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Celebrating one’s misfortune

The country has struggled to meet demand for oxygen.

How public anger against Uganda government’s response to COVID is driven more by prejudice than facts

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last Saturday, I lost my auntie, Princess Damali Komukyeeya of Toro. I tweeted that although she had COVID, she was fairly fine Friday evening. She developed breathing difficulties on Saturday morning. When rushed to hospital, “there was no oxygen” but that was a poor framing imposed on me by Twitter’s limits on characters. She found all the beds at Mulago occupied, so there was no place for her to be put on oxygen. My tweet went viral; viewed by 540,000 people with 54,000 engagements.

Some people celebrated that I had lost an auntie because previously I had said Mulago Hospital is well equipped, which it is. Others said I have been insensitive to the death of opposition activists killed by “this regime.” A few quoted a tweet I posted in 2016. It was a hypothetical argument where I said that if a public official stole money meant for a hospital and used it to build a factory, such a factory may serve a better social goal than the hospital. Some commenters said I had gotten what I deserved.

I don’t mind anyone celebrating my relatives’ deaths if it helps them feel better. I am aware this world tends to be very harsh and judgmental to those who do not perform according to the criteria society defines as “success.” Instead, it tends to stigmatise them, making them feel unworthy. These people lash back with venom, often at self-invented social enemies i.e. those in society they consider responsible for their misfortune. In our case, it is those (in their view) that seem powerful and influential.

Yet this anger, while understandable, is often counterproductive. It does not help, except momentarily for an emotional high, the cause of those who feel left behind. In today’s age of social media, social anger propels demagogues to the forefront of politics. These exploit public frustration for their own ambitions to raise to power. They do so by fear mongering, setting one group against another. They achieve this by inventing social enemies based on identity. This makes governance difficult and expensive.

To stabilise politics in a polarised environment, incumbents are forced to rely more on corruption to placate the interests of these powerful politicians who whip up hate. We have seen them in United States via Donald Trump. But we have also seen them in action during Brexit, in Philippines, India, Turkey, Hungry and across most of Europe and other nations of the world. They tend to deepen social cleavages, heighten tensions, set citizens against each other and undermine democratic politics.

There is a deep sense of grievance among large sections of Ugandans. Many feel the country is being mismanaged by extremely corrupt and greedy politicians who do not care about the ordinary citizen. This has given birth to an outrage machine that profits from whipping up this public resentment. I suspect that this anger is driven by factors beyond any leader of Uganda can solve in a lifetime. Yet people need to find a villain to blame, that is the only way they can vent their anger. In our specific case, a long serving president as Yoweri Museveni makes the perfect villain to blame. Yet this sentiment does not actually rhyme with the facts.

7 comments

  1. It is Andrew’s misrepresentation or distortion of reality to suite his wrong narrative that I find very strange. Perhaps I’m not alone. “Since COVID began, Uganda had by June 28 lost 900 people, or 19 deaths per one million people.” Really?? I’m quite disappointed knowing that Andrew well knows that majority of our health providers (private clinics & government hospitals) can’t report covid statistics because they are not accredited. When some one tests positive for covid or dies of it in such a facility such a statistic is lost, yet these are places where majority are of Ugandans go to seek medical care. The fact is, many clinics in Kampala, Entebbe and Mukono are not credited to report COVID-19. Imagine the situation upcountry!

  2. The Andrew Mwenda I know, goes into specifics. What happened to the covid response vis-a-vis the money so far injected in? How many beds, ambulances, PPE and the rest of the equipments are made available?

  3. Very funny argument you raise M9. “I suspect that this anger is driven by factors beyond any leader of Uganda can solve in a lifetime “!!
    So what business does any leader have in government if they cannot solve society’s problems such as pandemic outbreaks?
    To collect taxes and pocket them?
    Kill the citizens with reckless abandon who attempt to ask questions regarding taxes collected by the so-called government and then label them idiots and terrorists?
    Mwenda even puts in quotes “this regime”! In M9’s world he knows no one ever killed by “this regime”! Suffice it to say just one example: in the middle of the presidential campaign late 2020, your cult admitted in front of cameras that he sent his SFC soldiers to kill one “Zebra” thinking he works with the opposition!
    Continue glorifying your corruption crusade

  4. Well said Andrew. There are lots of angry people in the populace, could you write specifically about that in your next article and how this anger can (if at all possible) be assuaged, sated etc? Clearly if this is not addressed this country is a ticking time bomb!! The demagogues are gathering, their task is easier than the one a true nation builder would have. This nation builder is not necessarily M7.

  5. 1.I don’t feel that M7 and family are so much hated as the social media portrays.Actually most IT experts believe that 2 or three poeple may use pseudo names and accounts to post many hate messages agaisnt the first family.
    2.Most people envy celebrities and members from prominent families they; just wish they were as famous as them;In the first world people cry when they see Madonna,Beckam,Prince Harry;Ugandans are not so sure of whether they have celebrities or hustlers.
    3.When you read the harsh comments about prominent Ugandans on social media you realize that those who post such harsh messages are from broken families and did not go through Sunday school.
    4.During the last elections;the Baganda realized that they had no ally;they were left in the cold with NUP coz most Ugandans believe that Baganda are not good role models;If you want to learn bad habits like; Practicing Witchcraft,theft,big headedness,Bleaching,prositution you come to Buganda.
    5.Regarding the COVID relief fund;why didnt government just cook food for the needy Ugandans;like its done in USA, and S.Africa where there are food serving points for the needy;Actually the needy would have enjoyed them themselves if bakeries were told to supply buns at 100/= and farmers told to sell eggs at 6000 per tray; It was just a matter of identifying women to prepare food and get men like Rajab to mingle the posho.
    6.Since when did the Boda men become needy?How do own a motorcycle that costs 5m and you claim you are needy?When you go down town i am told the meals they have are even better than the ones Coporate Ugandans have; Its just that the Baganda are so shameless and loud while demanding for money which i think is bad why do want to bully the whole Uganda?What do you call yourselves?How come other regions are humble when requesting for funds?I have seen Ugandans from the Northern, Eastern and Western Uganda demand for food in times of drought and floods only.

  6. Godfrey kambere

    All.in all it comes.to one thing. That feeling of being Ugandan today! It is something that you will experience anywhere in this country. That impotent rage among the poor and that anxiety among the well to do. Even in the neighbouring countries am certain you won’t miss that if say you are having a drink in a pub in say DRC or Rwanda or Sudan and you told your companions that you are from Uganda. Somehow all.the efforts by the government to have things follow a natural trajectory have boiled to only one thing keeping law and order. I have in my idle moments thought of Marshall Tito and former Yugoslavia and concluded that the fella was a dismal failure.
    Thank you.

  7. Hm Chief
    It is sad you lost a dear one
    May her soul rest in eternal peace

    as for the Baganda, the last time i knew you and the rest of Uganda describe them in the same way, since they are not worth just ignore them. and actually keep away from them too.
    All the theories advanced after election seem to be fading, i had hoped for well collected data and analysis to prove the hypothesis.

    Good luck

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