By Monday Akol Amazima
As little children, we were told to always learn from the elders; however, with the passage of time, some of us realized that not all elders are worth learning from for even some idiots, the wicked and bad people also grow old. Upon this rude realization, we started benchmarking best practices from role models to shape our destiny, careers and lives. Nations and governments like human beings grow by applying best practices from other countries that have developed. And in the same spirit nations like people will follow the path of destruction if they copy and paste practices that are wanting.
When the ‘Ruto Must Go’ demonstrations started in Kenya, paralyzing business and operations in East Africa’s largest economy, the maverick Kenyan Trade Minister Moses Kuria was quick to say that the Kenyan opposition would be handled and treated the Ugandan way. In Uganda opposition protestors are regarded more or less rebels, terrorists, criminals and therefore full force is applied on unarmed people. Kuria’s submission was followed by goons attacking properties of Raila Odinga and former president Uhuru Kenya. Before dust could settle, there was an attack on Raila Odinga’s car with intent to harm him.
Opposition activities in Uganda have not only been handled with a heavy hand from both police and the military but also opposition politicians have been beaten and injured in the process. Some of them like Dr. Kizza Besigye and Robert Kyagulangyi aka Bobi Wine have been rushed to Kenya and other countries for specialized treatment after life threatening attacks on their lives. Their youthful supporters have been kidnapped that some of them to date are nowhere to be found. Journalists that have tried to cover such events have not been spared either. Some like James Akena a photojournalist with Reuters will permanently live with the scars of this brutality. Akena while covering a protest in down town Kampala, despite the fact that he was easily identifiable as a journalist at work, soldiers descended on him beating him up as though they were beating an animal or a snake.
The above scenario has narrowed the civil space so much that Uganda is actually a failing state though sections of our society don’t wish to accept. Voices of dissent are being silenced and praise singers opportunistically deployed at times in areas they have no expertise. The scenario in Uganda is not something that even Ruto would wish to have in Kenya. This would bring back the events of the 2007 post election violence where within a period of just two months, Kenya was already on her knees economically and socially.
The democratic gains of Kenya are something to write home about. A country that has seen the ballot and not the bullet change leadership every after ten or so years must jealously guard this track record. Militarizing and brutalizing the political environment will only destroy Kenya and this will forever haunt the UDA government so much that Kenyans will hold Ruto accountable to his last day. Kenya not only has one of the best media environment and resource on the continent but is also home to a number of international media houses. When clips circulated of journalists being targeted by the police during the Raila led ‘Ruto Must Go’ demonstrations, this is when some of us realized that the red line was being crossed and Kenya could easily follow Uganda and other countries in suffocating the media and other freedoms.
For starters, according to a report recently released by the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), Uganda remains a hostile ground for journalists. This scares away investors, tourists and kills the business environment. I guess this is not the path Dr. Ruto and his UDA brigade promised Kenyans during the 2022 elections that he narrowly won.
In Uganda the opposition cannot organize peacefully and laws are made or amended at times to target those opposed to NRM. Kenya has demonstrated that there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics and that yesterday’s foes can be the best of friends today. Kenya has demonstrated that people can raise anybody to the highest office and that the voice of the people matters.
In Kenya, the opposition and government can sit on table in a sober discussion and put Kenya first over and above their selfish interests. The situation in Uganda due to a suppressed opposition and media is such that the president and his family are worshipped and feared. This is totally different from the early days of Museveni in power where the country recorded tremendous progress as all views and ideas were welcomed for national building.
The author is a journalist, teacher, and Pan-African based in Stockholm Sweden