May 26, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

EDITORIAL: As NRM marks 36 years, the party is at a moral crossroads

As Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) enters a celebratory mood to mark 36 years in power on January 26, the party faces a widening credibility gap between its promise of a free, liberal society and what it is actually serves the Ugandans.

Three and a half decades later, the NRM is on the defensive, seems to have passed its ideological peak and is now increasingly tending towards the character of the oppressors it replaced.

For the second time in as many years, bitter academic and political activist Stella Nyanzi fled Uganda with her family this week to find refuge in Germany, citing a congested political space. Ms Nyanzi says her move was informed by the fate of author and fellow activist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who has been languishing in custody since his brutal kidnapping by the military on December 28, 2021.

Kakwenza’s lawyers, Uganda Human Rights Commission , have all released statements confirming that he was severely tortured during weeks of detention in a place without a criminal reporter before being smuggled into court and taken to Kitalya government prison. In a letter to his lawyers released this week, prison authorities report that Kakwenza has torture scars on several parts of his body.

Ms Nyanzi said in a post on her Facebook page that writers never are only likely to be threatened for writing critical of the brutal abusers of power that flourished under Museveni.

Nyanzi and Kakwenza are controversial public figures whose behavior goes against what many Africans consider good manners. Many feel they deserve the response they have received from the state. Nevertheless, their activism represents something fundamental between the normative and the reality on the ground.

In the 19th century, the German theorist Jürgen Habermas developed the idea of ​​public spheres as spaces for communicative action. They provided an important space for engagement between the governors and the governed. Through these spaces, the governed had a pathway through which citizens could influence public policy.

The internet and social media, the tools that Kakwenza and Nyanzi used to shape the character of the ruling class criticizing did not exist in Jürgen’s time, but they play the same role as platforms for engagement at different levels in modern society.

The clash between the two activists and the authorities is representative of the broader conflict between popular ideals and a decadent state. They need to be heard.

Being open that criticism of society and leadership is a necessity to keep society and leaders in check. When these voices are silenced, it is a sign of a repressive atmosphere and progress is stunted. Stella may have fled the regime’s grasp, but the fundamentals have not changed.

What are the state’s options against the next Nyanzi or Kakwenza? Asylum or refuge is never the best choice. It is forced upon people who have been harassed or threatened, to the point where the only choice is to stay alive.

The writing has been on the wall for some time. When Western governments lose the moral authority to enforce decent governance in the Global South, their place will be taken by the world’s Kakwenzas and Nyanzis.