Lately I have developed more than a casual interest in our neighbours next door, the banana republic (but the roadside, roasted sweet bananas and chicken kind of banana republic). This is because I have recently met some Ugandans who have become my good pals. Great folks who are fun-loving, generous and eat life with a huge spoon that makes a spade look like those small plastic medicine spoons.
Uganda has featured in international media a lot lately and it’s not been for the popularity of their matoke. I haven’t followed the story in detail but I know Bobi Wine, reggae musician turned politician. President Museveni had him arrested and locked up for standing up to a regime most Ugandans perceive as oppressive. M7 as some call him is one of the longest serving heads of state Africa has and there are no signs of him stepping down. Unless the restlessness Bobi has started is a sign by itself.
According to Wikipedia, in political science, the term banana republic describes a politically unstable country with an economy dependent upon exportation of a limited resource product, such as bananas or minerals. In economics, a banana republic is a country with an economy of state capitalism, by which economic model the country is operated as a private commercial enterprise for the exclusive profit of the ruling class.
Sadly most of this definition describes many African states, not just Uganda. Edmund Burke said that, “For evil to prosper, all it takes is for good men to do nothing.” The global outcry that resulted after Bobi’s arrest was unprecedented and I’m sure it pressured the Ugandan authorities to release him on bail. I dread to imagine what he and others arrested with him must have gone through while in detention for those days. Authoritarian regimes all over the world have no conscience and hit hard at opposition. Here in Kenya we have our own list of shameful acts the government has committed against its citizens, especially the ones who have been brave enough to stand up against injustice and oppression over the years.
I’m glad calm has returned to Kampala and I hope this is the beginning of a new and refreshing era for Uganda. This is a beautiful country with beautiful people and has a lot of untapped potential. May we see and benefit from that potential in our lifetime. That is my earnest prayer.
Back here at home we have been dealing with war on corruption. I love my president for heading this war and even being willing to lose friendships in the process. Indeed prezo, we shall get new friends once this war is over. Friends who are led by their conscience and not their big tumbos. Unfortunately the price to pay in the meantime has led to some civilian casualties as is the case in any war. Here I’m specifically talking about the issue of buildings put up on riparian land that are being demolished. Many innocent Kenyans have and may suffer from their properties being destroyed yet they followed due process and bought them genuinely. Many of us are victims of the greed between local authorities who gave the green light for construction and developers who bribed their way through. Banks have come in and financed most of these projects. At the end of it, the home buyer is left to bear all the loss as the green mamba from NYS pays him a visit.
If we who consider ourselves good men (and women) remain silent then we can expect worse to come in future. Since I turned 40 and started feeling that my future is in public service, I have become more restless about the loud silence I maintain as I watch evil prosper around me. The middle class has often been accused of just watching helplessly from the comfort of their homes and cars. Then when angry the furthest they will go is venting through their phones. We have formed the KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) army which is better than doing nothing but I still feel we can and should do more.
I’m torn between putting my life on the line while standing up against evil, and the effects of that on my family. Bobi Wine seems ready to die for his country’s liberation and I have mad respect for him for that. But I wonder what his family thinks. I’m sure they are worried about his safety and threats to his life. What if he’s taken away and they never see him again?
Should I choose my family first or my country? That’s my internal conflict. Which one comes first? As I figure that out I have decided to start in my own safe small ways in my circle of influence. This writing is my version of activism for now. Is it possible for us to choose both and make a difference? Never have I felt that pressure to do something for my country more than I do now in my 40s. Maybe its destiny calling.
My 40s clan, the destiny of our nation and children is in our hands. We cannot wish away that responsibility or delegate it to others. I ask us to risk (though scared) and stand up to evil around us. Be willing to go through some discomfort and pain and I’m sure we shall be forever grateful to you for making the world a better place than we found it. Let’s take consolation in the words of the good book when Jesus said in John 12: 25: ‘The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ We are covered and so are our loved ones. Because of Bobi standing up against evil, I’m looking forward to my trip to Uganda in a few weeks. I owe you one sir. And I hope someone will one day say that about me.