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OWEYEGHA AFUNADUULA: The Undeclared War between Militarists and Writers of Uganda

A writer is a person who writes on something or some topic in a particular way, to relay a message he or she would like others to get, understand and interpret, the way he or would want it to be interpreted or differently to advance exchange of views on the topic or subject.

Writers are barometers of society in a spheres of life. A society is dead, stagnant or stale without writers. Knowledge, wisdom and inspiration are found in the writings of different writers. However, sometimes, especially when some people see no alternative to their views or themselves, they may become too arrogant or self-conceipted to tolerate certain writings, even if those writings mean a lot to other people. If they are people of power, they may ban those writings altogether, to the chagrin of many. Many writings of media people, academics, intellectuals and nonintellectuals have been banned by people of power and the writers have been tortured, incarcerated and even killed, although the writings have continued to thrill readers.

A militarists is a person who believes that militarism is superior to civility, that a country should have military power more than brainpower, that civilians are subordinate to and should serve the military. This belief has led many militarists to overthrow civilian governments, and to use every means to conquer, dominate and control civilians – their action, movements and thoughts.

The belief of militarists is that civilians cannot provide a strong leader, although generally want an effective leader rather than an ineffective strong leader.

An effective leader is a one who works to improve the quality of life of the people in spheres such as education, health, education and technology, and to conquer the scourges of ignorance, disease, poverty and corruption, and banish them from society.

It need not be overemphasised that most military Governments have more often than not worsened situations , taking their people from the frying pan and plunging them into the fire.

In this article “The Undeclared War between Writers and Militarists in Uganda” I want to give some thoughts about the uneasy relationship between writers and our military rules in civilian clothing by convenience.

There is no doubt that this war between militarists and writers has been silent, with academic writers in universities being compelled to plunge themselves into self-censureship. So there are topics that they have avoided researching and writing on in fear of being hunted down or even sacked from their jobs by their equally fearful bosses. This way , they have contributed greatly to diminishing intellectual diversity in the country, and to a mushrooming volcano of fear, docility and silence in the country in favour of those who tick militarily rather than reason.

What is evolving is a closed society, in which only certain thoughts, written or spoken, will be tolerated. When this happens openness of society is erased, the truth flees and lies become the central elements of the governance of a country.

Already two critical writers – one a novelist and another a poet -have fled Uganda because what they wrote as their genuine thoughts about Uganda and its governance did not please our militarists in power. The novelist is Kakwenza Rukirabashaija and the poet is Stella Nyanzi. The two represent a diminishing cadre of writers of conscious and courage in Uganda. Their fleeing of Uganda is a blemish in the kind of military democratisation desired by President Tibuhaburwa Museveni for the the country through politicomilitarism.

No doubt, the President of Uganda, Tibuhaburwa Museveni, is unbending in his wish to have the humanities and social sciences diminished in stature in University structure and dynamism. Virtually all critical writers and critical thinkers have emanated from the humanities and social sciences; rarely from the natural sciences. There is an undeclared war between the President of Uganda and the humanities and social science. As the war peaks, there is so much silence and fear in the academia of Uganda, which has ignored the question, “What is the relevance of the University amidst so many humanly harmful issues?”

It is amidst the war between the academia and President Tibuhaburwa Museveni that General Muhoozi Kainerugaba has come up with his “The gun is Mightier than the pen and books”. If we put it another way, the General is saying, “The gun is mightier than knowledge and wisdom, or than intellectualism, expressed in the written word”.

General Muhoozi Muhoozi Kainerugaba is a unique being. As a son of the powers that be, he is the best vehicle for Ugandans to know what power thinks. He is also the only decorated and serving soldier at the level of a General, who in the whole world, is in the public space speaking his mind persistently and consistently. He is, definitely unlike the famous French General who made himself Emperor of France using Parliament, and who held a different view about the pen: Napoleon Bona Parte. While General Muhoozi Kainerugaba upholds the supremacy of the gun, Napoleon upheld the supremacy of the pen when he said:

“I would rather be attacked by 1000 men with a gun than one man with a pen”.

A Ugandan friend of mine who has lived in Tanzania since the early 1970s, responding to General Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s written thought comparing the gun and the pen, has this to say:

“If the pen was nothing to worry about, Museveni would not bother trying to muzzle the press all these years. Why bother with guys like Kakwenza? The message conveyed by his writing scares Museveni and actually gives him sleepless nights. Why switch off power and leave large areas of the country in the dark whenever truckload convoys carrying Hoima crude oil passed by under cover of darkness? Simple. The powers that be are scared to death by what the press might write about the unaccounted-for convoys and the subsequent backlash from the owners of the oil: the Ugandan people”.

In my view, if Uganda were still a debating society, we would not be debating whether the gun was superior to the pen. We would instead be debating what exactly Ugandans have benefited or lost under military rule for 36 years. We would be publicly debating the pains and losses of military rule disguised as civilian by elections militarily organised, supervised and results declared behind the scenes by the military.

There is need to reorganise like Ghana has, put the military in the barracks, reinstall civilian rule and recognise the role of the pen in building an open society and upholding the rights of Ugandans as wholesome beings.

For God and My Country.

Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at editorial@watchdoguganda.com

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