The Evolution of “Life Presidents” in Uganda

Sam — By Sam from Uganda

Samuel Nakwagala was 25 years old when Uganda attained her independence from Great Britain in 1962. A year earlier, he had joined the Uganda Post and Telecommunications Company as a Postmaster in Busembatia Town in eastern Uganda.

With a lucrative job and happy family, an independent Uganda meant limitless horizons for the Nakwagalas since they would now be directly in charge of their destiny. The 1962 elections were held and the Uganda People’s Congress Party won. Nakwagala’s highschool contemporary Milton Obote was appointed as the executive Prime Minister while Edward Mutesa was appointed as the ceremonial Head of State.

The Nakwagalas were now in full charge of their country. Uganda’s economy was booming with exports of copper, coffee, cotton and hydroelectricity. Uganda’s agricultural sector was feeding the East and Central African region and Uganda’s GDP growth rate was almost the same as that of India and South Korea. A constitution was drafted which stipulated that there would be presidential elections every five years. Ugandans were happy with the federal system of governance because it granted them more control of their affairs and brought services closer to them.

Four years after independence, Milton Obote fell out with Edward Mutesa. Soldiers loyal to Obote attacked Mutesa’s palace and forced him into exile. This marked the beginning of bloodshed in Uganda. A state of emergency was declared; Obote abrogated the 1962 constitution and declared himself president. He went ahead and abolished kingdoms and declared Uganda as a one party state. Corruption, nepotism and assassinations became the order of the day as Obote attempted to do all he could to consolidate his grip on power.

Obote was overthrown by Idi Amin Dada in 1971 and Ugandans welcomed the coup with open hearts. “We were strong believers in kingdoms that Obote had abolished and we had hopes in Amin restoring them. Obote had lost track and denied us the right to elect leaders of our choice but with Amin, we knew we were going to restore the rule of law in Uganda,” says Nakwagala.

Idi Amin started off with economic reforms of Africanizing the Ugandan economy. He expelled immigrants from Uganda in order to create jobs for Ugandans. “We were happy when Amin chased away the immigrants,” adds Nakwagala.

Idi Amin’s honeymoon did not last long. He abolished the constitution, declared himself life president and started ruling by decree. Any opposition to Amin meant death and many Ugandans fled to exile. The economy collapsed because the Ugandans who replaced the expelled immigrants did not have the skills to manage it. Ugandans who had fled to exile mobilized and waged war against Idi Amin with support from the Tanzanian Government and in 1979, Uganda was liberated from Amin’s life presidency.

Ugandans organized the December 1980 elections which were won by former President Milton Obote. One of the contestants, Yoweri Museveni, rejected the outcome and waged war against Obote in February 1981. This war had devastating effects on the economy: lives were lost and out of frustration, Milton Obote was overthrown by his own army in July 1985 and General Tito Okello became the President of Uganda.

Nakwagala’s home was ransacked, his property was destroyed and he was tortured with his children as a punishment for supporting the dethroned Government. General Tito Okello’s reign was short lived as he was overthrown by the guerrilla rebels of Yoweri Museveni in January 1986. Nakwagala chose not to take revenge when his tormentors were defeated by Yoweri Museveni. He instead started a reconciliation initiative in Nasuti Village to promote tolerance in communities in 1986. Community dialogues would be held in his compound, and he would preach peace and sensitize his village mates about the political mistakes of Uganda.

Hope for any peaceful transition of power is a dream that is far from near for Samuel Nakwagala and all Ugandans. General Yoweri Museveni has been President since 1986. He amended the constitution in 2005 to remove term limits and he went ahead to contest for his third term in 2006, fourth term in 2011 and fifth term in 2016. Museveni is now 73 years and ineligible to contest for his sixth term in 2021 due to a constitutional age limit of 75. However, he has tabled a bill seeking to remove the age limit and with his ruling party commanding 80% of the Parliament, that bill will be passed and he will be eligible for his sixth term. With the life presidency syndrome in Uganda, only peace and tolerance as preached by Samuel Nakwagala can enhance harmony after regime change.

