By Henry K. Otafiire
After months of carpet bomb advertising, Uganda is about to swing its doors open to MTV MAMA awards- the biggest music festival on the continent and this is presenting a big problem.
Public opinion has been sharply divided on whether MAMA awards should continue with the event that has pitted two camps against each other.
Those supporting MAMA awards vociferously argue we shouldn’t politicise a musical spectacle that has the potential to open floodgates of tourists to part with good dollars to resuscitate our already limping economy brutally bruised by COVID-19.
While those pushing MAMA awards to be cancelled are making a strong case that in the wake of recently held elections that have been marred by irregularities and that sponsors and organisers have a moral duty to cancel the event in the face of glaring carnival of injustice.
When the idea of Uganda hosting MAMA Awards in February came up, it was envisaged it would be an event where our irreconcilable political differences would be mended, where the country would unite after polarising elections, where an entire national mood could be captivated and charmed by a single music spectacle.
A celebration of art; showcasing of talent, in its purest and most refined form. It’s a fair bet that many of us didn’t foresee the impeding backlash that the event has attracted.
Over the last several weeks, the sustained anti- MTV MAMA Awards campaign has gained traction exposing to the world the ugly underbelly of what our political contestation has become.
So, someone with actual power and clout prepared to stand up to the dictatorial government of Uganda, and lobby the MAMA Awards to cancel the proposed musical festival emerged.
Who is this mysterious philanthropist, heroic knight of human rights? Angel of justice? Well, I consulted my loyal friend google and the name Jeffrey Smith popped up in the top corner of my smart phone screen.
The idea that most vehement opposition to the event comes not from Uganda’s renowned activists but from Jeffrey Smith, the self christened moral high hat, should at the very least give us an opportunity to go for a quite socially distanced walk as we summon our faculties to a moment for introspection.
Many Ugandans have thronged the internet to push his cause. I know these are disorienting times, and so perhaps it’s not surprising that a few unholy alliances were going to be formed along the way.
Jeffrey Smith himself who on twitter this week has been gravely chastising the organisers on hosting of MAMA awards, opposing it on moral and ethical grounds.
Much as we are upset with state of affairs, am sick to the stomach that Jeffrey Smith is a leading crusader to this campaign.
His patronising and condescending attitude dressed up as advocacy for human rights, makes us overlook the elephant in the room.
Jeffrey Smith heavy-handed campaign has just emboldened the significant body of opinion within a section of our chattering elite class that a struggle for a better and free Ugandan shouldn’t be a product of our initiative but a benevolent white man divorced from our reality.
Without trivialising valid points like the temptation and urge by government to use the event as a smock screen to whitewash and sanitise a litany of injustice bedevilling our country that has just emerged from a highly charged elections and the moral responsibility of big brands like MTV to shine a light and use their platforms to highlight those very issues.
There is a danger of trying to shed a light on this supposedly a genuine cause by opening up so accommodatingly to the toxic and suspect motives and influences of foreigners.
We need to rise to occasion and take a front seat to causes for a better and free Uganda instead of accepting that emancipation project has become a grubbier business of those apart from sermonising lectures have no idea how our internal contradictions should be contested and resolved.
The author is a social and political commentator