Do we really know what sectarianism means?

Sectarianism is one of the forbidden practices under our laws.

But it appears we have failed to really understand the spirit and interpretation of this noble law, hence its constant mis-reference.

It is, therefore, no surprise that all people that have been charged with promoting sectarianism are only those confused ones who came out as ‘whistleblowers’ to highlight cases of imbalance in ‘distribution of the national cake’. As if sectarianism was about being sectarian!

I understand that Article 21(2) of the 1995 Constitution (as about to be short circuited) proscribes discrimination based on tribe and ethnic origin.

Section 41 of the Penal Code defines sectarianism as the practice of degrading or exposing to hatred or contempt or disaffection for anyone on the basis of religion, tribe, or ethnic or regional origin by utterance, printing, publication or performance any such act.

Never mind that Section 41(2) provides defense for those who may utter or print such stuff to expose, discourage or fight off practices that promote sectarianism. This part actually should be touched (amended), for it discriminates against those who promote ‘sectarianism’ – hence contradicting the Constitution. Don’t argue. Shut up and listen.

In Uganda, sectarianism is largely understood to be synonymous with ‘tribalism’, and understandably so. Well, isn’t ‘ethnicity’ the most sensitive of collective identities in Uganda?

I acknowledge the derogatory roots of the notion ‘tribe’ from colonial anthropology, but permit me to interchangeably use it with ‘ethnicity’ here for purposes of operating within locally familiar vocabulary.

But, note very well, tribalism in the sense and form of ethnically oriented favouritism is not really the offense in Uganda.

What is actually illegal is to irritatingly yap about tribalism as if you have nothing more ideologically constructive to say.

You are free to observe, even the most conspicuous and bold forms of tribal discrimination and favouratism, but kindly shut up. Even if tribalism stands before you naked and screaming, report that you only see Ugandans – not people from the same neighbourhood filling up a public institution.

However, if you hear anyone raise these imbalances, just like Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda often does, quickly attack and mute them. Accuse them of inciting tribal hatred and engaging in subversive talk.

Such people that raise alarm are the true enemies to national unity and cohesion, not those that make national appointments like tribal chiefs distributing bush meat.

Let some government units start using vernaculars on duty; for why should they pretend to speak English as an official language yet they can actually speak one common mother tongue at office. Why the fuss with all that foreign nankegyi when they can speak like they would at a village meeting back home!

Life is short dear, have a tribal blast!

The problem is not for most vital government organs to bear a distribution of top leadership that makes Uganda appear like a nation of four or five ethnic groups. We call it merit my brother, not that constitutional nonsense of reflecting national character. Before you complain, where are your educated people? Where are your physically-fit and talented leaders that can fit the requirements of the positions?

Understand that those who appoint and recruit are also in a fix that they didn’t wish for. When they look around, they can’t see other qualified people. What do you want them to do? Leave the positions vacant? Answer me, before you immerse yourself in endless whining about distributive justice.

This country is failing to develop because we spend our valuable time highlighting and discussing useless things. Instead of talking about roads, investment, education, irrigation, security, agricultural modernisation, and power generation, you are discussing ‘who is where’, ‘who is replaced by who’, and where they are from! Is it their fault that they come from regions that only found themselves to be fountains of competence?

How did you expect government to distribute positions? Should they simply say that the judiciary goes to the east, army to the north, police to the south, Electoral Commission to central, prisons to the west, etc? Should we treat the nation like a malwa pot?

This is service, not eating! Appreciate those that have sacrificed to carry the heaviest burden of national leadership. It is a cross that must be carried by some because they have no choice but to carry it. If only others qualified for these jobs, we wouldn’t hesitate to relieve ourselves of the load.

Consider also that we have a sectarian history to correct – the Obotes, Amins and Lutwas who filled the army with their kind!

We are trying to bring back the face of the army to normal. This is not a simple task. What you see and froth about is simply a transitional corrective metamorphosis after which the likes of you can also become a bigger statistic in there.

Be patient and give us time. Sincerely, other countries must be laughing at us! As they discuss nuclear energy and astrology, we are here gossiping about sijui the new trend of names of OCs and DPCs around Kampala. Bogus! Maybe we should organize a renaming occasion and you give them your preferred names.

You clearly know that, English being a foreign language, it is hard to smoothly command the police in the same. Yet when we try to devise easier strategies of command in mother tongue that we all understand easily, you again protest!

This sectarian colonial mindset won’t take us any far.

The right questions are: are these people doing their job well? Are they qualified? But because your minds are preoccupied with ethnic bigotry, you choose to focus on accidental matters. How crooked, how shameful!

By the way, if this bothers you that much, I can offer you a free ticket to migrate to hell.

[email protected]The author heads the Center for African Studies at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.

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