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My motivation to join YaLa

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— By Sylvie from Cameroon

October 2016,

Lawyers dressed in robes marched the streets of Buea, the capital of the South West region of Cameroon, demanding an end to a gradual eradication of the common-law system by the civil law, an end to French-speaking magistrates being placed to preside over cases presented by English-speaking lawyers, and an end to marginalization of the English-speaking regions in Cameroon. This was met with violence, beatings, and imprisonment of most of these lawyers.

Like a trigger, the teachers were next calling for a sit-down strike; no schools and no classes until the government put an end to French-speaking teachers being recruited in masses to teach kids who only spoke English, an end to the closing down of Anglo-Saxon education structures, and a demand for better working conditions.

As the teachers and lawyers held their ground and needed the government to meet their demands, trade unions and political parties joined in demanding for a complete shutdown of the markets, banks, offices, and a return to a two-state federation of equal status between the English-speaking part of Cameroon and the French-speaking part, as was agreed during the unification.

This led to mass protests of teachers, lawyers, trade unions, political parties, and the entire population. As a response, the government sent in its military to intimidate protesters and maintain control with whatever means possible. Spraying of itchy water cans, mass arrests, and mass shootings characterised the months that followed in Southern Cameroon.

Sylvie4

With the YaLa project coming up, I decided to join to learn how I could help my people make their voices heard. With knowledge gained, I made a video teaching them how to use Twitter and hashtags to tell their stories. In a matter of hours, my video had above 45,000 views and the entire Southern Cameroon youth became citizen journalists. I called them twitter warriors and with pictures and hashtags, we told our stories to the world. This was eventually picked up by Aljazeera, CNN, and then BBC.

Fast forward a couple of months, the excess use of this medium led the government to shut down internet services in the entire region and we could no longer receive live streams about how the government was killing and imprisoning its own people who, after 50 years of marginalization, finally decided to demand equality in a country that they are meant to call home.

Activists were arrested, teachers were arrested, youth were arrested, and it was left to Southern Cameroonians in the diaspora to keep on pushing the Twitter warfare for their people back home who had no access to the internet.

Here we are, 10 months into the Southern Cameroon struggle, the issues are still there, pressure from international bodies led the government to restore the internet and now all young Southern Cameroonians are citizen journalists and they know how to use Twitter and hashtags and make their voices heard to bring justice and peace to their region.

Thank you, YaLa Academy; You didn’t only inspire me to make that video but you helped the millions who now know the power of Twitter for citizen journalists.

We Have the Say!

Cecil (1)

— By Cecil from Kenya

The 2007-2008 post-election violence that Kenya experienced was all due to ignorance, ignorance of the fact that we were, as citizens, just but pawns in the politicians’ game of chess. They manipulated our feelings, incited our animosity and fanned the flames of hatred that were drawn along ethnic lines.
In Kenya, there are around 43 tribes. What richness in diversity! However, with time, this diversity has morphed into negative tribalism where each tribe seeks to have the larger piece of the national cake.

In 2007, during our national elections, there was the resounding hope that the government would leave power. I remember that our entire extended family had camped at our house for three days as we awaited the results that we hoped would favor the opposition. Funnily enough, with the surety that those we supported would win, we bought a music system ready to welcome the results with celebration. When the results were contrary to our expectations, we were entirely gob-smacked. We felt like we needed to do something, but what?

As people went out on the streets to contest the results, an undesired president was sworn-in in the dark of the night as a ploy to ensure that the citizens would have to accept the outcome. Indeed it was justified that we as citizens, the people with the say, were angry and rather disappointed that in a ‘democratic’ nation, our views were still swept under the carpet in such a condescending manner. It was as if the elections were just a formality with a predetermined winner. It was as if we were automatons ordered to execute whatever our ‘owners’ instructed. However, the line was crossed when politicians who felt duped used their supporters to perpetrate crimes that bordered, or even were, crimes of madness.

Some politicians, from their podiums, were and are still heard echoing statements such as, “Use machetes on those who are against us”. Such statements fueled cruelties that range from the murder of over 50 unarmed Kikuyu women and children, some as young as a month old, by locking them in a church and burning them alive in Kiambaa village near Eldoret, to the cold blooded shooting of civilians who were protesting in the slums of Nairobi. Tribalism continued to peel off its mask and reveal itself in its rawest form when women were raped and their husbands killed in the Rift Valley regions, when looters broke into stores and made away with whatever valuables they found in deserted cities, and when the displacement of people occurred all throughout the country.

