Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) has always made me not to keep quiet. He in his famous sayings said, “first they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me. It is for this reason that I put across the 2020 and 2021 election trigger of thinking for us as Ugandans and how the election will affect us on human rights.
To be sincere, I had refrained from engaging in governance talk for close to 3 months. Initially I thought that my focus on mentoring young leaders of Africa would shape the human rights for our country and these young leaders and managers we mentor would offer distinguished leadership that respects human rights. My son has actually been wondering not to listen to me even on radio and other platforms shaping the rights of society and redefining the good we need. However, the few months I have had frequent travels outside Uganda has made me get back to my roots. Indeed, my focus in this rejuvenated effort has been a reflection on what 2020 campaign and 2021 polls will be like for Uganda, a country that raised me to a global citizenship position. Shall we allow and condone human rights violation during politicking period? Is what we have seen in terms of political intolerance from both the opposition and government not enough to rethink our country’s human rights eminence? Shall we remain a nation of prosperity if we move by this speed? Ohh, I write for our rights.
I know as a write this, some people are saying that after all they are not in politics. We need to know and appreciate that when governance of any society is in question, the rights of any person is in danger. We should never say at any moment that we are not political. Like I am not a politician, but I love seeing a country that appreciates NrM, People Power, Alliance for National Transformation, FDC DP, UPC and independents exercise their civic and political rights uninterrupted. We all must give no dumb on any human rights violation if we need a batter society. Tomorrow they will come for you and violate your economic rights if you think rights violation is such a simple thing to just be looked at. Like John F. Kennedy said, “the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
What shall we need to do?
- Generating more knowledge. I have emphasised that wehereas we have done some work on ensuring that we build a knowledge base for human rights and us the human rights defenders, the notion needs deeper appreciation as of now as we head for the 2020 electoral period. I tell my managers I mentor that knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.
- Tolerance and independence. Not at one time have we needed to appreciate diversity than this time. We cannot see an aggressive opposition and respond with an aggressive NrM. We can not see an aggressive military or police and respond with an aggressive citizens. I emphasise that we need dialogue more than before. We should never turn our country into chaos. And never should anyone propose or even think of this. We have got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. 2020 needs a soft gospel of people and respect of human rights. This must be consistent and routine at all levels. The reason I will camp at Bunyoro different places and some Uganda strategic places to play my role. Those of us agitating for human rights for citizens especially engaged in civil and political activities should try to be independent and not appear to promote any political identity.
- Everyone must get interested in ensuring that there is mitigation of any human rights violation at all levels and if they occur, we support. I keep sharing with my colleagues at no time should we accept to be reduced to nothing. I train my children to unconditionally accept, approve, admire, appreciate, forgive, trust, and ultimately, love their own person by loving others. I know that both of us the citizens and human rights defenders are “feeling a prisoner life”. If the prisoner is beaten, it is an arrogant expression of fear. But the prisoner should engage not violently challenger the commentator. We all must know that human beings are human beings, and we must treat everyone like that.
- We need to ask big and challenging questions. We need to profile who is violating and or likely to violate the rights of citizens. We need to ask ourselves if our response mechanism is sufficient and what we need to do. We need to deeply interrogate who is benefiting from the violation of these rights. We need to challenge ourselves on who is bothered when the rights of citizens are violated in the remotest village of Ibaralibi where I stay and Kijurampali where my mother in law comes from. What happens if no one is seeing the human rights violation. We must task ourselves to consume and establish citizens journalists across the country particularly in areas with no CCTV camera. We need to ask ourselves who is financing the human rights violation? We must also ask whether we have mere citizens and human rights defenders in each of these remotest villages. Do we have a people who think that “we as a country must jump into disaster with both feet.” What are you using your platforms for? Are you using your platforms to propel the gospel of peace and appreciation of political diversity. Who is shaping our rights and human rights violation and actually defending them. Should we live it to the people of the past. Do we think that the Human Rights Defenders who did it in 2015-2016 should hold the monopoly of defending the rights of others even today? Remember that “people from the past, have a tendency to walk back into the present, and run over the future.”
We all must get involved in defending the rights of others in this politically pluralized environment
We all must get bothered and interested
Let us not define our political success as a disaster put on hold
Let us redefine ourselves not as “terrible for each other” but hope and protection
Government and state must appreciate the obligation, responsibility and duty to protect, promote and fulfill all human rights including the civil and political rights of Ugandans
If we do nothing, no one will do anything when we get attached
LET US NOT “ACCEPT THE 2020-2021 POLLS TO CHALLENGE US. WE CAN CHALLENGE THEM?
I thank you
The writer works with the Next Generational Leaders, and is a Human Rights Defender in Uganda, passionate of our governance and a mentor of young people in Uganda