I recently got a chance to watch the soon-to-be released documentary “Fire in the Blood“. The people in the room were anxious- so was I. I was certain that Uganda and South Africa would feature because the movie is about deaths in Africa caused by HIV/AIDS. It is not your typical documentary about HIV though and is jam packed with information about what could have been done. (When we asked the director why he had made the documentary, he said it was because he could not believe no one had told the story.) As I watched this documentary cover issues ranging from the ~10 million people in Africa that were lost to HIV up until the Global Fund that was embezzled in Uganda after a relief program had been put in place, my heart was heavy with emotion.
I will tell you what a deceptively insignificant turn of a deaf ear can do to a population: when pharmaceutical companies in the US refused to release the drugs under the argument that they were patented, Africa had friends, relatives etc. die like flies. All because the government in the US claimed that they had their hands tied, and could not release the drugs. When the money from Global Fund was embezzled in Uganda, we read the papers, screamed for a bit and gave up, and the culprits walked free. We all knew someone or had heard that a life had been claimed by HIV/AIDS. We felt the pain, it was personal and ours to feel. But even when other international forces worked hard to reverse the injustice, the opposite was happening in Uganda where fellow Ugandans-in positions of leadership- found it fit to embezzle the funds meant for ARV treatment.
Then the OPM (Office of Prime Minister) scandal happened. We let it pass too, even if we lost a huge chunk of our donor aid and now have to pay taxes for the 2013/2014 budget. Why do we scream and stop? Have we settled for the least and all we ask for is apologies these days? There is lack of accountability in Uganda. The youth feel and act like temporary residents; a majority focus on attaining an opportunity to leave the country, get a green card in a supposed greener pasture and so on.
I want you to note that if war broke out today, it would find you there. If a deadly disease attacked today, it would also find you there. So act when you have a voice, make a difference because the people in power are obviously not doing it. They simply abuse the power.
As I write this, I am in transit between two cities but I know this story cannot wait because of the weight of emotion right now. I have spent the last 10 days attending a global health training course and conference in Berlin, Germany. At first I did not know how to phrase my experience and the lessons I have learnt from the campaign skills–lab, but now I do. I really do, after hearing a recording of State Minister, Ronald Kibuule’s intentional and directed statements as he addressed the issue of rape to the youth of Uganda and dramatically related it to dress code. I feel disappointed. I feel like someone is doing it on purpose to let these people be in places of power and places they do not realize are representative of the entire state.
I sat through my training, listening to Global Health lawyers, researchers, doctors, peace keepers and so on, come up with resolutions to help what they refer to as “Global South”, to make a better, peaceful and friendly environment, especially for the citizens there. And what do we do as Ugandan citizens? We don’t care, we laugh when the likes of State Minister- Kibuule make comments instigating rape of our children (evident in the recording of his speech). We let detrimental issues pass supposedly because they are small today.
Nothing that threatens another human being’s security, freedom and general well-being can be termed as a small issue. It is a big issue. It is a gigantic issue. It is a humongous issue. And we cannot- we cannot- let such issues pass over and over again, which is what we do when we do not hold leaders accountable; leaders who seem to remain unaware about the implication of their actions.
How can a girl, or young woman and lady in Berlin, or other western city walk around in her short skirt or dress and not worry about rape or not being listened to by the police if she reports rape…but a Ugandan woman cannot? She is free to walk around on the streets of her city without fear of men with whom she shares it traumatizing her life, while a Ugandan woman walks about worrying about how a State Minister basically okayed it with his mindless words.
State Minister for Youth Ronald Kibuule might be in shock about the level of reaction from a few concerned citizens, but this is also about rooting for change. Saying enough is enough, and no more turning a deaf ear or closing our eyes to issues especially when they affect a particular group of people we share the country with. Mr. Kibuule Ronald publicly attacks a particular group of people, in this case, women and youth. He threatens their security, their freedom, state of mind and denies them full rights to access security and protection by the law (a statement like: police should ask for dress code first. Does it mean if she was in a mini skirt, they do not proceed to court?)
Why is there no statement from the Inspector General of Police or the Minister of Gender or from the cabinet about this? It’s what they have done always and are still doing – turning a deaf ear – and this also says a lot about our government officials. Are their hands tied yet again? What makes our leaders so afraid to make a difference in the lives of those they lead? Who is supposed to do this work?
Clearly, we are doing some of it right now. We are not going to sit back and see our country robbed from us, our freedom, our security and everything we stand for as residents and citizens of Uganda. How does this not turn into an immorality holocaust in the future if leaders do not step up and account for every little detail?
Be a part of this change. And do not let small things slide, because they are the pieces that make a bigger and more dangerous picture.
To the individuals out there who say, ‘Girls in mini-skirts deserve to be raped,’ SHAME ON YOU! The ones out there commenting, ‘Well, not all those in mini-skirts will be raped’-SHAME ON YOU! And the one that sits back and says, ‘Ah, this energy will come to pass and we focus on other issues’- DOUBLE SHAME ON YOU!
As a State Minister he represents the entire country, his statements could shape the mentality of the entire country. His statements could endanger real people (mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and baby girls). His statements have repercussions which include: lack of freedom, peace and security, and access to fair judicial proceedings! He promotes crime, inequity and inequality which is global offense. We shall not let this come to pass. We cannot let it come to pass. It’s only right that he leaves office because the people he leads have completely lost faith in him and do not find him fit to represent them any longer. He is not protecting the youth, he is endangering them.
ACTION NOW, and NOT LATER.
Editorial Note: This post was revised at 5:36p.m on Sept 27th (Uganda time) to include the poster image of the #KibuuleMustResign campaign.