Just a few centimetres higher, and I’d be writing an obituary.
As a number of you are by now aware, Zac Niringiye, while jogging last week, was violently accosted by an indeterminate number of young men who made off with his two phones. Their choice weapon was a blunt object, presumably a brick or a heavy piece of metal.
The tremendous force of the strike caused him a momentary concussion, a cracked cheekbone, and a great deal of nose-bleeding. It is remarkable that despite being dazed, he was able to walk himself to a clinic within the vicinity where he received first aid and was later transferred to a hospital for further management.
Since the incident, I have noticed the barely concealed suspicion in the general public’s concern about whether there was more to the hit—quite obviously because of Zac’s consistent public repudiation of the ruling establishment in Uganda, and his analysis of who is responsible for the resultant governance malaise that our society faces.
It helps to say that he is not the first victim of such an attack, and going by trends, is unlikely to be the last. Barely a month before his mugging, a secondary school teacher in Kyambogo succumbed to injuries sustained during a daytime attack by petty thieves who took his phone. We have seen chilling footage of the savage kicks and punches that an Asian accountant suffered as a stash of money he was carrying was taken from him by a horde of thieves who cornered him at a busy intersection on Mawanda Road. A mobile money shop attendant in Kawempe lost her life after thugs who were after her day’s proceeds struck her temple with an iron bar. Her Worship Gladys Kamasanyu, a magistrate at Buganda Road, was bludgeoned, phones taken, and left for dead at a school parking lot, requiring her hospitalization in an ICU.
This handful of examples is a fraction of the full picture. A daily dose of such gore can be found on Bukedde TV’s famed Agataliiko Nfuufu newscasts. Crime Reports published by the Police tell a similar story, as do countless studies by NGOs. I have not even broached the more spectacular cases of violent criminality such as the brazen shootings perpetrated by gun-wielding cyclists or the rampant cases of land grabbing and forced evictions of entire communities by Uganda’s Untouchables.
As my bosom friend Dr. Niringiye recuperates, I have had occasion to phone him to recount the events of that evening. Based on the information available, we both concluded that this was another case of the sheer delinquency that abounds in our country. There is little to suggest that it was a hit job, akin to the countless assassinations and attempts that have become commonplace over the years—not least the brazen shooting of a four-star general in June this year.
Yet, to conclude that way, amidst the rising tide of violence, is shallow and self-absorbed.
It is also not enough to say that the attack on the Bishop, or any other Ugandan who has suffered such an experience, is not political.
This is a country where the ruling junta openly collaborates with criminals like Abdallah Kitatta and Paddy Sserunjoji (Sobi) of the Kifeesi outfit to resolve administrative and political questions. In the same country, Peter Elwelu, the Butcher of Kasese now holds the office of Deputy Chief of Defence Forces. Our illegitimate President, Yoweri Museveni, has openly commended the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Paul Lokech, for the extrajudicial executions of Gen. Katumba Wamala’s suspected assassins. Countless regime apologists have called for, and endorsed the summary executions of opposition supporters, without consequence to them, just like Mwesigwa Rukutana brandished a weapon and only got a slap on the wrist. The deceased Shaban Bantariza threatened to take up arms if electoral defeat became apparent. I could cite a dozen more examples.
The point? If the ruling elite can drive in the wrong lane, steal our money with impunity, abduct, maim, torture, and kill opponents without any fear of prosecution, why should unemployed, hungry, and dispossessed young men spare the life of a balding, grey-haired old man taking an evening jog—with two phones visible?
Why shouldn’t the driving mirrors of your car be stolen if all that my unemployed, underemployed, and unemployable UPE generation hears about every day is the obscene theft of public funds that abounds in public offices today, and the fabulous material possessions that come with it?
This escalating criminality is a logical progression of the NRA’s decadent dispensation in which the difference between right and wrong has been obscured, and where First Family Rule takes precedence over the common good.
If you, dear reader, think that the argument I have made is a stretch, far-fetched and alarmist, or if you feel secure in the hi-tech features of your SUV, high perimeter wall, the high-level contacts in your phone, or your medical insurance card, wait for your turn. In a failing or failed state, none of us is as special, protected, or exceptional as the bubbles we live in make us think.
Ergo, we have no choice, as Muhammad Kirumira, yet another victim of violent crime succinctly put it: “if you speak, you die; if you keep quiet, you die.”
Get off your asses and let’s fight.