Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Mood in Uganda.

Good morning. It certainly is a beautiful one, here in Uganda.

Bright sun, warm on the skin. White light from a crystal blue heaven with very little cloud. Not too warm, not too hot. Just the caress on the skin.

This is going to be a two part post, of the mood in Uganda. First, I am taking you into the deeps. Show you what is, and what is the brutal reality in Uganda. Reality for me as a gay person, living and working in Uganda. One who is concerned about a bill in the land, which would make my hard life much harder.

The mood in the country.

I thought of writing this because of a few things. First, it was a blogger who calls himself Comrade 27th. He is a Ugandan. Calls himself a communist. The 27 has a significance and humour totally Ugandan, though some will not get it.
Its like the man himself. Deceptive and misleading.

27th was the first Ugandan blogger to engage me. While the others were coming in and peeping, and going away to write diatribes against homosexuality, he actually welcomed me to the blogosphere here… To the community of Ugandan bloggers.
Oh, they shied away from me. Which was understandable.
But, 27th did try to engage me, even when he is not gay. And, this is significant.

27th believes that we gay people are not all that bad. He believes that I as a gay Ugandan deserves his support in my fight against the bill. He has one pre-condition. He believes I should let go of my allies from the west. Actually, he wants me to let go before he gives me his support.
Well, he is a self confessed communist. The west is decadent and immoral and bad. Even when he desires all that the west can offer in education and material things. Even when he riles against religion which came from the west, which he knows so much about, he still has to maintain the politically correct but thoroughly hypocritical stance that the west is evil.

Because, that is what Ugandans believe. Sincerely, with little question, less insight.

Next comes this letter from a reader of the Observer newspaper. 
He concedes that he feels something for the gay Ugandans. But, in his view, it is better to maroon them on an island so that they live there, and presumably die out. Or, they should all be given visas to America and Europe. So that they leave beautiful Uganda.

I was surprised that the Observer decided to publish it. Because it is a nonsensical piece of ignorance and stupidity. No please. Stop patronizing me by thinking that I am abusing the person, the writer. I am stating a fact as I see it. The writer has not taken trouble to research his knowledge, his hate. And, he blandishes it like a badge of honour. If that is not ignorance and stupidity, then what is?

Polarising words. Definitely not politically correct. But, I will not sacrifice clarity of thinking for political correctness. I am a gay Ugandan. By definition, in Uganda, I am NOT politically correct. In fact, I am evil. With a capital E.

I was surprised that the Observer editor published it. But not at the opinion itself. Because, too often, everyday, I do hear the same sentiments shared out and taken as facts by most Ugandans. Very few will dare to examine the veracity of the things Raymond Otika states as facts.

In response to the letter, a reader of the blog from America is full of despair. What the hell can be done to shake, to change such a frankly, openly, proudly genocidal person? And, he represents a nation, the popular opinion.

Ethnic Cleansing. That is his solution. That is Raymond Otika’s solution. Not different from what the Mufti proposed not so long ago. (search Mufti on this blog) The Mufti is the leader of Moslems in Uganda. And, he also requested the president to avail an island in Lake Victoria for us bad homosexuals. We would die out there. It is not very different from what David Bahati proposes in the Bill (text here). Life imprisonment, and death for the Homosexual Ugandan.

Now, there is this news article that was in the Monitor. (Monitor links keep on disappearing!)
The monitor is a daily. It is owned by the Agha Khan, I believe. They have a big newspaper empire in East Africa. In Uganda, I believe it also includes NTV television station.

They are independent. And, as such, they have been fighting the governments repressive and frankly hostile acts since time immemorial. They use the pen and logic to try to put the government excesses to shame. The government uses the law to repress them.

Uganda has been a strategic ally of the US for decades now. Since the time when President Museveni er, ascended to the title.
He is a very clever, manipulative politician.
He wooed Clinton, very effectively. When Bush W became president, he wooed him too. And, he was a darling of the west. Funny that 27th Comrade doesn’t notice that the 1st Comrade embraces the decadent west. But that is a by-the-way.

But, in the meantime, Museveni has grown more and more dictatorial. Fact.

We are having elections in 2011. Yesterday, a group of women political activists were violently arrested, and thrown into jail. For a demonstration against the fact that the ‘Independent Electral Commission’ as mandated by the Constitution of the Republic, is NOT independent. Of course, the constitution allows demonstrations. But, the police will only allow those which benefit the government. However peaceful. You are met with tear gas and battons. Beaten up. And, you are thrown into jail to nurse your injuries. That is what happens in Uganda. 

