In Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, ‘there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt, as injustice’.
It is fair to assume that Parisians would not have stormed the Bastille, Martin Luther King would not have fought white supremacy in ‘the land of the free and home of the brave, Gandhi would not have challenged the empire on which the sun used not to set’, without their sense of manifest injustices that could be overcome.
They were not trying to achieve a perfectly just institution or world, but they did want to remove clear injustices to the extent they could.
In a justly famous paper called ‘what is it like to be a bat’, Thomas Nagel presents some foundational ideas on the mind – body problem.
The pursuit of good governance which includes justice has something to do with similar question: what is it like to be a human being in Uganda?
In his paper, Nagel was actually involved with human being and very marginally with bats.
Unfortunately, however, it is bad enough that the Uganda in which we live has so much deprivation of one kind or another (from being hungry in Karamoja to being tyrannized and brutalized like Fatuma’s recent undressing incident).
It would be even more terrible if a journalist, presidential candidates give up and were unable to communicate and altercate.
There are Ugandans so deprived that unless God appears to them in the form of bread, they will not recognize him. Recently, we heard the minister for Karamoja say don’t argue, the cause of famine in Karamoja is drinking ‘waragi’.
This was followed by the police boss statement to Fatuma, not to argue but take 40 millions and her tainted public image and violated rights would be restored. Will the 2016 elections enable Ugandans to attain a balance of justice?
One would argue that the main cause of injustice in Uganda is the personification of office and the assumption by Ugandan leaders that without them, the country will not survive.
It is very reminisce of what King Louis XV of France used to say (“Après moi, le déluge”). “After me, the flood”.
There are those who still believe that the diabolic project that they initiated 25 years ago is incomplete and are waiting to release yet another fulcrum on the Uganda’s petroleum oil sector.
But, not all hope is lost, there are alternatives that opposition presidential candidates can consider; first, they can agree on the manifest injustice of particular institution and behaviour pattern and the urgent need for their removal. Even without having the same view of an ideal Uganda society with perfectly just institutions.
Secondly, their focus may not be only on institutions in contrast with the social contract to be signed with electorates. They can go beyond institutions, important as they are; to pay direct attention to the nature of the lives that Ugandans are actually able to lead and the actual freedom that they enjoy.
Third, the assumptions of compliant behaviour being domesticated by members of the central plank may lead to elimination of some of the important aspects of demands for freedom. An approach to removing ‘unfreedom’ should not have nothing to say about corruption, favouritism, and chauvinism.
In a great many Ugandans lives, happiness is an occasional episode in a drama of pain.
I believe reasoning with oneself and reasoning with others are the two basic tools our politicians have to put our perceptions right and appropriately adjusted in changing citizen’s lives and the country in which we live.
Walter Ochanda, the author, is an International Development Specialist