By Henry Mutebe
When the time comes for a hen to hatch its eggs, it looks on with anticipation. One by one, the chicks start knocking the shell (from inside) so that they come out. The hen is always filled with the temptation to ‘help’ one of those chicks to hatch. It moves about with unease, occasionally sharpening its beak and wishing it can just help the chicks by knocking the shell of the eggs to help the chicks come out…but it never does.
It never does because by helping, by way of knocking the shell…it stands the risk of killing the chick and those that are often helped out are weak. If it does, it may knock too early when the temperature is not right or when the chick is not yet ready to survive outside. Every minute in or out matters and every chick is built with the ability and instinct to know when to knock and come out. In their own time, each chick manages to make its way out of the shell on its own. You will understand that riddle at the end of my piece of writing.
Writing comes natural to me, but never in my life, have I ever faced such scale of difficulty to pen my thoughts, with the ease and clarity of mind that I have always had. The chilling events in the last couple of days, that have written a dark page in our collective memory as a society, have left me lost on where and how to begin to write.
The images of MPs looking unconscious, the images of Hon. Zaake’s hands, raw and red, with flesh flashing out as though someone had deliberately plucked out part of his skin immensely bruised the emotions of the public.
The raw videos of the Reuters and other journalists looking defenseless and pleading as the soldiers brutally assaulted him, for being our (the public) witness to tell the story, brought home the tragedy of our society. All these images put together, illustrate strikingly, what is wrong with our society. What we cannot put in words has been frozen into history by these images. The sheer callousness and brutality witnessed is hard to take in.
I cannot believe that in this country, we live with people who have capacity to switch off the most important human emotion that glues us together as the human race- sympathy, and they manage to torture, without any reservation or conscience, another human being.
I cannot believe that there are men, human beings, with families, wives, sisters, brothers and mothers, who held Bobi Wine and Hon Zaake, fellow men, or at least human beings and beat them up to the point of bringing them to the edge of death.
How, in this life, does a human being, with his mental faculty, hold Bobi Wine or Zaake, already subdued, and continue to beat or torture them? How does it feel like, for them to look a fellow man in their eyes, pleading or defenseless, with the raw human emotions, crying, wailing, thinking about their families, perhaps pleading for help and you continue to beat them to the point of causing them to become unconscious? Incomprehensible.
I imagine Hon. Zaake and Bobi Wine in the hands of their torturers, defenseless, tears rolling down their cheeks and yet not even this human emotion could restrain the callous hands of the tormentors. How does a fellow man master the courage to pluck human flesh out of another, and go back home and still feel human? How does a human being, see a man down and still find the anger and courage to beat them, when they are down? Incomprehensible!
As my mind pondered about all these sad things, I then remembered the most worrying thing of all. We may be puzzled at the brutality of the people that handled Bobi Wine and Zaake and the rest of the people who were tortured, but we must even fear the most, the silence of the majority of the Members of Parliament from the ruling party, who for fear of being seen to condemn the actions of their own soldiers, refused to condemn the act or even engage the leadership about what this means for our society.
For the soldiers that beat up MPs may be few, there could even be some who, without us knowing, pleaded for them and restrained their colleagues from acting evil, and we may never know them, but the silence of the majority of NRM MPs is what crowns this act as a human tragedy of unknown proportion.
To try and justify an evil and inhuman act as this, in the name of loyalty to the party, is to push this country on a slippery road. The manner and fibre of violence we are witnessing today is capable of driving this country on the wrong path. There must be a collective voice to say, Never Again!! Never!
Watching a tear that dropped from Bobi Wine’s eye as he sat in the temple of justice in Gulu, made me feel the pain he bears. I know for sure that his tear did not leave his eye alone; that tear pulled and went down with many other tears. Many people wept. Our nation wept. The human in all of us wore his body and soul. The pain was immense.
That a woman was so badly beaten, that she could barely walk to court, and with media reports that she was bleeding from her private parts, should appeal to even the most emotionless government loyalist to know that a time comes when we must stop and listen to reflect on where we are going.
And to think that what we have seen are only images of those few who the media could access or the big shots, and that we have not seen many others whose names are not as pronounced as the MPs stretches my imagination to deepest ends of fear. That fellow human beings can turn on each other, with such scale of brutality is to say the least incomprehensible! These events leave our heads spinning in search for answers.
The actions of the soldiers and police men involved in these acts are the perfect example of what a nation needs to descend into chaos. These events and images sponsor feelings of hatred, which are the seeds and fuel one needs for a large scale violent conflict to erupt. We are already living in conflict. The only difference is that for now, it is a peaceful conflict. Give it such tension and reason and we shall be in flames yet amidst the challenges, we have managed to live side by side for years. Why now? What hasnt this country given its leaders that they should let it descend into chaos?
