By Dr. D.R.Ruhweza
A casual glance at the current political climate in Uganda can easily leave the observer feeling sad and frustrated. This is probably because the stories of hope are stifled by the constant barrage of bad or negative press reports about the way in which our political leaders are behaving. Assuming that the press reports are correct, one would imagine Ugandans have the worst type of leaders and politicians. The news stories regarding the criticism of our Members of Parliament alone depicts greedy, selfish, uncaring, resource wasting, pleasure-seeking bunch of dishonourable group which bribed its way into parliament. However, such a conclusion would be so lopsided in so far as it generally treats all members of parliament as a homogenous entity and thus ignoring the silent, unspoken acts of chivalry, goodwill, kindness and selflessness. Even more importantly, such a conclusion would have assumed that ‘political’ leadership is only the preserve of members of parliaments and elected government officials. This article therefore seeks to concentrate on this aspect of politics in the nation.
In the first place, I wish to assert that we are all politicians and thus, political regardless of our positions in society. All decisions we make, all the voting that we do, all the discussions that we engage in – be they about the status of our roads, hospitals, businesses or schools – these are all political discussions and are part of a very important political process that is even enshrined in the very first Article of our Constitution. As such, we are all responsible for the quality of leadership that we have. In fact, any blame that we levy on an elected (and even unelected) public official is a blame on ourselves. This is because, all these leaders serve at our own whims regardless of who we are. In essence, we jointly and severally, intentionally and unintentionally allow the status quo to be what it is. Put another way, we often receive so many requests to support various causes in the nation – purchasing books for a library, donating blood, paying school fees for a classmate, taking a patient for an operation in India, America or South Africa, buying a cancer machine, etc. All these campaigns are supported by various individuals or groups which don’t fear to be identified, contacted and engaged with. They advocate, speak out, lobby and donate to the cause – hoping to make the situation better than it is. Our reaction to these instances range from indifference, to criticism of who we think should be answering the call - normally the government to whom our taxes are paid. However, inspite of this negativity, there also those who decide to react positively and go the extra mile of donating that extra coin or joining that charity walk or handing over those useless clothes and articles or participating in that car wash so as to raise a few more shillings to address the situation. These choices are also political choices viewed otherwise. They are exemplary in so far as they encourage or discourage others from doing their part. In essence, the way we react to the aforementioned examples of calls for help and support, is a true reflection of what our political consciousness. As such therefore, politics is part and parcel of us. Therefore, our politicians – be they at the local or national level - are a replica of our attitudes and biases. They are a direct result of our action or non-action.
At the time of writing this article, some members of the public demonstrated against the members of our parliament by painting piglets in the colours of the leading political parties in Uganda and even tagged each piglet with a name of the politician whose actions they disapproved. This obviously has garnered a lot of reaction from both the members of the august house as well as the public generally. These demonstrators (and many more before them) have chosen to do something about the situation in the nation. Others have chosen to ignore it and hope that it will eventually pass on. However, our reactions may be guided by the book of Genesis 1: 26-26 in which God created man and told them to ‘‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it ; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’’ Similarly the book of Romans 8: 19 says that ‘‘Creation awaits the in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.’’ This means that God expects us to be active participants in the management of the earth and not to be mere onlookers especially when the state of affairs. In his book ‘‘Called To Greatness,’’ Moses Mukisa argues that a crisis (read challenge) is an opportunity for greatness (read intervention).
I once heard someone say that God never creates a situation in which He is going to be irrelevant. Indeed in light of Romans 8:19, God normally intervenes through us so that His Glory might be revealed. This does not mean that He does not do the miraculous like separating the Red Sea like in Genesis 14: 26 or producing water from a rock, but He still needs a Moses to stretch out his hand over the Sea ( do his part). We are therefore the leaders/politicians that the world is waiting for. We need to lead the way or commence the action expected of us by God. Where there is animosity, we are expected to be the voice of reconciliation. Where there are emotional outbursts that will not help address the stalemate, we are expected to have emotional intelligence to guide the discussion to matters that help the society or the belligerents to arrive at working solutions. We need to be voices of reason, sobriety and wisdom. Voices that direct us (and the world) towards believing in the cause of justice, and not just fomenting the conflict.
Therefore, today, as Uganda continues to reel from the February 18 2016 general elections which many have expressed misgivings about, there is a choice. A choice to either keep sullen and angry and crestfallen, or a choice to stand up and do something. This ranges from going to Court for redress, supporting the court process as amici curiae as some of us did in the recent Presidential Election petition before the Supreme Court, participating in constructive debates and discussions in the public and private spaces, engaging in information sharing on social and other media, etc. As I write this article, more than 20 members of parliament have been kicked out of parliament for various reasons including but not limited to forging academic papers, bribery, etc. The easier reaction would be to continue lamenting and moaning about how bad our systems have become or choosing the more progressive part of seeking to participate in making things better and starting to restore the walls that have been broken down like happened in the days of Nehemiah. Of course this will mean that we will have to also confront alot of discouragement like Nehemiah received from the likes of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem (Nehemiah 4 and 6) but this should not discourage us because he who started the good work in us will bring it to completion.( Philippians 1: 6). In essence, it is time to get out of our safe zones and begin to work to make things better.
The Lord told Joshua son of Nun to ‘arise, go over (the) Jordan ... and EVERY place that the sole of (our) foot will tread upon will be given to us. The Lord further assured Joshua that ‘No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I waswith Moses, so i will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which i swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go (Joshua 1:1- 8)
It is true that the Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity has taken up the mantle especially in the area of providing legal aid to the derelict while at the same time participating in some of the law reform processes. However, there are areas where we have been inactive both jointly and severally – areas such as engaging more in the public space as an impartial voice that seeks to bring sanity to highly charged political debates, engaging in public interest litigation either severally or in collaboration with other organisations whose mission and purpose is in tandem with ours, initiating or supporting bills of parliament that will address some of the social ills or challenges in the nation, improving our social media presence to be relevant to the topic discussions that would benefit from a Christian legal perspective, organising more conferences and workshops and even trainings that will inform and educate the public and the wider legal fraternity, investing in the young lawyers and students as we prepare them for the challenges in the work space, etc.
May the above Scripture be fulfilled in our time as we take up the mantle and be the salt that the world needs.
 The writer is President of the Uganda Christian Lawyers' Fraternity, an Advocate of the Court of Law in Uganda, a law don at the School of Law, Makerere University and a member of the Network of Public Interest Lawyers of Uganda (NETPIL)