We have learnt little and definitely forgotten a lot of such sacrifices in the years that have followed.
By Godwin Matsiko Muhwezi
The Bishop and three others woke up on a normal day, maybe slightly an apprehensive one given the events of the previous few, but certainly they could not have looked forward to what awaited.
They were removed for speaking their truth, perhaps truth that cut too close to the bone.
Officially, they had died in a fatal accident, one that left their bodies “riddled with bullet wounds”, whether Maliyamungu or other henchman pulled the trigger, whether it was President Dada himself, we may never stop poring over the details of what happened, even with a fine-toothed comb.
What is clear is that a few good men, lay their bed; standing against state-sponsored human rights violations. They lay in their bed of thorns eternally paying the ultimate price for having stood up against religious oppression of the masses.
We have learnt little and definitely forgotten a lot of such sacrifices in the years that have followed. We commemorate alright, give a day in honour if just for the sake of adding another public holiday to the calendar, but do we deeply reflect on what these men died for?
If Rwanda’s “Sometimes in April” and Kwibuka are to engrave into the hearts of the survivors a “never again”, what does the memory of our fallen heroes do for Ugandans?
No doubt, this regime always bemoans the tear in our cultural fabric that it is inherited, but rather than stitch it up; we have widened it and transmit it onwards, for future generations. We continue to look on and perhaps abet those who slowly chip at our religious freedoms without regard for our constitution or innate human conscience.
The year 2019 perhaps more than any before exposed whatever doubts remained about Uganda being a religiously intolerant country.
In times of serious economic, health and political concerns, we were more interested in debating Pastor Bugingo’s marital conversations with his spouse instead of looking into the plight of farmers in Kabale and Ntungamo who could no longer sell their produce to relatives and friends across the border in Rwanda, perhaps for the first time since time immemorial.
The Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Father Lokodo spent the year working to control pastors trying to pass a law on how to prepare their sermons instead of helping government respond to allegations of torture, human rights violations and corruption.
What would the late Janani Luwum say to clergy that is devoid of empathy towards the people it serves? What would he say to clergy whose selfish ambition aborts them from catering to the plight of the masses on the hands of the State?
Perhaps the biggest display of sponsored oppression was the witch-hunt and persecution of Prophet Elvis Mbonye. The case against him that he had campaigned against immunisation through social media is a sham.
Any random user of social media could tell that the Prophet did not operate private social media channels but only official public profiles with hundreds of thousands of followers. It was also clear that the alleged account belonged to someone with a totally different name.
How could such information so obvious to an ordinary Ugandan be beyond the technology and expertise of government entities? Was the Prophet not being persecuted for officially speaking against religious oppression being pushed through Father Lokodo’s infamous Bill?
What message are we sending to future generations, when we set up days to celebrate fallen heroes, if we never want to reflect on the seeds they sowed, to purge ourselves of the vice they fought.
Abuse of conscience is a worm that eats at the core of the apple of our society, soon we will have nothing left to hold on to when all ubuntu is eroded. When we remember days like these and heroes like Bishop Luwum, are we only commenting on the weather, or do we get caught in the impending storm?
If we ever are to consider the weight left on our shoulders, we should not be shy to cry all the tears of those who left us standing, but we should start talking about what matters so that we can get the wheels turning.
When we fail to speak up and demand accountability for the persecution going on around us, we are no different from President Dada and his henchmen. In their circumstances, we could have done worse, for whilst we have the benefit of hindsight, we brazenly mock the legacy of our fallen heroes.
The writer is a lawyer and an author