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We shall perish like fools – EOC Boss warns of potential disaster over growing sectarianism

Kampala, (UG): A senior member of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has rallied the country to urgently address the growing sectarianism if dangers associated with the voice are to be averted before they graduate into a national catastrophe. 

Mr Sseruwagi Habiibu, a member of the Commission says is concerned about the glaring incidents that depict an increase in the voice he says he has witnessed washing away and crippling nations that failed to address it in its early stages.

Sseruwagi’s concern stems from a rare experience he had when he visited a police station to seek help only to be thrown sectarian questions such as his tribe which left him confused. 

“I recently visited a police station to report a case and left crestfallen because of the sectarian nature of the information they demand to collect from their visitors. One of them is, which tribe do you belong to? I left scratching my head, up to now asking myself what one tribe has got to do with getting service at a police station. It’s sectarianism.” He recounts.

In his opinion published in the DailyMonitor on Friday, November 18, Sseruwagi notes that while sectarianism is often labelled as ‘religious’ and/or ‘political’, the reality of a sectarian situation is usually much more complex.

In its most basic form, he says, sectarianism has been defined as, ‘the existence, within a locality, of two or more divided and actively competing communal identities, resulting in a strong sense of dualism which unremittingly transcends commonality, and is both culturally and physically manifest.

If not addressed strategically according to him, Uganda sits on a ticking time bomb despite strides made in evolving as a unitary nation.

Referring to the third point in the NRM Ten Point Programme of 1986 is “Consolidation of National Security and Elimination of All Forms of Sectarianism”. The first and second points are “Democracy” and “Security.”

The revised Ten Point Programme issued at Kololo by President Yoweri Museveni on October 9, 2012, during the Golden Jubilee independence celebrations, “Eliminating sectarianism” was number 2 after “Fighting ideological disorientation,” for which he credits President Museveni’s efforts in continuously preaching against the vice.

“Indeed, President Museveni has continuously been an astute preacher against sectarianism. In his recent address at the 37th NRM day celebrations in Kakumiro, Museveni reiterated his anti-sectarian gospel. He said that acquiring positions based on tribe or religion, among others; can easily bring down institutions, adding that NRM has survived the terrain because it’s a broad-based government.”

The EOC boss expounded on the dangers of Sectarianism based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender and other forms which he said is the worst form of backwardness that has endangered human existence and kept society back for long.

He says it led to the holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis, the Rwanda genocide of 1994 and post-genocide mop-ups that have since thousands decimated in DR Congo; mass killings in Sudan, Central African Republic (C.A.R), the Kenyan post-election violence in Kenya (2007/2008) and the unending Somalia problem.

Across the Indian Ocean, Seruwagi explains that Hindus and Muslims are all over each other; in the Middle East, so many Arab sects are against each other and then collectively against the Israelites. In Europe and the Americas, racism refuses to go away and we all remember Apartheid in South Africa and how it is resurfacing wearing different costumes.

He went on to amplify the need to revisit the NRM Ten Point Program which he says prioritises the fight against sectarianism which he fears could have more grave outcomes upon the motherland than many think.

“The public should be reminded of NRM’s Ten Point Programme and what it set out to achieve; it has never expired but continues to challenge today’s generation which is good at ignoring wise counsel and lawful sanctions intended to safeguard national unity and social cohesion. People are quick to think of themselves as being special or attribute any action done to other considerations warranting resorting to tribal or religious identity,”

The bush war combatants fought and won victory because they were cohesive and did not think of their natural differences. Today, instead of using our unique attributes to serve society and all, people create artificial differences based on temporary disagreements or pursuits.

How can someone get killed for a small error, if we think of Arnold Ainebyoona who was gunned down by a guard at a shopping mall in Naalya, and then the whole thing becomes a tribal issue? How can Kenneth Akena get shot and die and the whole thing becomes tribal?

How does someone get appointed to a position or another gets sacked for incompetence and the issue becomes tribal?” He rhetorically wonders.

Sseruwagi has therefore appealed to the Department of National Guidance under the Ministry of ICT to pay significant attention to upgrading the mindset of Ugandans as a collective people. There is no day Uganda will cease being a republic and revert to being fragmented along ethnic and fiefdom lines.

He adds that Identity is something to be proud of but it does not address the greater question of human existence which is to overcome challenges together and succeed together. Poverty, disease, criminality, illiteracy, and climate change, among other daunting challenges of the world, do not care for one’s identity and suffer the hit equally.

By failing to address, and in some cases actively supporting, sectarianism in Uganda, Sseruwagi warns that seeds of disunity are sown among our people. For a society facing many pressing economic and political challenges, this disunity is a convenient tool, helping to divert public attention from the most important task of all – the battle for freedom and social justice in the country.

Sseruwagi’s warning comes against the backdrop of a wide, misconstrued debate following a report released by the Equal Opportunities Commission on the distribution of resources in the country which a section of the public has unfortunately turned sectarian by identifying tribes and individuals for reprimand.

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