Following a traffic dispute this weekend, Lt. Col. Juma Seiko shot and injured three civilians: pew pew pew, like that mbu.
This incident comes after so many other cases of army dudes popping off at the rest of us in traffic that it seems shooting civilians off the streets is the hot new trend.
Black Lives Don’t matter.
Or maybe it is not a new trend and is more a reboot of an older one. It’s uncanny how everything from the eighties is coming back these days — Terminator, Rambo, locust invasions — but Uganda has in the past had streaks of citizen-shooting, especially in those eighties, when many a reckless bullet was served by the army to whichever useless, rankless mwananchi was foolhardy enough to be in the wrong way of the wrong soldier.
Ask your uncle if you are old enough, or if you are part of Generation What Next: find a grandparent and ask them about a man called Obote. Omugurusi will probably tell you about the conundrum they often found themselves in when, walking down a dark road they would notice that, at one end of the street, there was a gang of thugs preparing to rob them.
At the other end, there was a small troop of army personnel.
Throughout the entirety of the decade, no Ugandan ever managed to solve the equation of which you should run away from the fastest.
The more intelligent citizens learned to carry spades in their backpacks, so when they found themselves in this situation, they would not run forward or run backward, but would instead dig downwards.
No, not to make an escape tunnel. They were just giving up and digging their own graves.
A perceived lull in army shootings lasted through the famed era of peace and development when only occasionally would we hear of a crazed soldier discharging his or her weapon, and then it was often alcohol, not a culture of impunity that was to blame.
However, now we can’t be too sure. Too many of us have caught too many bullets for us to not soil our underwear at the sight of a beret.
The alleged accused army person in every case we have heard of was taken by police to be subjected to the law. This should engender confidence. Now we know that if we are shot by a soldier, someone will be called to account.
Confidence, yes, but scant relief as we would much rather not be shot in the first place.
The opposite of confidence is being engendered simultaneously. A Ugandan soldier is meant to fight for you, to protect your life against danger.
But now we are more likely to fear that the soldier will fight against you to protect his car. I am not so sure I am confident about the army any more.
Some of you will be outraged. You will stamp feet and raise fists and bellow about how you will not be intimidated.
Good luck with that. I’m not joining you. That kind of attitude is how you get capped in the first place. I, for one, am thoroughly intimidated and ready to lie low and cower in submission to the imminent tyranny, lie as low and flat as necessary.
As far back as the Nantaba shooting, I was already so intimidated by soldiers in traffic that whenever I heard those sirens that indicate nti it is time to swerve into the gutter so that the Honourable Majestic Supreme Demigod in the tinted windows can pass, whenever that happened, before even swerving the wheel desperately left, I would first shout, “Siri! Quick! Play Catherine Kusasira. Any song of her’s– I don’t care! Just play Cathering Kusasira! Delete Filename Wendi By Bobi Wine.mp3 and, for mercy’s sake, play Kusasira!”
I am so intimidated that I want to apply for the job of a driver for a government official because that is the safest place I can think to be.
If I am the driver of the the bigshot (no pun intended) and there is any dispute with another driver, I will be on the shooting side, not on the being shot side.
An army officer carries the entire might of the entire nation in his/her orders. That is a lot of power.
The only thing that would keep us safe is “He knows he is not supposed to shoot me.”
If that no longer works, if soldiers don’t know that they are not supposed to shoot civilians, we are not citizens, we are victims. We are not citizens, we are collateral. We are not safe.