A more reflective Christmas

Author, Phillip Matogo. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Security without liberty is a House of Cards; one that will collapse from the winds of change in a post-Museveni Uganda    

Former US President John F. Kennedy came to office as 17 African countries had just gained independence from their colonial masters.

So Kennedy’s presidential watch, if you like, began at a time when African politics nay, African statesmanship was at its most innocent. 

Still, Kennedy’s message on civil liberties, in the context of dislocated African polities, was at once discerning and disruptive.  And it is as relevant today as it was in 1960. 

“Our civil liberties are essential.  Without them, men could not govern themselves intelligently,” Kennedy said. 

In Uganda, our ability to self-govern intelligently is under threat thanks to the violence of the State.

Such violence is typified by the governing elite robbing elections and then deploying security forces to silence those who oppose such robbery.

This is done despite Uganda’s Constitutional Court overturning legislation that gave police ‘supernatural powers’ to stop public gatherings and protests using Section 8 of Uganda’s Public Order Management Act.

Again, it is done against the letter and spirit of free assembly as protected by the Uganda Constitution; the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community; the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights; and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

“We are concerned about the erosion of our rights in times of clear and present danger. We insist that individual rights must come before national security,” Kennedy intoned.  

In the face of Uganda’s recent terrorist attacks Mr Museveni will use every means necessary, including suspending our constitutional rights, just to “protect” us.

Mr Museveni forgets that security without liberty is a House of Cards; one that will collapse from the winds of change in a post-Museveni Uganda. 

Then, chaos will reign like bad weather.   But how are we even surprised by this? Certainly, we have seen it all before.  According to the facts, the political stability and the absence of violence/terrorism index for Ethiopia in 2018 was minus 1.34 or, in a word, excellent. 

Today, the same country is riven by instability largely because the Ethiopian government placed security interests ahead of civil liberties.  

In similar vein, we have seen several other African countries go from being beacons of stability to becoming cautionary tales after the bulwark of their security, always a strongman, vanished. 

It is clear, then, that security must follow liberty or our country shall come apart at the seams, regardless of whatever progress we make or think we have made.  

On the subject of the economy, we must also separate the wheat from the chaff.  

Yes, the quasi-punitive taxes imposed by the NRM government are utterly intolerable, especially against the endless tax holidays extended to ‘foreign investors.’

Sure, such tax holidays make our economic figures look good as they represent a quantitative increase in goods and services and not necessarily a qualitative increase in the same. 

So such figures spell growth, not development. 

The latter reflects our potential access to a better life, while the former approximates the statistics Andrew Mwenda loves to confuse us with.  

Indeed, such statistics will paint a laudatory picture when, say, there are more technologies in the country. 

Yet more technologies might mean more armored cars for the police to quell legitimate protests in our cities, but not illustrate the values and virtues which hold our society together.  

Again, such investor-inspired statistics will remorselessly indicate an increase in our labour force but will not show how gainfully employed such a labour force is. 

Clearly, smiling statistics on growth are not bankable indicators of the quality of our lives or livelihoods.

If we appreciate these home truths, we might enjoy a more reflective Christmas.   

Mr Matogo is a professional copywriter  


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