Twinamatsiko, Kibuule: Uganda’s cycle of abuse

Every person who has been abused, or been in an abusive relationship, knows about the apology. It is always there, sometimes genuine and other times not quite, but always supposed to be accepted.

“I am so sorry.”

You know I love you, they will say. I love you too much. I slapped you because I love you. I will never do it again, please don’t go; I will die if you leave. It was a mistake, a moment of insanity.

Some do it so well, they succeed in convincing the abused party to stay a little longer and tell the nurse at the hospital that they are okay, their partner just got a little too passionate. They are safe otherwise. S/he is working on it. They are going to be better.

Others get away with the sorry, not sorry lines. “I didn’t mean it like that.” They will gaslight the abused party until it is not clear anymore where the abuse was. Was it even abuse? It is impossible to address when the bruises are not as visible and clear anymore. It is easier to rush to the aid of a bleeding person.

Abuse is more complicated than just the cut and the slap. It is physical, emotional, mental and economic. When a Minister instructs the police to not address sexual assault, he is using his political clout to aid the abuse of more Ugandans because if the system cannot seek redress for them, then their perpetrators can walk. And when the Parliament refuses to take action by telling us that those were his “personal views,” and gaslights us into forgetting that he was talking as a Minister, as a Member of Parliament and was afforded these platforms because of his political, and not personal, clout – that, too, is part of the cycle of abuse.

Credit: Good ol’ Wikimedia

With their apologies, Ronald Kibuule and Onesmus Twinamatsiko did what every abuser does. And like all other incidents where women have had to accept apologies because we want to believe that they represent some kind of sign that the person understands what abuse is and will do something about it, in our private spaces, we have kept the same optimism.

We should know better, though. Kibuule went on to assault a security guard, has been reported in violent land conflicts and carried a firearm into the Parliament. He shows us again and again that he is an abuser.

In the more recent Twinamatsiko incident, the Bugangaizi representative said, “As a man, you need to discipline your wife… Touch her a bit, tackle her and beat her to streamline her and get her in line.” Representing abusers from the beginning of time, the legislator said “If you don’t beat her, she might think you don’t love her.”

We have heard that line so many times, but optimism demands that we don’t count the ways we have been abused but rather get an apology, accept it and move on.

The politician did not even make a good apology (not that any of them ever has). According to Daily Monitor, he said “The beating I meant was not the normal beating, but another type.” This “sorry, not sorry” shifted the burden of proof onto the abused. He did not seem to understand what was wrong with his assertion that a man needed to beat his wife in order to “streamline her.” If he did, he did not acknowledge it and therefore completely disregarded it as anything of importance. He hoped simply to silence “the angry women” who spoke out.

What beating did he mean? Is there a beating that is not abusive? How does a beating become normal? Why is it called “beating” and what does that say about this love – and normality – that is expressed through violent means?

We should all be scared that these are the people – including all of the members of parliament who cheered Twinamatsiko’s apology – who are tasked with making laws for the country. Let’s not kid ourselves that these views are just personal and there is some line between them and the laws they will pass. We should know better after the discussions of the Marriage and Divorce Bill that were heavily influenced by personal and religious attitudes of the lawmakers.

Most importantly, apologies are not what we want. We have heard enough of those, and if the people in power want to show us that they truly understand abuse and want to stop it, then they should be delivering real consequences for these incidences.

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