A friend, whilst munching groundnuts and sipping tea, atop an office building in the city told me a fable.
That there was once a village that had a prying leopard. It consistently visited them and killed goats from their farms but ate one. The villagers lived in mortal fear of the leopard that nearly no one questioned or stood in its wake.
One day, the villagers set out to have a negotiation with the leopard. The plan, hidden in their files, was to ask the leopard to kill only one goat a week – a rationing of a kind. To also stem the problem of their farms being raided, the villagers offered to provide that goat to the leopard every week.
Years went by and the leopard religiously collected it’s goat and the villagers offered their dues. It was never immediately clear to them what the leopard was offering in return but as long as none of them was getting killed and none of their farms were being sprawled apart, they did their part.
The leopard however started it’s raids again. When the villagers asked, the leopard responded that the circumstances had changed, he had gotten a wife. He needed two goats. They obliged and provided. Soon the leopard had cubs and they too came to collect, the goats increased but then other leopards heard about the generosity of the village and also camped to raid. Soon, only humans were left and there’s no need to guess what happened thereafter.
I recount this fable because, looking back at what happened to Besigye, the Makerere students and journalists on the black 4th of November, should be a quick reminder to the country the pace at which, the leopard of violence is collecting it’s goats of human rights.
In 2001, when the leopard was beating up and wantonly shooting into crowds of Besigye supporters, it didn’t bother Makerere students. It was, for them, an incident far away from their own. For as long as they sat in class and gobbled in 20th century notes from Great Britain, they were sure to get a job and not attend rallies where people were being shot.
It also didn’t bother the journalists because for as long as they wrote the story, filed it to press and the paper hit the streets the next day, they could live to see another day.
Fast forward to 2019, the leopard is, in a single day, coming for all goats and God knows who is next.
The goat farm, which in this case is the coterie of freedoms and rights we each enjoy regardless of our political affiliation, doesn’t seem to be growing but the Leopard – violence, has since made a wife of our silence and birthed cubs of illegal detentions, political intolerance, state-sanctioned murder and broad curtailing of rights.
We may have our petty squabbles on the village over who is sleeping with who’s wife, who’s not paying their bills at the local brewery or even who is not doing their share in building the wells but we must quickly put them aside to stop the leopards that are at the horizon.