Schools were closed, workplaces shut-down, and most other Kenyans, including myself, were locked in their homes, in fear of stepping out to an embroiled and volatile environment. Life was indeed brought to a standstill! However, if we, as Kenyans, knew our worth, and realized that we could express ourselves in other ways apart from violence, we would not have caused the death, displacement, and heartbreak of many. We should realize that politicians could potentially use us as tools, but the line should be drawn when they want to use us as tools for evil.

The anticipation surrounding this year’s election is palpable. It seems to be a two horse race between, Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, who are the children of the founding fathers of the nation. Their rivalry dates back to when their fathers, Jomo Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga, had differences on how power would be shared right after independence in 1963. Thereafter, Jomo became president and Oginga the leader of opposition. Seeing that the two were from the different Dholuo and Agikuyu communities, the ‘vendetta’ seems to have transcended generations and is at full swing once again this year. The unease in the air can be felt by all, as each of these and other language groups prepare to take their place on the political table, and if possible, snatch the highest seat. There is also the fear that what happened in 2007 will happen again. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission promises a free and fair election with the incorporation of digital voting, which we really do want. However, this time, if rigging occurs once again, we shouldn’t be used by politicians to accomplish their own self-centered desires, but in a spirit love, we should draw together as a nation and speak up for what we believe in….WITHOUT VIOLENCE.

Reunited with Family after War

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— By Clare from Uganda

We are having breakfast at home, in Mpondwe, at the border of Uganda and Congo. The environment is so quiet, and all we can hear is our conversation and the sound of the birds in the trees surrounding our home. It is 1996 and I am only three years old; my elder brother Ronald is five and the younger one Kenneth, only one year old. Our parents are at school in Kampala, which is 346km from home. We are under the care of the house help, Betty and a cousin Janet, who are 20 and 17 years old.

At the time, there is an insurgence in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is said that the Allied Defense Force (ADF) rebels are planning an attack on the government of Uganda. Our home, being at the border of the two countries, is a potential target for the rebels.

As we enjoy our breakfast, Betty is telling us stories of how the rebels raid places. She is a refugee from DRC, who settled in Uganda. She tells us about how rebels attacked her home in Beni, in Eastern DRC and burnt their house to ashes. Her story is cut short, as we hear a loud bang in the back yard.

Within no time, unknown people surround our home. Some are dressed in leaves and others in rugs. Around their necks, they carry guns and other machines. Betty has been through this kind of situation before, so, she shouts; “Nibarebo!” meaning “They are rebels!” I am so scared to the teeth that I pee in my pants. Janet and her carry us to the house and tell us to hide under the bed in the master bedroom. As soon as we get there, the rebels start firing gunshots to our end. Some of the bullets land at our feet, but we cannot move an inch. A few minutes into the firing, Betty orders us to move to the next bedroom. The gunfire is intense outside the house, but the rule is no crying nor getting hungry.

It goes on for hours, but we just hang in there. Janet tells us to pray; but we tell her that the rebels will hear us. She insists that rebels are against God’s will, so they will not hear us when we pray. We start reciting the rosary. Within no time, darkness has fallen. We cannot sleep, but the light rays striking through the window indicate that it is a new day. Phewww! Thank God we are alive.

The goats are bleating and making big stamps, as if being released from their shed. Betty and Janet peep through the window and watch them being taken away. “One of them has a knife; he is slaughtering the fattest of them all.” Janet whispers to us. “Oh yes, that is the one which recently gave birth to twins!” Betty reacts. “Are they going to give us some meat?” my elder brother Ronald asks. We are very hungry, and Kenneth cannot hold it any longer. He crawls out of the bedroom. We try to pull him back, but he insists and returns with a dish of left over rice from the store next door. That is like finding water in the middle of a desert. We all take a bite and get some energy to keep us going. But while we eat, one of the rebels outside shouts “I think they are still alive!” We then hear a loud bang on the roof, this time it is louder than before. The next bedroom is on fire. There is so much smoke and we are all chocking. The place gets quiet again. We are wondering; “Should we move out of the house and surrender to these beasts?” “No we cannot!”

