• Debbie Luwagga

Resist the Gaslight: Uganda 2021 elections

September 23, 2020 journal entry

"...I'm furious. I'm more furious because I don't know what to do to make things better. I'll continue to speak out and write but I want to be a part of this fight. I want to win this battle so bad that sometimes I just feel like I'm not doing enough..."

I don't even know where to go from here on this post because I have so many feelings and thoughts about the political and overall climate in Uganda.

Uganda is having an election on Thursday January 14, 2020. It is one of the most anticipated elections of our generation considering what's at stake, but also one for which so many people are genuinely scared and concerned. For a little context, over the years, and in the past few months, the government has done a mighty job of torturing the opposition and their leaders, attacking and killing civilians (I wrote about it here) as well as intimidating voters and gaslighting the population as a whole. Several people opposing the incumbent regime have mysteriously disappeared or been killed by the army and police over the last few weeks leading up to this election. Journalists and media have been restricted in their reporting (read more about it here); and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have also been blocked—now an election week routine— by the government. Please keep in mind that Uganda is a dEmOcRaTiC rEpUbLiC —you know, free speech, free and fair elections, that sort of thing.

80% of Uganda's population are people aged 12--35—one of the youngest populations in the world—of which 64 -- 70% of those old enough to work are unemployed. As of 2016, 41.7% of Ugandans were living on less than $1.90 (UGX 7000) per day. Due to COVID—19, that number is expected to increase by 2.6 million people. The current government, which has been in power since 1986, has run on a motto of economic prosperity and peace for all. For 35 years and for all the electoral campaigns the country has had since, NRM has ran on slogans of "Prosperity for all," "Wealth creation," and now, "Secure your future." The marketing ruse of the current regime is to convince people that the government is doing them a favor. That good roads, access to reliable hospitals and healthcare, competent public schools, fair regulations for entrepreneurs and working individuals, etc. are all from the goodness of the politicians' hearts and not something the people are paying taxes to receive or owed as citizens. Meanwhile, MPs and cabinet members get free iPads, $100k vehicles, fly out to receive medical care abroad, educate their children in the best schools in the world, build village mansions; all while their constituents suffer the wrath of their corruption and incompetence. Children as young as 4 sleeping and hustling in the streets; families eating no more than one meal a day, if that; poor school, transport and medical infrastructure and a long line of empty promises. The gaslighting, oh, the gaslighting e.g. telling people that you are going to help them solve the very problems you have created (s/o Chinese who somehow made their way around this country without our leaders' knowledge).

The internet is slow because so many people are googling the Ugandan election? I have to laugh to keep from crying. The fact that I have to pay someone to do a job that they are being paid to do—whether it's a police officer or a cabinet minister. Resist the gaslight.

Anyway, as people travel and prepare to vote tomorrow, I would like everyone to again think about the kind of country you want for yourself and for your children. Think about what you'd like them to know of the choices you made for their future. The leaders you chose to follow. Did you elect them because they were competent or because they were symbols of elitism, classism and patriarchy? Were you perhaps, afraid of flipping the status quo? Oh, you were dismayed because change did not come wrapped in a pretty box of wealth and a prominent last name? Did it maybe come from a resilient, compassionate, commoner from the ghetto? You know, like the man who once saved the world 2020 years ago? The audacity of the last to think they shall be first. How dare someone be a servant leader and not a Machiavellian Mzee? (It's the alliteration for me)

Google Image
"the people's grandpa"

I am not campaigning for Mr. Kyagulanyi but I would like for everyone who continues to excuse the blatant offenses of the current regime to think deeply about why you they refuse to listen, engage and understand folks who are tired, exhausted and anxious from this regime. Think about why every single leader of the opposition is hounded and beaten down, why someone has to be beaten and tortured and watch the death of those closest to him only because he exercises the right he deserves in his own country. Because he has the audacity to fight for decency and better. Think about how many people have died at the hands of this government whose only crime was trying to change the world in the way they knew how. Please, ask yourself why you can't even consider voting or listening to someone unless they come dressed in bravado and oozing privilege. That's the excuse I hear from many folks. Well, "he doesn't walk proper," "he doesn't talk proper," "muyaaye," etc. You hate to see it but the self hatred and internalized racism is real for some of you folks.

Google image.
"Muyaaye wa ghetto" helping a wounded police officer.

We all have a pretty good idea of who is going to win this election but I am begging you to please examine the reasons you despise someone who is willing to literally give his life to advocate for better lives of the most suppressed among us, and ultimately all of us. I pray that moving forward, we shall refrain from othering and ostracizing the man standing in the arena taking all the shots, while we tweet and laugh in the comfort of our toilet seats. I pray that we'll all gather the courage to join him in being the change we want to see in the world.

I believe so strongly that one day, we shall have free and fair elections, we shall have a true democracy where our children will experience leadership that cares about the people more than it cares about centralized power. Where government will have three functioning branches with checks and balances. Where the rule of law and integrity will be the norm. Where we shall all recognize that our strength comes from sharing our power, loving ourselves and others, and truly caring about each other. But that day is only going to come when we put in the work—individually and collectively. When we see others, like really see them, and when we engage people as human beings and not for what they can give us or what they represent to us.

Many of us can't, so, please, don't forget to vote today, be kind to one another and resist the gaslight.

To Bobi Wine:

It's most likely that you'll never read this but I still want to put it in the atmosphere.

You have brought me to tears so many times. I can only imagine the pain and suffering and trauma you have endured (you didn't have to) to fight for the liberation of your people. The world has seen the way they have treated you and those close to you. You deserve none of it—regardless of how they want to twist it. As people who fought in the bush war themselves, I am sure they fight you because they know your fight is real. Thank you for doing all this for us. For putting yourself in the line of fire—repeatedly. For staying strong and unwavering. I pray that as the ones you fight for, we shall find ways to give you strength. To back you and to encourage you. I don't know where this road will lead you, I truly hope it is in a glorious place where you can defy the odds and make this country what you dream for it to be. The country you dream for your children and their kids. But regardless of where it leads, I hope that you will have utmost pride. Knowing that you stood in the gap that many of us couldn't. Not even the critics. You have so many people cheering you on not just at home, but around the world too. I hope you'll always know that your fight is not empty. It'll be fruitful (In Jesus' Name). Regardless of the outcome, this election is only the beginning. You are paving a way for us all. I just pray that we'll all be bold and human enough to not only see it but also join you on it. Lastly, I pray that you are getting the help you need, taking care of yourself and finding things to be grateful for. I am grateful for you. Thank you so much. We are praying for you and please continue being you. Love.


Poverty in Uganda: National and regional data and trends



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