Sometime in 2014, a few friends of mine and I, sat on the balcony of my apartment, in the outskirts of the Nairobi metropolis and shared, like on every other day, about a couple of ideas, news, events, and topics that affected our lives whether directly or otherwise.
Seeing as we were either Kenyans or Ugandans, who were well travelled and/or versed with our home countries, which we, respectively, passionately love, our conversations highlighted or concentrated on those two lovers of ours; Kenya and Uganda.
In one of the many conferences we had, we pondered upon what our future lives and careers would be, be defined by, and where we would be in order to live them. Amongst so many other words, a few, important ones were mentioned, and, sort of, agreed upon. An agreement was reached. It was that we should not be in Uganda in 2016, and in Kenya in 2017. For an obvious reason; both being election years.
Anyone who was not with us, to listen to our varied conclusions, could have easily concluded that we were cowards who wanted to distance ourselves from any violence whatsoever. We were not sure about Uganda, in 2016, and Museveni’s stance on his future and his plans for it. Also, finding ourselves in the midst of a repeat of Kenya in 2007 would not have been any pleasing. That person would probably be right. Pessimists, they would call us.
In 2015, I sat behind my laptop’s screen, and over the office Wi-Fi, observed a picture, of Museveni illustrating his continued interest in his station, being painted. Stories and newspaper articles about a young lady, a legislator, who knelt so that he could stand were shared with the world.
Kiiza Besigye was back in play. He managed to manoeuvre his way past a deserving Mugisha Muntu, and to avoid an impending TDA alliance which would deny him an opportunity to traverse the country waving his popular V-sign and wiggling to the theme music, the ululations of his fellow, and frustrated countrymen.
That opportunity would have gone to a hungry man, a chip off the ruling party. Amama Mbabazi. Mbabazi premised himself as the ultimate star, the messiah everyone had been waiting for to help them do away with Museveni, as he perfectly understood what it could probably have taken.
When he said, to a leading international newspaper, that he would not fear Museveni because he did not fear Amin. I believed him. I had, at an earlier time, tweeted that; if our parents survived Idi Amin, then we too would survive Museveni. A friend of mine commented that I could only manage to say such because I was in exile.
It is now 2016, and after a couple of what has been enlightening months back home – Uganda, I, unfortunately, really do not know the future holds for us as a country!
There are too many frustrations to tolerate; disorganisation, dishonesty, laziness (a dearth of exertion), and inefficiency. We are cursed by a strong culture, one dedicated by stagnancy – across the board. Our options, of good leaders – whom we really need, are limited. You can feel it when you talk to both the ignorant locals and the blinded elites that we are doomed.
It is not easy to choose where to begin reviving the economy and general welfare of the country. There are no medicines in hospitals. Teachers are eternally crying for their pay rise which never materialises. Pensioners have, sadly, been informed of the swindling of their money. We are importing pretty much everything, and not producing that much of our own. We are poor, but we are happy.
Alternative voices are branded the alarmist voices of sufferers. Those who are not aware of any suffering whatsoever do not care whether, for example, Stella Nyanzi will continue to burn her privates dry or otherwise. In thinking that Stella’s insightful and entertaining Facebook posts are an exercise in literary boredom, they forget that they are contributing to rallying flies to Museveni’s bullshit. Bullshit can only take anyone so far. There is no sense in trying to cope with or augment a bad situation that will never improve.
On several occasions, I have asked myself several questions; when the day, February 18, arrives, and I happen to be in the country, and safe, what noticeable changes or events in the recent past or promises of a better future will encourage me to participate in this election year’s process of deciding?
- Why decide, when there is, reportedly, no bookshop in Gulu, and its neighbouring districts?
- Why decide, when a poor man in Kamwenge gets excited at the sight of UGX 5,000, as it is out of his financial lane?
- Why decide, when thieves roam Kampala streets and neighbourhoods are taking any and all personal property from anyone they can find, even when we are reminded about how secure we are, but never told about our wanting safety?
- Why decide, when simpletons, spokes in the wheel of the government machinery are sure enough to ask for their entitlement of a facilitation [re: bribe(s)] just to sign and send a piece of paper to another officer, or for the benefit of a waiting person?
- Why decide, when new mothers and new dead bodies share the same corridors in the only referral hospital in the country since our 1962 independence?
- Why decide, when, not sure of where I come from, people still define me by my name, skin colour, “mother tongue”, and not what I am capable of offering towards building the nation?
- Why decide, when the sight of more than ten (10) policemen together is a hint to an impending quelling of any alternative (political) voice and not a trip to a seminar on how to improve their living conditions and/or finances?
- Why decide, when my friend, Phil Wilmot, of solidarity Uganda, which is dedicated to enlightening Ugandans about their civic responsibilities and democratic duties, has been in court or more than a year after losing his tools of trade, like a camera, laptop, and phone to uncompromising policemen?
- Why decide, when, for two years now, my grandmother has not received clean water, which she used to through a water tap she was gifted by a government gravity water project?
- Why decide when robust men and women, in Kisoro, Mbarara, and Pallisa, wake up to spend their days drinking kiriza offe – accept and die – and coupling it with roast pumpkin seeds?
- Why decide, when the options include a steady bus driver, whose idea of progress is maintaining the same things which are systematically killing our young nation, and making it incontinetal?
- Why decide, when people who cannot see beyond their own shameful blindness, that they would not survive if it was not for cheering on the same poor leadership?
- Why decide, when the budding professionals, who are, apparently, running this country are still jumping out of shacks in the slums of Kinawataka and Makindye?
- Why decide, when the proletariat sweats from walking on top of the railway lines, instead of training to their workplaces by them?
- Why decide, when the mafia that leads us has already decided to continue proliferating the exploitation of the country?
- Why decide, when a decision, meant to be made by the rest of the country, is as good as made, and by people who stand to benefit from the maintenance of the status quo?
Personally, I am not convinced that my involvement in the election process will help much in answering the several questions that I keep asking myself. The election process is in itself a waste of useful resources, a fulfilment of a calendar obligation, which could be spent on other, more pressing and worthy tasks.
There is hope, though. Poverty has started and will keep waking us up. If we improve our infrastructure – across the board, add value to our resources, and improve our human resource, we will be just fine. But then again, that poor man is everywhere and hopeless. I fear that he will find fighting for his deserved life and style any pleasing. What he does need is a leadership which can enable for him a little more organisation, a little more honesty or accountability, and a whole lot more exertion. This kind of leadership, the one that we really need, is not one that can be a product of an election process. At least, not this very one.
As we have learnt, in growing democracies, like ours, it is not those who vote who determine the winner, but rather, those who count. To them, nights are critical, because that when victors arise. Even before we go to the polls, I am confident that one of the, those who count, or one of the people who watches and/or influences his counting has already taken care of my, and many other people’s decision on our behalf. The Electoral Commission is rather quite ready. They have finally gotten my polling station right this time round. I am convinced that they have the results for the forthcoming elections too. They seem to have figured it out already. My or our decision may not be of importance to them. All we can possibly do is awaiting a result which may not be that much of a surprise.
Partly: The Village, Kampala, Uganda. Monday, February 1, 2016.
Partly: Ngong, Kajiado, Kenya. Thursday, February 4, 2016.