Are we (media) enemies of the state? A media person asked the CDF. Let me also ask, are citizens enemies of the state?
Inferring from the actions of the security personnel in the recent times, it is easy to say YES but from the addresses and statements by the president and other leaders the answer may be NO. The president has been heard saying that part of his agenda is to make the people of Uganda leave better lives (middle income…), the CDF on 18th February apologized to the nation over the actions of the UPDF on the members of the press and stated that the persons who were hurt will be supported with payment of the medical bills.
The CDF also said that investigations are going on and the officers found to have beaten the journalists will be put to task. Also recently a senior military officer said during a TV show that it is the people of Uganda who have made them who and what they are. Very lovely statements indeed contrary to what other state operatives do. What could be the problem? While the CDFs apology is a sign of civility and this is not the first time military is doing it, how many times will this be with no change? Are Ugandans being fooled?
Overtime, Uganda’s top leaders often categorically state how the military is getting professionalized. Thirty five years of turning round the army should be enough for the country to have a team of officers, men and women of the military conduct themselves in a professional manner. The military professionalism as understood by lay persons is that which focuses on protecting the country and the peoples from external aggression.
Now that there is no external aggression to the country, the “professionalism” is being directed to the citizens it is meant to protect. Surely this is not what the military should do to its people. All sorts of reasons can be given to justify the wrath of the military and other security officers against the people but none deserves to call for such action on to the weaponless and harmless media personnel and the innocent citizens. Previous statements by some of the leaders of security agencies relate well with the possibility that the orders and directives come from them. No doubt this could be the origin of the statement “Order from above”, a script recited by security officers carrying out such atrocities.
The security chiefs have been heard on several occasions saying that those are actions by individual security personnel. If this is not a lie by the security chiefs, then the men, women in uniform are doing things without instructions from their superiors. This is a cause to worry. Have leaders of the security agencies lost control and not in charge of the forces anymore? Could a mutiny be on the way?
The role of the military in the governance of this country is very much appreciated but there must be limits – checks and balances in terms of the extent to which they should intervene in governance matters. One wonders what the UPDF had to do with the delivery of a petition to the United Nations Offices. I believe the police was sufficient to give guidance and for keeping law and order during the process. The narrative behind the deployment of the military and the speed at which they pounced on the media could be of interest to learn about.
The role of the media to keep the public informed about important matters. Is there anything that government is hiding? What could that be? If it is about the petition taken to the United Nations pointing out matters concerning violations and abuse of Human rights, there is nothing that is not known. Don’t people know that people died, people have been arrested and are languishing in prisons and other places not known, people have disappeared and their where about are not known, people have become widows and orphans, people are tortured and their bodies mutilated, families and relatives of the victims are traumatized and psychologically tortured and that abductions have been going on?
There seem to be a panic over imaginary issues. If the intelligence reports are the guide to such action, it might be of value to revisit the way the information is collected and analyzed. If the panic is about the post-election issues, this should not be the case if the election outcome is genuine.
The country is bleeding. People are tormented, traumatized, tensed and fearful. People seem to be losing hope, rightly so unfortunately. Of course others are happy and celebrating which looks strange and awkward but that is life.
It is time for our leaders to own up the current ugly state of affairs of human rights in the country and act accordingly with corrective measures. The anger among the people is continuing to ferment within the limited space and when time comes for it to demand for more space with no chance of getting it, be sure it will burst out. Be wise; don’t wait for this to happen.
John Mary Odoy is a Senior Citizen, a human rights and good governance advocate.
Tel 0782457990 Email email@example.com
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