What Will You Do for Money? [opinion]

The tribal or ethnic conflict in Rwenzori sub-region, leading to almost 100 deaths, is a tragedy of many levels.

It is reported that about 60 of the dead were part of the attacking groups. Imagine if all the 60 people plus the 130 now in custody were in gainful employment. Would they have had the time or willingness to join what seems like senseless or chauvinistic warring, as it has been described?

September 2014 will mark five years since the Buganda riots, that left nearly 40 people dead and hundreds arrested. No report about the killings has been released to date.

What most people agree on is that many people in downtown Kampala are still as poverty-stricken as they were in 2009. With such scarce employment opportunities, it is possible that if there were a lapse in intelligence or city policing, another such tragedy would strike again.

The Kampala opposition politicians’ walk-to-work protests or the lunchtime city market visits have never failed to garner numbers of supporters. Or are they idlers? It is important to repeat that if all the Kampala or other urban youths were gainfully engaged, demonstrations, riots, ‘walks’ would be history.

In the year 2014, and at a time when Makerere University students are inventing cars and drones, over 100 men marched on to an army barracks, armed with sticks, clubs and machetes! That is the greatest tragedy of all.

No stealth or other fighting tactics were required. They crazily marched towards the front gate in broad daylight. It is alleged that they smeared themselves with herbal concoctions from a witch-doctor to protect themselves against the UPDF bullets.

In the old days, we used to see Hollywood films in which a lone star, or two, would maul down droves of spear-wielding black African villains from jungles with just a lone machinegun! Kids that are 15 or younger have no experience of such well, until reports from western Uganda came in.

Uncharitable people may view or stereotype these tragic events as typical of a village mentality. However, it is not that simple if you live in Uganda. A photograph is ‘trending’ on social media in which a ‘besuited’ man kneels down to greet President Museveni as others look on with seemingly understanding smiles.

Who knows perhaps all were taking turns to kneel before the big man? Indeed, the president does not look offended because his hand is benevolently extended and he has a wide smile. So, at the lower end of Uganda’s scale, we have poor youths ready for all sorts of suicidal activity because of poverty.

At the high end, older men in suits kneel down in our unique, red dust to prostrate before the president, to gain more favours.

Last week, I learnt of a ‘white power’ warrior from Sweden who is fighting on the government side in Ukraine. A Swedish sniper, with many years of experience in the army, Michael Skillt, is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a voluntary militia group in eastern Ukraine.

Skillt is a volunteer who does not expect to be paid. Chillingly, he boasts that he is good at his work. Indeed, the Ukrainian separatist rebels have placed a hefty bounty of over $7,000 on his head. While Skillt claims to be a nationalist, who is proud to be white, in truth, he is a neo-Nazi and a racist who believes that races should never mix. On his next mission, he intends to fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he is anti-Jewish!

The contradictions in our worlds are manifested through these events that happened at about the same time. On the one hand, 60 people were killed in western Uganda when they foolishly attacked an army barracks armed with witchcraft, sticks and machetes. One may argue that it is their economic situation that led them to be fatally exploited!

Then you have moneyed politicians lacking in principles, who will do anything to gain riches or patronage. They, too, are willing and ready to be exploited, having placed themselves at the whim of our leaders. And at the extreme end, there is a soldier with sick racist beliefs, who desires no money but gains satisfaction from fighting, to preserve the white race!

The author is one of the founding Kigo thinkers.

Source : The Observer

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