Ok, before I get to the gist of my article, I would like to do some education on freedom of speech or/and expression. It is one concept of social life that Ugandans so love for themselves, but strangely want to deny the rest of the people (except themselves) the same. To quote: David F. K. Mpanga (a top Advocate), in the Saturday Monitor of June 2nd 2012 made an interesting statement in his article “The Politics of Common Sense.” It states thus, word to word:
“Freedom of expression is a universally recognised human right. If you are to think about it, freedom of expression would be absolutely meaningless if it only guaranteed our ability to say or express ourselves about wise, well considered and researched things that everybody else agrees with. What it actually does is guarantee the right to express dissenting, eccentric, silly, obnoxious, ignorant, frivolous or vexatious opinions.”
This is not much different from what I have always made of the concept of freedom of press, speech, expression, etc. I believe that if the Uganda police could understand this simple concept, it would save Uganda lots of money, by avoiding unnecessary criminal litigation. Anyway, that is a topic for another day. Believing that I am now secure, I am talking about the so-called Uganda Martyrs. To put it straight from the start, I will say that I personally have never considered them to be martyrs. My reasons will be explained.
First, I do not think this was a religious matter. Their death was not religious matter. In fact, it had nothing to do with their religious convictions. Their alleged murderer; that is, Kabaka Mwanga was not exactly a religious conservative. History tells us that he actually converted to Islam at one point. This is my point: If Kabaka Mwanga was so in love with Buganda traditional religion, he never would have embraced any other religion. But you know he did actually convert to Islam. That simply proves my point. Kabaka Mwanga had no problem with those men joining any religion of their choice. Now you will ask me. Why then did he kill me them. Why did he have them burnt? My answer is here below.
This was a political matter. Not religious at all. To be more precise, the so-called martyrs simply committed treason. They disobeyed the King’s orders in the name of doing what their other King (Jesus) told them to do. And do not begin thinking that Kabka Mwanga had no right to order for their death. You all know that at that time, Buganda, just like most other communities all over Africa was a monarch. And you know what happens in that kind of political setting. The King’s power and order are absolute. They cannot be questioned. So in essence, the Kabaka had all the right to order for their death. He had the responsibility to protect the Kingdom and keep its norms, and above all, he had to exert his political power and be in charge. Then some few rebellious guys are telling him that they owe their allegiance to their “other rightful King.” What would you do if you were in the King’s feet? I stand in defence of Kabaka Mwanga here. This can still be likened to the death of Jesus Christ, which I think was more political than religious. The authorities had no problem with his religious teachings. He only got into trouble over the statement “King of the Jews.” Guys, we live on planet earth and on earth, king is associated with political power, not religious/spiritual leadership. If you follow what transpired up to the death of Jesus Christ, at no one point was he asked about the truthfulness of his gospel. Nobody doubted his religious, moral and social teachings. He simply threatened the political establishment when he started to feel comfortable with his followers calling him “King”, ”Master” and many other names that had political relevancy. If you were King at that time, believe me you would have done just the same thing: order for arrest and execution.
My problem is one; the religious establishment in Uganda simply hijacked the whole matter—playing it to their advantage. If I challenged them, will they openly say that the “Uganda Martyrs” did not do anything wrong? Is disobeying the King’s lawful orders right? If it were a purely religious matter, I believe there would be no Christianity in Buganda today, because nobody would dare risk their lives especially after seeing what happened to those diehards. That is why I insist that there is nothing worth celebrating about the Martyrs day because it is an indirect way of celebrating the success of colonialism over our political and traditional political setting. That is where I find the double standards of religion and its proponents. They so blame the western culture for moral degeneration in Africa; and yet they are the first to discourage the establishment of African traditional religious practices forgetting that one’s’ religion plays a very big role as far as his/her moral attributes are concerned. Actually, I would like to suggest that the current moral values we experience have a direct relationship with the most prevailing religious establishments. That is the nature of our society.
Thus I refer to the first paragraph. If you want to criticise me remember this before you start: Freedom of expression opens doors for serious thought and debate. Before I forget, the Uganda Cranes played bravely and earned a point in Angola. Let us support the boys. Have a great week!