If you are an ardent reader/listener of the literature on Uganda’s State Violence (past, present and future), you may be dismayed, but you’re not in disbelief. The Makerere situation is not unique in the way the state has always resorted to violence to counter dissent. This is a topic that has been delved upon by many writers.
However, what is obvious is our State is more trepidant as days go by and as the make-up hiding its autocracy keeps fading, its monstrous face becomes clearer. This monster of violence has never left us since colonial times. It changes colour and attire but never its tactics and appetite to devour constitutionalism. This monster has many faces and Prof. Oloka-Onyango has labelled one of them as ‘the Ogre of Presidentialism’.
But these are things our literature has recorded, projected, perceived, observed, lamented, protested, prophesied, all done in the bid to protect humanism and the sanctity of our ‘obuntu bulamu’.
I have written and performed a poem entitled FOR MY NEGATIVITY about why my poems are, as I’ve been told, ‘too negative’. Some of my audience and readers frowned upon that poem before they even encountered its subject matter, After all, they knew all about my works: ‘That is Kagayi going political again!’
But its protestations and projections have, unfortunately, come to pass. Yet literature, since it’s not taken seriously as a socio-political indicator, is a conscience-barometer excluded from our broad discussion on our society. This exclusion only flags for disinterest from the people about issues they ‘fear’ to confront. This disinterest grows only to become another face of the monster that I addressed in my book THE HEADLINE THAT MORNING have called Apathy.
For me, though, there is never a right time to be apathetic.
Dr. Twinomugisha’s (or ‘Shokoro’ as we fondly remember him) protest stance against MUK is understandable, if not admirable. What he has done, standing with the oppressed and speaking against their oppression, is what we need more of. But also we need to interrogate our literature more keenly.
Reading Danson Kahyana’s anthology FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN this morning, the Susan Kiguli poems in the collection THE WEEPING LANDS and THE UNENDING GAME have me asking: why are people surprised with what is going on at MUK? Both these poems first appeared in print in the ’90s, yet still reading them today they offer fresh insight into what our Violence Monster really looks like. But they get me to wonder, do people really appreciate what our literature says about our society?
Do they not read/listen to their writers?
Because of we did, the audience would just be saying Amen, it would appreciate the refrain as a response to the call to action and it would be out there, preserving the dignity of its democracy.
For God and Our Country.