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ON HON. ACENG AND THE POLITICS OF "US"

About four months ago, I posted about the absolutism in our country’s politics and why it was an unhealthy trajectory we were on. This idea that one is either this or that not only makes it hard for the reality (which is seldom black and white) to be shared with the masses, it also creates fertile ground for Fake News and misinformation. Because people are either for or against the minister, all news about her actions has to be interpreted within those lenses. And because those are the options we give our leaders, they too buy into the narrative, digging in and defending the indefensible, because they know that at the end of the day, they will retain among their number, the critical number of supporters necessary to render accountability irrelevant.

The reality is that Hon. Aceng has presided over a ministry that has done an incredible and laudable job keeping COVID-19 in check.

The reality is also that she recently acted in direct contradiction of everything she has been asking Ugandans to do.

Those two statements are at once true. And we should be able to acknowledge one without having to negate the other.

She says she has an explanation for that.

That is besides the point.

An explanation presupposes guilt, which must be acknowledged before any attempt at explaining is made. Thieves have reasons for robbing. None of those reasons makes their thieving right. Understandable, perhaps. But it remains thieving and has to be acknowledged as such.

Hundreds of thousands of Ugandans have lost their income and livelihood because their work (as entrepreneurs or employees) could not be conducted without flaunting the MoH regulations on social distancing. During this lockdown and curfew period, Ugandans have lost their lives at the hands of armed forces so eager to lick their superiors’ boots, they are willing to snuff out innocent lives for the sake of being seen to implement orders.

So when a minister that has been leading a campaign to keep social distancing and wear masks flaunts those rules, it is no small thing. And Ugandans should rightly be enraged. That doesn’t mean her previous work isn’t acknowledged. In fact, it is precisely because it is acknowledged that this slip up becomes even more unacceptable.

If we are to move forward as a nation, we must be willing to go beyond the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ narrative. To reject our leaders’ apparent desire to have us pledge absolute loyalty to them (whether they be in opposition or government). Our duty is to Uganda, not to any specific Ugandans. We must be willing to call out our own when they trip up, if for nothing else, so that we can be believed by others when we say we want better.

In the absence of a significant nuanced, moderate political centre, we will simply keep swinging from one end of the political pendulum (revolution and sweeping, violent change) to the other (dictatorial, militaristic governance that demands absolute obedience without any accountability).

Mugisha Muntu is right. Unless we overhaul our political system to make room for a model in which the pursuit of national progress takes precedence over personal ambition, we can kiss our dreams and ambitions as a country goodbye. Or in the words of a certain Ghetto President: Twebereremu!

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Written by Ganzi Isharaza

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