There Shall Be No Funeral

By on December 14, 2020

December is traditionally a month of good cheer, happiness, and merrymaking; at least in most parts of the world. In Uganda, the situation in the past has been twice as intense with people suddenly volunteering gifts, presents, and all kinds of giveaways during the festive season. Companies often dig deep to reward employees with a 13th cheque and children are excited that they will be getting special Christmas outfits in the month of December. This is supposed to be the most exciting time of the year.

2020’s December is cold, dark, and gloomy. Good Riddance is what will be whispered by most people in Uganda this entire month. Two things have rendered this month a candidate for erasure – Coronavirus and the God-forsaken upcoming elections.

Covid 19 has ravaged the world at large and this nation in particular in ways that will forever linger in our minds. But that has happened almost everywhere in the world, hasn’t it? The other thing that will make this year worth forgetting in the case of Uganda is the upcoming election.

This whole period has been a mess of a campaign season with lives lost, careers ended, hopes dashed, people tortured and the entire society herded into a corner for monitoring and control. This has been a horrible campaign season.

Just as we were approaching the final bend of the year and we were beginning to set eyes on the checkered flag of 2021, the Government of Uganda decided to give us more reason to dislike this year. News has emerged that from 21st December 2020, journalists without accreditation from Media Center will not be allowed to cover the political campaigns leading up to the 2021 election.

Now, I know this Government has put in place so many draconian and backward things in the past and they’ve gotten away with them but this has got to be top of the pile. This has got to be the most backward and uncalled for move the Government has made in its attempt to gag journalists and suffocate Press Freedom. From what we know, Media Center is basically the mouthpiece of the Government. So to expect this same Media Center to give every political ideology a leveled playing field is to expect a 2-year-old to recite the Quran backward. The truth is that Journalists are being punished for doing their job a little well. They are being punished for exposing the regime for what it truly is – an overstayed bunch of self-seeking individuals depriving countrymen and women of their rights as Ugandans.

Before this campaign season kicked off, there was plenty of discourse about whether we really needed to have this election – with the pandemic ripping into our society and all. Quite naturally, most well-meaning folks suggested that the election be postponed. It makes no sense to yearn for an election when the population is under the threat of potentially catching a lethal virus. In all its wisdom, the regime thought it wise to proceed with the election. And because the regime controls all pieces of the puzzle, the bloody thing was forced onto the calendar.

Several weeks down the road and it appears that despite the ground being unleveled, the advantaged folks are still wary of the threat posed by the disadvantaged folks. Every day that passes, a presidential candidate who is not Mr. 1986 is tear-gassed, tortured, and basically treated like a second class citizen. Their crime? Potentially attracting the attention and sympathy of Ugandans and eating into the ‘popularity’ enjoyed by the President. Obviously, people like Bobi Wine have enjoyed the lion’s share of the animosity from the regime because of their relentlessness but they have all soldiered on. And this has only served to anger the powers that be a bit more.

As a result, in a move that appears to be rooted in desperation, the government is now targeting to gag journalists who’ve been trying to bring Ugandans up to speed with what is happening in the run-up to the election. What a cheap and smelly move by the regime! It reeks of fear, paranoia, and uncertainty for the powers that be. They may control state machinery but they don’t control people’s preferences – and this is eating them up.

In any society, the Fourth Estate has a duty to the citizens of the nation before that to the regime. In the case of Uganda, the duty to the citizens has suddenly rendered journalists a threat to the powers that be and they will now have their microphones muted, notebooks confiscated, cameras shattered, and work ripped to shreds. All this, because journalists are exposing the overstayed regime in its unflattering nakedness.

The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom day which was held on May 3rd was ‘Journalism without fear or favour’. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to realise that Uganda’s situation has horribly veered off the course – if we were ever on it, anyway. Journalists in this country are treated like criminals as long as they expose the frailties of the regime. One would think that if the regime was so confident of its achievements, there should be nothing to worry about. But No – journalists, most of whom are young people trying to make ends meet are being treated like criminals. Everyone agrees that #JournalismIsNotACrime but the regime thinks otherwise.

The fact is that most Ugandans are unwilling to venture into fighting the regime by any means other than those that are peaceful. And it is who we are – a peace-loving lot of people. But every day that passes, the regime finds ways to ignite a fire of rebellion, a desire for confrontation, and an urge to rise up against the system. In the battle against the regime, there will only be one winner – the one with the instruments of power. So we look on with patient sadness.

We know that this will end – we do. But we know in our hearts that this regime shall never have a funeral because when it dies, no one will want to have anything to do with it. The regime has sunk its claws deep into the flesh of a nation in pain. And it is gleefully smiling as Ugandans suffer the draconian and inhumane tendencies of this godforsaken Government.

But as surely as morning follows night, this regime will fall. And when it does, God help whichever sympathizer will be left behind by it!

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Vicktor Emil Frankl 

Bernard Ewalu Olupot
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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