I apologize to the readers for this. This post is going to be a rant and a mess.
Ugandans went to the polls on the 14th of January 2021. Unsurprisingly, the incumbent president was voted back in. He has been president since 1986, a while before I was born. Let that sink in. According to Wikipedia stats, more than 80% of the current Ugandan population was born and has lived under only one president.
Before him, there was a mess of presidents who ruled for a few months, coups, bush wars, and a dictator that called himself: “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”
If there’s anything Ugandans are good at, it’s finding the humour in the bleakest of situations. And Ugandans will laugh at everything. They use humour as a shield against everything. Honestly, I believe it’s how we survive. Sometimes though, it gets to them. It gets to us. The country becomes a bit too heavy. The things we see and go through make us jaded and erode hope.
For about two weeks leading up to the elections, Ugandans started to make jokes. They talked about going to the bush. At some point the word Bush was trending on Ugandan Twitter. The jokes were hilarious but there was an underlying fear. The fear that things may not be okay for a few days after the elections. The fear of violent retaliation. The fear of a repeat of the November riots.
My friends and family in Zimbabwe (my second home) lived through an internet shutdown in 2019 and 2020. During the 2016 elections, it was social media that was shutdown. In 2021, having seen what had happened in Zim, I was sure that there would be an internet shutdown. But when it happened I wasn’t prepared.
See, I don’t have pay TV, or DSTV. I get my news and information from social media and online sources. So for me, it was a total blackout. I didn’t know what was happening beyond the village in which I live. I didn’t know what was going on in town, I didn’t know if Taxis were working or not. I had no clue whatsoever. And that was disconcerting to say the least.
I tuned in to radio for the first time in years. I was jonesing for news. I realized that more than just a reading junkie, I am a knowledge and information junkie. I need to be on the pulse of things. I need to know. I have an innate curious that can only be satisfied by knowledge. And how do I gain this knowledge? By being on the internet. You know how you google the most basic things? We didn’t even have that luxury.
My work is on the internet, powered by the internet. For five days, I couldn’t work. So I read. 10 books to be exact. Nice books. That’s how I kept my mind busy. I re-watched Hamilton and sang King George III’s song (You’ll be Back) and laughed and laughed and then cried because it is exactly what our situation is. (‘Cause when push comes to shove, I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love)
I prayed. For my country that has been through much. I prayed for hope because I’ve lost it. I went from anger to resignation in the space of a second. I didn’t go through the other steps. I couldn’t. Resignation seems to be the only one we can hold on to.
Maybe democracy as it is currently defined needs to change. (See America and many countries). Maybe this social experiment is not working as it should. The one thing that was reiterated during this election period was this Machiavellian principle: It’s better to be feared than to be loved.
I apologize once more for this mess of a rant. I’ll see you on the other side.