Driving on the smooth road from Kampala to Arua, the beautiful scenery of nature provides fresh air — herds of elephants in the game park near the highway in Packwach make you realize what a God given country Uganda is.
Women walking in a glow of beauty and elegance pass you by. You interact with them and their society albeit unconsciously, thankful that at last, they can send their children to school, not necessarily a first class Kampala school, but at least, at last, an opportunity for these children to interact with literacy– reading and writing, all fundamentals of learning.
You are grateful that after primary, their children will access free secondary and vocational schools. You realize that indeed; mass education as opposed to elite education is the ultimate link to a literate society, a society ready for take-off. You are grateful that when their daughters opt to join the security agencies, they will not be denied the chance to serve their country. It’s a new era.
Wait a minute. They underwent many years of brutal Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), we did not demonstrate for them, even when the law against FGM was passed, we did not sensitize them about it. In Kampala, we did not show concern when their businesses got burnt down to ashes in the Nakivubopark yard (popularly known as Owinofire) some years back. They didn’t matter to us.
The ritual sacrificial murders didn’t touch our conscience; we didn’t demonstrate. During the insurgency in Northern Uganda, women and children lost their lives, killed and maimed by Joseph Kony, but we didn’t demonstrate for them.Aboke girls were not our girls — we had nothing to do with them. There was no need to wear lesus and Kangas or speak for them.
Remember, the vagina monologues sponsored by our development partners? We didn’t miss showing (probably shoving) our anger and frustration for these monologues. Not for the mothers whose kits are stolen, not for the women deep in the villages being battered; not for the slave children, but we are strong fierce women, and Electoral Commission; that buttered side of the bread is our biggest concern.
Never the less, for those whose bread is not buttered, you are thankful that at last, they can access clean water and medical facilities; thankful that their children will less likely die because infant mortality rates are low– not by mistake, but by Government intervention, thankful that at last these women in villages all around Uganda can make their own contribution.
They may be trapped in poverty, but with Government interventions enrolling out, they are the intended targets-grass-root women, our sisters, our mothers; our friends-only that ours is the town; theirs; ‘the village.’
Yet, we speak of freedom; of democracy and governance, of rights and expression, of equality and emancipation. We demand for an apology from the Police for having been arrested. Is it a question of elite women probably finding their feet above the law?
How many of our grassroots women know that concept of Justice? How many cared what the 33 women were fighting for? Rights? Whose rights anyway? To think that partners in development support women whose emancipation starts and ends with the elitist democracy is a sad irony — a double tragedy and treachery!
Yet the journey like we have always said is only getting started. The ultimate plan is to depict Uganda as a country of chain reactions of lawlessness and dis-order, a country of riots and demonstrations, where lives must be lost, shops looted and property destroyed. Some one must maintain and /or restore sanity.
When Government makes its position, posts are shifted to divert the facts. Suddenly, the issue is a “country under siege” by its government. An argument crops up, that for example, building a market in Juba is wastage. No one will tell you that Sudan has since emerged as number one export market for Uganda’s goods. (90 percent of Southern Sudan’s imports come from Uganda) That Mbizinnya should be built instead.
They argue that an East African Unity is bad because it is Museveni supported, (and these aspire for leadership positions), that State House Entebbe was a waste because the current Head of State lives there.
An immortal man he is perhaps? You can’t remind them that nation building is an individual sacrifice; and President Museveni is doing his people given mandate as Head of State (and Commander-in Chief). Our friends actually believe that democracy means the National Resistance Movement(NRM) government must go and so every initiative by the Government is opposed or washed down.
Case study? Drug monitoring Unit that has already made a difference through inspection and mass education (as opposed to elite education) are wished away, building more classrooms, acquiring text books, opening new universities (over 20 universities now), Professionalising the army and Police — all down played, exercising liberties-mis-understood, sharing ideals-to mean bribery, increasing investment – to mean employment for Westerners, securing the boarders-means invasion of other countries, writing on these pages; to mean sycophancy!
But friends, we must continue to move forward en-mass and must not be cowed into fear to celebrate the achievements that have accrued from a government dedicated to serve its people (both living in and outside its borders) even when efforts are invested to discredit its achievements. It would be wonderful to re-direct that energy to nation-building. After all, real and lasting victories are those of people shaped by a common destiny of progress.
By Pamela Ankunda, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) publicist and Kampala Dispatch contributor