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Conservatism blocking dynamic thinking in Africa

By Awel Uwihanganye

My political commentaries, which sometimes are published in The Independent Magazine, mostly analysing Uganda’s political trends and supporting President Museveni on a number of issues, have been a source of nasty words thrown at me, with many responses and unfairly harsh and negative reactions from those who are not in his support. It is shocking that intellectual opposition find it difficult to accept that I can present an argument based on my convictions and beliefs that President Museveni is still our best hope. The expectation from them is informed counter arguments and not dismissive responses lacking alternative view points to my arguments other than anti Museveni rhetoric, that does not further debate and analysis.

This is perhaps a result of mainstream phenomena creeping into intellectual Africa where we hide behind religion and culture when a complex issue emerges and challenges our beliefs. At most we shy away from analysing the basis of the alternative, because by bringing in reason, we are wrongly informed that it is unfashionable, undermines our cultures and religious beliefs and therefore we sacrifice our independent thinking from fear of stigma by indentifying with an unpopular idea etc.

This cowardice is slowly killing African intellectualism and innovation. The mind that does not allow itself to analyse and be critical of its held beliefs because of prejudice, is likely to be limited on how far it can go in innovating solutions for complex problems our societies face.

The homosexuality debate can be used as an example of the point I am trying to make. It is almost impossible to use the subject in presenting a defence to President Museveni, given his position on the matter. But again the attempt is to prove that difference in ideas does not mean that we cannot intellectually engage and hopefully reach a consensus without depriving anyone of their rights.

Those drumming up hate propaganda against gays, base their arguments on religion and culture but fail to present to us any logical arguments, other than those rooted in religious dogma.

Yet they fail to live up to Jesus’ teachings and actions which were always tolerant. Of course the other cheap argument is that homosexuality is un-African and a western lifestyle being promoted in Africa.

Those intellectually promoting the anti-homosexual agenda are not presenting convincing arguments other than chanting that God did not create Adam and Steve. One does not have to support homosexuality to understand it as a complex issue challenging held beliefs in many societies.

The strength of western civilisation has its roots in studying and analysing phenomena they did not comprehend and where they found it was in interest of their society to shift thinking even when it was unpopular and against their held beliefs.

Good examples are giving women the right to vote, abolition of slavery and eventual abolition of racial discrimination in America where such practices directly contradicted the spirit and values of their constitution and capitalism as an economic mode of transacting business.

We may not agree on issues, but that does not mean you dismiss the other view points basing on your prejudices without making convincing reasoning.

I am therefore not the type to shy away from positions I believe in, but I enjoy listening to views contrary to mine and attempting to understand what is beyond my capacity. We have challenges the President should act upon such as corruption, poor road infrastructure and health care.

I will be among those waiting for his vision for Uganda, that caters for the interest of the majority, the youth, before I vote him. A vision that allows young Ugandans to imagine themselves as an integral part of a prosperous and dynamic Uganda with a competitive edge in the global social, economic and political system.

Those with opposing views should direct them through constructive discourse for everybody’s benefit, not hate propaganda. Just as much, my hope is that sanity will prevail in parliament over the Bahati bill. We do not live in isolation as some of our intellectually deficient leaders want us to believe.

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