Challenge of defending the indefensible

What you need to know:

  • It’s unethical, unacceptable and counterproductive to use abusive, foul and insulting language to diagnose society’s problems in order to find solutions to problems.

My attention has been drawn to an opinion piece by Mr Faruk Kirunda published in Daily Monitor of January 13 titled, ‘It’s the President’s duty to call out on non-performers’ which is in reply to my Sunday Monitor opinion titled, ‘Of colonial civil servants and fishermen of NRM regime’ published on January 9.

I would, at the outset, like to thank Mr Kirunda for his feedback in which he attempted, in vain, to defend the indefensible. I wish him better luck next time.

We agreed on at least one thing, what he calls “language dynamics,” the use of language by you, me and political leaders. The words we choose to use in public discourse matters a lot, especially in societies like ours where a majority of citizens are either semi-literate or not well informed and where ignorance, poverty and disease are rampant.

On the use of language Kirunda writes, “Politicians, including Museveni, are human beings. They err, but they have a right to speak or front their ideas, language dynamics notwithstanding, because they have stepped up to diagnose society’s problems and try to find solutions to them.”

Mind your language

It’s unethical, unacceptable and counterproductive to use abusive, foul and insulting language to diagnose society’s problems in order to find solutions to problems. If anything, use of abusive language will create new problems and make a bad situation worse.

It is wrong, indefensible and unacceptable for anybody to call a human being created by God in His own image a “pig, swine or weevil.” I am sure most Ugandans agree with me on this matter, but whether you believe or not, history will absolve me.

The apostle James discusses the question of the spoken word or speech in Chapter 3 of his letter titled, ‘Taming the Tongue.’ James compares the tongue to fire and argues that: “It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison. We use it to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse our fellow man who is created in the likeness of God. James 3:8 (GNB) 

Make no mistake, the words each one of us speaks are powerful beyond imagination. Words can make or break relationships and careers, words can build nations or tear down nations.

On January 26, 1995, on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of NRM Day, Sabalwanyi made a speech at Kololo Independence Grounds in which he stated publicly that some past leaders of Uganda were swine. 

Among the invited guests at that event were former vice presidents Mustafa Adrisi and Brig Gad Wilson Toko. I was a member of Brig Toko’s entourage and witnessed what happened. The damage those remarks have done is enormous and long lasting. Since to err is human, the least one expects is an apology. Ugandans deserve a lot better from their elected leaders.

I am surprised to read Kirunda take issue with the use of the title Sabalwanyi which the President has invoked many times with pleasure to extol his role as a freedom fighter, revolutionary and warrior.

One allegation Kirunda makes that, “all they (civil servants) are occupied with is ‘for God and my stomach’ designs” is dishonest, false and offensive and should be dismissed with contempt.

I am reminded of the theme of the 59th anniversary of Uganda’s independence: “Celebrating our 59th Independence Day as we secure our future through national mindset change.” If the leaders of Uganda are honest and patriotic, they must stop abusing and insulting Ugandans. They must change their mindset and begin to treat all Ugandans, especially wananchi, with due respect as fellow citizens. For God and my Country!

 Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.