Museveni’s Uganda embarrasses Barack Obama’s administration. An important ally. Fighting the war on terror in Somalia. But, at the same time brutal, violent, dictatorial. And, increasingly so. [By the way, expressing this opinion makes me more likely to be arrested and ‘questioned’ about my ‘seditious’ views. Hope Andrew Mwenda does win that Constitutional Court challenge.]

So, the Congress in the US has put some grim conditionalities on the money, the aid that the US gives to Uganda.
Independence of the Electoral Commission – a disputed matter locally, creating an accurate and verifiable voter registry; media freedom and citizens right to political assembly as well as timely announcement and posting of election results, are some of the salient issues the Congress wants sorted.
“The conferees direct the Secretary of State to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act and every 120 days thereafter until 30 days after the elections, detailing actions taken by the Government of Uganda to address these concerns,” reads the directive.

And, public opinion in Uganda is up in arms. Throw out the donor aid. Neo-colonialism. And all the assorted ‘isms’.

I have no doubt that the government is whipping up the hysteria. The govt is served by the corruption, and maintenance of the status quo. Because that is what will happen, with all this American help and aid coming to Uganda to help shore up the regime. So, the posturing happens.
The efforts of such activists, along with the agitation of lawmakers who are outraged that Mr Museveni backed down under pressure, are geared towards making the Ugandan leader understand that he made the wrong call.
Uganda is a sovereign country, and we don’t need any lectures from the US,” said Buliisa MP Steven Mukitale, who chairs the Committee on National Economy.

See, what Comrade 27th would say, keep the damned dollars. And let us stay in our corrupt, dictatorship.

Me, I dissent. I do say no.

We accept the dollars because the politicians take the biggest amount of them. Fact. Most of them will be embezzled by the big whigs of the ruling party.
But, the US also has a right to demand reforms. And, I as a Ugandan will not see any ill in us making sure that the excesses of our government are reigned in.

Because, they are excesses. Because, Uganda is beautiful, and the manipulative might of our government is not balanced by the weak, fractious, fractured opposition. Me as a Ugandan who is minimally interested in the politics still feel the strain, and the fear, and the risk of writing such blunt opinions.

To continue, the issue of ‘neo-colonialist influence’ is being hyped up here in Uganda.
So, the bad west (not the bad dollars, by the way..!) the bad west wants the evil gays? And, they don’t want the Anti-Homosexual Bill? And, they want to spread homosexuality in beautiful Uganda?

Barack Obama keep off!
Ssempa, (of course), is playing it up to the maximum.  From his latest press release (he is prolific!)

We observe that the President talked about the phenomenon of 300,000 sodomites who gathered in New York demanding that Uganda should also legalise sodomy! The coalition would like to encourage the President, Executive and the Parliament by mobilizing a peaceful demonstration of more than 1,000,000 people on the 17th of February. This demonstration will bring all Ugandans and well wishers for a day to show how they feel. The taskforce will then also undertake a nationwide campaign to educate the public on this evil calling on them to support our leaders

So, in this kind of atmosphere, how to intervene? How to do something that can impact for the well being of the common Ugandan?

Oh, I don’t think I have ever subscribed to the whole issue of the decadent west and all. (Mind you, I was born old and wise. Hey, give me leave to be arrogant and boastful too!)

But, with all the ills that we have, I am all for clarity of thought. And that clarity is NOT served by us Ugandans, and African hearing the call of rubble rousers and manipulators. Clarity of thought. That is a necessary thing, and, that is what I request of my allies. That will be in the follow up post. A note to my allies.



John Powers said...

27th Comrade will hate me even more for trying to put words in his mouth--everyone hates when people do that. My sense--a middle-aged white American-- of what he's saying is a bit different from yours. Knowing he's a geek it seems significant he uses "decouple" often used in electronics rather than "uncouple." So what I take him to mean is to differentiate. What he seems concerned about is an authentic Ugandan space. Likewise it seems to me that all the talk about "human rights" bugs him because they're abstractions not what we do here and now.

Even though I'm on the receiving end of 27th's barbs the reality is the problem he points too, lets loosely call colonialism, matters. How dare I think from my perspective as a Westerner that I know what will "fix" Uganda. Who says something needs fixing? And most of all who am I to say how people should organize their lives--like what it means to be "gay" in Uganda? There aren't easy answers to such questions and at least the 27th Comrade pointing that out seems useful for puncturing extreme hubris.

I do believe that universal human rights are important and worth struggling for. But 27th is right to point out that they are abstractions that shouldn't be used to limit the actual expressions of real people.

What I don't quite get, and what makes me think maybe I've got 27th all wrong, is he doesn't seem to hear your often made point that this is your real life, not an abstraction.