Many young people find themselves unemployed and these have little to lose or anything to protect. In the event that an opportunity arose to be used by negative energies, these are potentially easy targets. I would highly advise government to completely avoid creating any situation that breeds an environment for chaos.
I hope that government will learn from these events to understand and appreciate that they have the power to terminate the potential conflict that can arise from the continued arrest and torture of segments of the opposition. Bobi Wine represents so many people and his torture is not just torture of him as an individual, it is torture of the whole community that believes in what he stands for.
I pray, so hard, that liberal voices in the NRM can master the courage to speak to the president, respectfully, and without fear of being thought of as not loyal, and engage him about the mistakes being made by some state agents and how their actions can potentially lead to more chaos. There are many people around the president, many of them young and inexperienced who simply want to be seen or get promotions. Such aspirations drive them to act in ways that may instead bring problems for the state. They feed him with lies to justify their actions.
The nation is already bleeding and needs healing. These events accelerate an already bad situation. The president can superintend that process or terminate it. Whatever decision or choice he makes, there are consequences for the country. I hope and pray that he makes the best choice for this country and we take the path of healing.
The more Bobi Wine is arrested and tortured, the more support he will gain and the more hatred government will spread. Sections of Buganda will not see the state actions as targeted towards Bobi Wine as a politician but as target towards the Baganda. Since government seats in buganda, it is not wise to unsettle them. The last events have fueled more sentiments which are what Bobi Wine needs to accumulate his political capital. Many used to despise him but the level of tension and unrest over his arrest has satisfied their doubting hearts that Bobi Wine is a force to reckon with.
The charges preferred against Bobi Wine are not in any way, in the strategic interest of the state. Even if they were left to hang over his head for years until election time whereupon they can be resurrected and his presidential (if any), be nipped in the bud, this would still not correct the mistake that has already been made. Bobi Wine’s arrest and detention will instead cause more chaos and tension. The state is already spending millions of shillings in managing this situation alone; a situation which could have been avoided in the first place.
Bobi Wine, Hon. Zaake, and all other people arrested under these frivolous charges should be released unconditiinally. For it serves neither the interest of the NRM, the state or the country to have them incarcerated. The events continue to sow seeds of hatred and flame an already polarized society. I know its hard for the government to concede or appear weak, but sometimes, appearing a fool or loser is more strategic than wanting to win all the time.
It is not a sign of weakness to release Bobi Wine and his colleagues… it may be the best decision the government can do for itself and the country. Bobi Wine is being underestimated but he can, if the state doesn’t handle this matter well, cause this country more problems. I want to believe the state has read the temperature of the public and will act swiftly to avert any future chaos.
To my friend Bobi Wine, these are my words to you. When a hen is hatching its eggs, it does not use its beak, even when it can, to break the eggs and help the chick move out of the shell when she sees them trying to knock and break out of their shell. You are in prison for a reason. I can only imagine the pain you are going through…but I know that you are there and not any other person because God, knows in due season, you will be out. In fact, while we, out here, seem to be free, you are more free than many of us.
While you appear to be in prison, you are there because you have spoken your mind. While your body is between the four walls, your mind and name is not in prison. Your name is roaming and going out to the world, from the smallest town in Europe to the deepest village in Uganda. You are in Prison for all of us who believe in liberty and freedom of expression. You have taken our burden and bore our cross. We are eternally grateful. We pray for you and hope that one day, God will reward you for standing up for what you believed to be right.
No brick is strong enough until it has gone through the fire and no soldier goes to war before going through training. I believe that the good Lord is training you for whatever role He has destined for you in future. May you bear your tests with faith and courage, trusting that the good Lord never gives us beyond what we can bear. Like a hen looks on with temptation but restraint, as the eggs hatch, I wish I could take your pain away, but I know that the good Lord is refining you and taking you through what you must, to prepare you for the roles, which only He knows.
In Genesis 37, we read the story of Joseph who was sold by his brothers into slavery. In the wisdom of that time, that was a tragedy. Years later when Joseph became a very important person, he never cursed that he had been sold into slavery. He thanked God that even in crisis, God was actually using it as a vehicle to elevate him. Psalms 37:23 says that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. I want to believe God is ordering your steps. May that prison be the road to a place of dignity that the future may hold.
I want to believe that your crisis is an opportunity. I want to believe that you are the chick breaking the shell. May be these events will forever separate you from the rest and be the carpet to the place of honour that God has planned for you. We know from history that all freedom fighters have a time to go through the fire. Take your fire with courage, faith and a vision. As you stand there, soldiering through the pain, I am, more than ever, proud of you Bobi Wine our Honourable. Those thinking they are breaking you, are ironically, making you. Soldier on. I thought about your suffering and asked where is God? But I believe God is also asking where is man? We stand with you Bobi Kyagulanyi