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Sectarianism ahead of 2016

By Akantorana Nobert Bwana

General public, politicians, religious leaders, media should desist from `hate’ in all its forms

A popular guest on one the local radio stations identified a trend in those radically opposed to the ruling party. He pointed out that most of them hailed from the western region of the country. He continued to wonder whether it was only people that came from the western region of Uganda, who saw the inefficiencies within government.

This kind of reasoning reminded me of a time when radio stations did little in moderating their guests. Some politicians hosted on radio would recklessly claim that Ugandans who possessed a certain kind of nose were responsible for the corruption in government and took most privileges at the expense of other Ugandans. Before long, riots broke out and I became a victim because of the way I looked.

To this day, I still remember the events that took place in 2009. I had felt privileged to be employed in a traditional missionary hospital at that time. This motivated me to put in more time and effort as a medical practitioner. Initially, I had trouble communicating to patients fluently in Luganda, but this improved as time went on. Before long, I was invited as a guest to a Luganda medical talk show program.  I was so excited that I had gotten the opportunity to be a guest on radio for the very first time. However, the timing could not have been any worse.

The hospital where I worked was within a walkable distance to the radio station where I had been invited. On the day I was supposed to be hosted, I woke up very early to work at the hospital. Thirty minutes before the show was due to start, I decided to walk down to the station, in order to calm my anxiety. Little did I know that there was a strike going on in town and that it had spread up to the area around the radio station.  As I tried to comprehend the events that were going on, I was approached by an angry mob, armed with sticks and stones. You could see a lot of hate written all over their faces and so much anger, as they drew closer to me.

Suddenly, a man from the mob stopped me and claimed that I was “one of those”. Some within the mob approved while pointing out my nose and color of my skin as clear evidence that indeed I was “one of those”. At that moment, they all erupted into accusing me of all the corruption, joblessness, poverty, amongst other problems faced by Ugandans. I tried to deny all this, but the mob did not want to hear any of it. To say the least, I was terrified by the angry mob.

I remember one of the men from the mob coming out to challenge me on some peculiar to a certain tribe. I didn’t know whether to hop, run away, or just stay there. I was confused. My heart was racing so fast, I could hardly catch up with it. As I made up my mind to briskly walk away, an angry man flogged my back and told me to stop. The mob could sense my fear and this somehow excited them the more.  Another man stepped forward and ordered me to I introduce myself formally to them.  He however, claimed to have an easier challenge. He asked me to say the word mattress in my mother tongue.  The more I fumbled with the word, the angrier and more sarcastic the mob became. Luckily enough for me, the mob decided that they had had enough of me, so they let me proceed to where I was going. I must say, that was the longest fifteen minutes of my entire life (i.e. since N.R.A took over power).

When I got to the radio station, the show was almost starting. I was quickly rushed into the studio by my host, who took me through what was expected of me during the 40 minutes program.  I remember just sitting there, almost motionless, not believing the ordeal I had just gone through. It only hit me that I was actually in the studio when the radio program host told me that we were on air. The show went on without any incident. I was able to fluently inform the listeners about matters concerning their health, regardless of the length of their noses, color of their skin, or region they hailed from.

As a victim of sectarianism in Uganda today, I believe that no one should go through my ordeal just because they look different or speak a different language. And as someone who is privileged to have a voice right here today, I appeal to the general public, politicians, religious leaders and the media, to desist from “hate” in all its forms ahead of the 2016 general elections. At the end of the day, we are all Ugandans.


Akantorana Nobert Bwana is a voter from Rukiga, Kabale

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