Maybe it's easier to see from my outsider perspective that you are clearly acting in a Ugandan context different from some Western project. In any case I'm not sure what 27th Comrade wants in order to support your living your life and your demand to be free to be yourself.

gayuganda said...

Interesting. Interesting.

Sometimes I must confess that I dont understand the 27th geeky ways....!##

So, over to you 27th!

The 27th Comrade said...

I have just seen this in my feeds, as fate would have it.

I think John Powers has my points correctly. (I am usually not sure what I think myself, GUG, so that makes two of us who think I am a frothing maniac. But in this instance, I know what I mean, and JP has it down pat.)

I feel that the West shouldn't (have the moral authority to) tell us what is right and wrong. Not only because their scale of right and wrong (and even of rights and duties, as it were) is purely, entirely subjective. They are saying "You are wrong and we are right, because we think so." Why is it so wrong, then, for us to say the same thing? Why don't we have that right (as in the right to do it)? (Even as we have the right to fuck whatever we want?)

Now, I understand that GUG's life is a real experience of a real Ugandan homosexual. Obviously it is bad for him that some of us, myself included, can justify killing one like GUG. But a paradox here is that the West can't accuse us of enforcing our views upon GUG as being an immoral/evil thing, because they, in so doing, would be doing the exact same thing. And when it gets to that, it becomes a matter of who will disable the other first.

I understand that GUG is a homosexual Ugandan person, and not some abstraction. (I am confident that if more people who want homosexuals oppressed would cease to say "homosexual" and instead use both names and a short historical description of a homosexual person they know, or better, said "Mrs. So-and-so's thrid-born son", the whole fire of the project would die. Imagine the difficulty in saying "I don't even understand how people can hesitate to support a death sentence on my childhood friend John Powers who was the goalkeeper on our team that won the district tournament in '92".)
But while I understand that these are people, with mothers who love them (see GUG's more-recent post above), I also understand that I should not trade my liberty for anything.
Even when I criticise the people who want homosexuals killed, I never forget that I agree with them when it comes to preserving my freedom to be wrong on whether or not homosexuality is right. And I explicitly note this, as can be seen in places where recently I have ranted on these issues.

I'll defend GUG's right to life, at the very least. But, man, I'll just as viciously defend my right to pass him a death sentence.
And because my right to defend GUG has to come before I can defend him, and defending my right to defend GUG requires me to defend, first of all, my right to pass him a death sentence, I will deal with the bullying Westerners first, defending my right to kill GUG first and foremost.

(I hope I don't sound much like Joseph Goebbels.)

gayuganda said...

Hi (pleasantly)

that is why you are a fucking wacko, dear Comrade.

I have been walking around, thinking about what JP had said, and, i did come to the conclusion that I do understand you.

You, my dear friend, needs a good, mega volt jolt. You as a Ugandan have no right to believe that your ideals are the worlds ideal. You are too idealistic for Uganda!

Or, should I put it in computerise? You have a major flaw in your demented hard drive which necessitates a good wipe out, preferably, and then systematic re-installation of both the hard and software.

Do you understand?

Because, if you sit back and think, if you are going to wait for me to give you my permission to have your right to kill me respected, why, I will murder you instead. And, I am talking about you. Not some hypothetical person.

It seems you live too much in geek world.

grow up, brother.

John Powers said...

GUG today even before signing on to the Internet I was sick to my stomach for leaving my comment and not trying to work it out in my own space. I'm sorry. I admire you and am very grateful for your commentary and the discussion you promote on this blog.

gayuganda said...

Hey, why should i take offence at your comment? Dont see why... Fact is, I have always been curious at 27th motivations. He says he wants to engage me. I never asked (well, I demanded).... And he keeps putting up these ridiculous conditions.

I dont think he is stupid. So, I ask myself, why does he...!

The 27th Comrade said...

The points I was trying to make are that:

(1) We should fight for, and preserve, our right to do something as wrong as sentencing some homosexuals to death; that it is and should always remain our right to do so, because it cannot be separated from our right to refuse to sentence the homosexuals to death (you'll note that I often point out that the same polities today telling us how bad our anti-homosexuality law is are the very selfsame polities that told us how bad our original law, which didn't criminalise consentual homosexuality, was).

Freedom, even freedom for homosexuals, implies freedom to be anti-homosexuality, just as much as it implies freedom to be pro-homosexuality.
Therefore, if you oppose homosexuality and this being an instance of the fight for the freedom, go ahead.

(2) I think that homosexual-haters are failing to put a human face on homosexuals. All this hate is easier to practice when you fail to think of "homosexual" as referring to particular people. A good campaign to help homosexuals would be to start putting names - preferably with short historical descriptions - against every label of "homosexual". Then, perhaps, Pr. Ssempa will wake up one day and find that he is saying "It is good to have a death penalty for my favourite nephew" or something similar. The hate is easier to carry on under a banner like "homosexual", but not quite under something like "my sister's last-born son".

