Being politically correct in Museveni’s Uganda is a problem becoming a culture

By Lukanga Samuel

To be politically correct is to choose words and sometimes actions that avoid disparaging, insulting or offending people because they belong to oppressed groups—those subject to prejudice, disrespect and discrimination on the basis of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and physical disability.

For as long as it politically works for him, Museveni’s led Uganda is smoothly developing a culture of okaying everything—caring less about its impact on the public. The corruption rates in his 38-year led government are telling.

If the interjection “That’s politically incorrect” is uttered with a wry knowingness, it is a serious intent – to challenge the user to think about the social power of a word and the injury it might cause. ‘Political correctness’ in Uganda is failing both the ruling class and its opponents.

Those who are most strongly opposed to the so-called “political correctness” view it as censorship and a curtailment of freedom of speech that places limits on debates in the public arena. They contend that such language boundaries inevitably lead to self-censorship and restrictions on behaviour.
They further believe that political correctness perceives offensive language where none exists. Others believe that “political correctness” has been used as an epithet to stop legitimate attempts to curb hate speech and minimize exclusionary speech practices.

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Museveni’s continued verbals intimidating corrupt officials and calling gangsters pigs with massaging solutions in addition to his opponent’s thinking that winning a bush war presidential product is by ballot voting—makes the culture grow every day.

Ultimately, the ongoing discussion surrounding political correctness seems to centre on language, naming, and whose definitions are accepted.

According to the Whorfian hypothesis, our perception of reality is determined by our thought processes, which are influenced by the language we use. In this way language shapes our reality and tells us how to think about and respond to that reality. Language also reveals and promotes our biases. Therefore, according to the hypothesis, using sexist language promotes sexism and using racial language promotes racism. Uganda under the leadership of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni fully subscribes to Sapir-Whorf’s class of thinking.

Linguistically, the practice of what is called “political correctness” seems to be rooted in a desire to eliminate exclusion of various identity groups based on language usage. For Uganda, the culture of political correctness is growing beyond language, inclusivity is only documented in legal frameworks.

In June 2023, the Office Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) announced its decision to drop investigations into 17 high-profile government officials over iron sheets saga which went viral on not only social media but also to the beneficiaries of the said assets.
So political correctness forced us to think more deeply about our own ingrained and frequently unconscious oppressive attitudes!

All of these, and a thousand more, had the effect of reinforcing the subjugation of people already in a vulnerable position in society. Beyond mere politeness and civility, political correctness is “political” in the sense that it aims at bringing about social change at a time when racist, sexist and homophobic attitudes find expression in everyday language and attract no censure, even though the words are humiliating, disparaging and threatening to the minorities in question.

As a genuinely perplexed student, I once asked a more experienced activist: “Why is it acceptable to call a bloke a prick but not acceptable to call him a cunt?”
“Because”, he replied, “men aren’t oppressed.” I saw it straight away. Apart from the vulgarity of the word, it was politically incorrect to use as an insult a word that denigrates women by sexually objectifying them, as if they are defined by that “repulsive yet irresistible” thing.

Some expressions and behaviours criticised as politically incorrect are subtle, and can leave those reproached puzzled and angry.

It should be remembered that on 29th of January 1986 while addressing Ugandans for the first time, Museveni said “No one should think that what is happening today is a mere change of guard; it is a fundamental change in the politics of our country”

Someone who is politically correct believes that language and actions that could be offensive to others, especially those relating to sex, gender, and race, should be avoided. Is it the case in Uganda!

In US, when Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.” In response to outrage at his statements like this one, Donald Trump replied: “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct”. On this vague platform, Trump made himself a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

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At 38 years yet to be celebrated on 26th January, We still have a chance to dismantle the growing “Mexican immigrant culture” in Uganda. It is a matter of decision-making because we have the capacity but we lack the commitment to act!

For God and My country, Uganda!

The writer is a Social Development Enthusiast and an Ambassador of Humanity.

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