Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Grabbing Way: Are Christianity and Islam still relevant in Uganda’s moral context?

The Daily Monitor of September 2, 2016, carried this headline on page 6: Only 5% of Ugandan youth value integrity, survey reveals. The story makes reference to research conducted by the Aga Khan University’s East African Institute (EAI). The report was launched in Kampala on September 1.

Integrity, as described by the Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, is moral uprightness: honesty. So, let us put it this way: 95% of Ugandans aged between 18 and 35 confess to being liars and thieves – if we go by that survey. 

Interestingly majority of the families in which these youth are raised subscribe to Christianity and Islam, two religions which, in their literature, promote honesty as a virtue. 

Islam identifies lying among the “Greater” sins and in the Sharee’ah or Islamic Law the punishment for a thief is to cut off their hand. The bible condemns lying and stealing in several books. Proverbs 19:9 says: A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. Leviticus 19:11 says: “Do not steal; Do not lie; Do not deceive one another.” 

Having lived in Uganda for close to four decades and seen how things have been changing within that period, I believe that if a similar survey was conducted among Ugandans aged 35 and above the results would not be shocking. The parents of those youth, the men and women occupying front rows in church, the people proclaiming Jesus or Mohammad several times a day, are dealing falsely.

Dishonesty is highly infectious, only that its symptoms are extremely difficult to detect. They are hidden in the portrait smiles of politicians, spiritual displays of preachers and aloof looks of civil servants. 

When Uganda started to sell off its State Owned Enterprises (SOE) in 1993 she appeared to want to improve service delivery. More revenue would be generated by the government so we would have improved education and health systems, just as an example. 

We would not need to bribe a state official to have him or her endorse payment for the milk or coffee we supplied to the government enterprise. The private sector would run these businesses professionally to make money, pay employees very well and increase government revenue through taxes. Those who were destined to lose jobs would, naturally, be disgruntled. We later would find out that in some cases some enterprises were intentionally undervalued – this was individuals stealing from the common pool. In other cases more money was spent in the process of selling than would be received from the sale of an enterprise. Some people simply drunk wine that belonged to all of us, so we thought. Some asked for forgiveness and we forgave them. We did not know that the more they drunk, the more they wanted. Over time, we are seeing a highly corrupted nation, and the virus of immorality continues to eat us from within.

“Mr. Bailout” has been trending in Uganda until a couple of weeks ago. He arrived in pomp a few months after President Museveni was sworn in for a Fifth term. Mr Bailout had been here before but on smaller missions so he would go barely noticed. This time, however, he had been brought to save indebted Ugandan business people from their creditors, the banks, with at least 1.3 trillion Uganda Shillings. This money was to come from Uganda’s common pool. 

Many Ugandans now felt he was ugly. His name sounded like “bullet.” They didn’t like him, but I think it was more to do with the way he came in. This time, he was too showy. Mr. Bailout had to retreat. He must now be somewhere searching beauty shops for the most attractive cosmetics. He will return with less pomp and quietly take away more than he had earlier come for.

“Mr. Grabbing”, Bailout’s brother came in much earlier but he was more tactical. He came in unpronounced some decades back and he now has offsprings all over Uganda. Power Grabbing, System Grabbing, Money Grabbing, Land Grabbing are all children of Grabbing. The youth bear the true qualities of Grabbing. The children of Grabbing cannot value integrity because Grabbing does not value it. 

The story of someone wanting to grab National Theatre land, adjacent to the Parliamentary Building, continues. Even the 46 primary schools that are currently showcasing talent and culture at the premises in their national annual festival cannot remind Land Grabbing of the value of Uganda’s cultural heritage. For all who come from the line of Grabbing are immoral and attach no value to integrity. Unfortunately most Ugandans today have been made to believe that the only way to survival or success is the Grabbing Way. 

Can someone be accused of spoiling the image of the Uganda Police Force? No. They have no image to protect, not when they have run away from the law and order they were given to keep. Aaron Baguma, formerly Commander of Kampala Central Police Station (CPS), is currently defending himself in the High Court against kidnap and murder of a woman. In August the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, needed the help of hooligans to stop the law from taking its course. He was supposed to appear before a Chief Magistrate in Kampala over police brutality against civilians. The hooligans demonstrated at the Makindye court premises that they and the police force had become one force to fear.

There is so much about the Police in Uganda that one wonders what Police means. The example below is at the lower end: A Christian friend, in fact a preacher, sought the services of the police to recover money from a carpenter who had gone into hiding. The carpenter had earlier taken money but not delivered the furniture to the preacher. After discovering the carpenter’s hideout, the preacher went to a nearby police station and was made to pay a fee to the officer in charge before two officers would be dispatched to effect an arrest.  

The officers were duly assigned and he carried them in his car to the hideout. The manner in which the carpenter was arrested shocked the preacher. After handcuffing the carpenter the officers decided to call for a Police Patrol Vehicle. They bundled the young man on the truck like a hardcore criminal and asked the preacher to follow from behind. The destination was Kawempe where the carpenter had committed the crime. On arrival the officers demanded pay, the driver of the Patrol vehicle demanded pay and a fuel refund. The preacher was confused. He had been cornered. When he murmured something about the Patrol vehicle using government fuel the officers were furious. Their eyes became wider and wilder. “I can even malice you and malice this case,” one officer told the preacher. They threatened him to the extent that he had to pull out all that was in his pocket before they could drive off. 

In the meantime, the officer handling the case was keen on having the complainant outside the office when relatives of the accused arrived for negotiations. Bearing no trust in the officer, the preacher refused to move out. He feared a deal would be cut out between the relatives of the young man and he would go free without paying him, and that was possible. At many police stations in Uganda the phrase is boldly written “Police Bond Is Free.” It actually means “Freedom Is Bought”.

These are the children of Grabbing. They are ruthless. If you want to be helped, you do it the Grabbing way! How can we change this?

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