if the media can identify their killers.

Mr Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala. [email protected]