@JP: I don't see how your post is offensive. I guess this is you being too careful. We say, comme d'habitude. :o)

I don't know if I have any clear motives. Let's say they are liberty from bullies in the West, and sanity at home. In particular, I have an aversion to the Pr. Ssempa line because Pr. Ssempa is a Pharisee, and I am averse to Pharisees. I've made this much known to him before. (But, again, he never replies my mails, yet he replies yours, you lucky bastard! :o) Just don't hit on him in the mail, 'kay?)

gayuganda said...

Hi bro,

for some reason, I read as far as your right to kill me...

then I stop. Actually see Red.

And, I promise you that if you have a right to kill me, I have a right to murder you. Do you get that? It is the same blunt language that you are not using.

See Comrade, you are doing a very dangerous thing, trying to 'rationalise' away my life. Sorry, doesnt cut, for some reason. Which I think should be very, very clear.

JP has grown up in a crowd which is politically correct, always. That is why he thought that he was offensive. Me, well, i have but I have thrown out some of those constraints.

John Powers said...

One point that I'm not seeing in Comrade 27th's post is the problem minorities face in majoritarian rule.

I certainly agree that it's easier to commit all sorts of horror upon people equated with an abstract noun, say for example terrorist, than it is when we see them as human. But in the face of state sponsored death sentences, the idea of pictures and names seems a death wish. Most people don't want to die.

So Comrade 27th knows GUG and says that he doesn't want GUG to die. But GUG is doing more or less what he proposes as the right step by sharing his humanity widely. Representatives of the Ugandan people can pass this bill. Doing so expressly prohibits showing their humanity. GUG's life is literally on the line. So why not oppose this bill Comrade 27th?

You've always stood for Ugandans to be fully human and not repressed by what people in the West say. Your words and deeds have a great deal more effect than mine.

The 27th Comrade said...

Yes, it implies that you have the right to murder me. So be it. After all, until you have the right to murder me, you don't have the right to refuse to murder me.
With power cometh responsibility. Gay defenders who are in hock with the West want us to have the responsibility to not kill homosexuals, but not to have the power over their life and death.

And to that, I say "No".

I do oppose the Bill, but I just as well oppose the Western bullying.
I have pragmatic reasons for opposing the Bill. And life, unfortunately, is not quite so binary. It's not just 1 or 0. Otherwise my comment would have been 010101001001010100101010010101001010010010101001100101010101011111101010101010100101100010100100000110101010100110101010101

:o) Geekery.

The 27th Comrade said...

And this thing about putting faces on the epithet "homosexual" isn't another word for essentially outing them. It is just to pick a homosexual they know (to be one) - such that nobody is out who never was - or a random person in a hundred people they know (I'm pretending this is the prevalence of homosexuality, 1%) among the people they think fondly of, and then use these people's names along with, very importantly, a short historical description (for history humanises).
This neutralises any barbs that may there lurk. It's what I think, anyway. :o)

John Powers said...

GUG you mentioned that part of my apology has to do with being PC. I do try to avoid insensitive and inflammatory comments even when I'm not always successful at it. But the apology is slightly different, I did not mean to be a troll. Lots of people read your blog, so to leave a comment is to tap into your audience. And my first comment was stupid and not right to the point. I'm still sorry and now even more because I'm just digging myself into a hole at your expense.

@The 27th Comrade. I do read most of what you write, so you'll understand when I say I'm an idiot! I think your pragmatic reasons for opposing the bill are very sound. You are a careful student of politics, but I think you underestimate the structural disadvantages of sexual minorities in conducting politics. Those disadvantages would also apply to other minorities, for example Ugandan communists, so I'm sure you've thought a lot about the general subject.

Both of you know I can never seem to get to the point but I tried to address my points at my blog here

John Powers said...

@The 27th Comrade I tried to use an online binary to text converter tool but I got a message that the binary is malformed (it must be divisible by 8). So I'm afraid I did not get what your answer would be.

The 27th Comrade said...

Ah, the theorem. So you do read these things. :o)

I didn't mean that the minorities should be the ones to do the shift from epithets to persons. It should be those who aren't among them, but feel that the oppression is unwarranted. (Or those, like me, who don't mind oppressing the homosexuals, as long as it is done with sensibility.)

I saw your blog post. I was there moments after you put it up. I do read most of what you write, Mr. Bazungu Bucks. All of what you put on that blog.

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John Powers said...

@ The 27th Comrade Nah, not sane, I'm an idiot :-)

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