The wait is too long, we are anxious, so we decide to move out. The roads are filled with burnt tires, bullets and ash. We begin to trek, but where are we going anyway? We are not even sure whether it is safe to even walk around. As we walk through the empty streets, we find an old man seated by the roadside.
“My children, where are you going?” He says to us.
“We do not know where to go, but one thing for sure is, we want to go where other people are” says Betty to the man.

“I do not have the strength to walk, like you young people do. Because if I do, I will die, so I have decided to sit here and wait for the rebels to shoot me dead. But since you are young and energetic, please go to Kasese town. That is where everyone ran to when the rebels came. When you get there, pray for me also, as I pray for you my children” He said.

He hugs us and off we go. At that time, all I feel is joy and renewed strength. Kasese is about 55 kilometers away. We start our journey, as Betty narrates to us stories. She says you can never realize how long your journey is, if you converse. It is quite a peaceful journey until we reach the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here, darkness begins to fall, and we wonder how we are going to walk through this danger zone filled with wild animals. As we wait in the dark for another morning to come, we notice a car approaching us from a distance.

It is our parish Priest Fr Augustine Kithendere. He asks us to enter his truck and says to us “I was with your father today; he is very weak because he thinks the worst happened to you. Oh thank you Jesus for keeping these angels safely.” Fr Augustine then takes us to the church in Kasese town, and we are reunited with dad. Dad has lost so much weight, but the joy of reuniting with his children surpasses everything. He cannot believe that he is seeing us again. To date, dad says it was because of patience that we survived.

I Was Simply Getting Ready for the Day…

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— By Adebisi from Nigeria

Some days seem hotter than others; especially in April when the morning sun is in a haste to beautifully display its radiance and cast its heated smile on everyone. That was the case that Monday morning. Until a big bang altered the day’s DNA. It knocked me out of the bed and woke me to a shaky building, the walls vibrating and the roof gnashed their teeth until its sound hit a crescendo.

I rushed briskly to the window, wondering at my own safety, but everywhere was calm the very second the blast ended. I overheard someone says it was a rock blast at a quarry site nearby, so I moved ahead with my day like nothing significant had happened. Hurrying to fix breakfast and get set for the day, I was barely done with any particular chore when my phone rang. “Hello, hope you are fine? I’m just checking up on you”. That was the voice of a very old friend. Then the phone rang again and it was my mother. Why is she calling again this morning after we already spoke last night? Then it was my dad calling; “We heard there was a bomb blast this morning, just checking on you”. He hung up. It was at that moment I realized the whole neighborhood was rowdy with everyone rushing to the scene of the bomb blast.

It was Monday the 14th of April 2014. A bomb had blasted in Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and it was obviously the handwork of the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram. Looking up to the sky towards the direction of the scene (a few miles from my residence) was a gigantic cloud of smoke rising slowly into the heavens. Minutes later, images of hundreds of dead bodies, all burnt and blasted to death made headlines social media. Headless bodies mingled with shredded human parts. An arm lying atop a car, limbs across the culvert, a woman holding tight to her baby (both dead anyway), busted bellies, broken brains and a few survivors still shivering in an almost lifeless state. Then an unborn baby busted out of a pregnant woman alive, with the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, lying in a pool of blood left everyone awestruck.

About thirteen luxury busses, then some smaller busses, countless private cars got caught in the blast. It was the worst attack ever, yet it happened so close to me. But that Monday morning had a lot more in store. As victims were rushed in their hundreds to hospitals and pharmacies, the telephone lines jammed as a result of the thousands of calls emanating from that direction. Over the news, the incident was reported mildly “A bomb blasted in Nyanya, killing about thirty people. Boko Haram has taken responsibility for it. Also over two hundred girls were reportedly abducted from a boarding school in Chibok; a small village in Borno state of Nigeria”.
The president came on air to condemn the act and consoled the family of victims while promising to take care of the survivors’ medical bills. Just as days went by, and the events were about to be swept under the carpet, a global movement began.

Everyone, demanded the President to “Bring Back Our Girls” and that was it; the birth of a new movement that continuously sat-out in public places and daily requested the speedy return of the Chibok girls. Then as this movement began gaining momentum, the news reported that no girls were abducted in Chibok on that morning and that this movement was politically driven, and aimed at destabilizing the government. That sounded believable and just as I was about to believe it, the news reported that seven of the abducted girls had been rescued by the military. Then I heard that a search party from the United States of America had arrived Nigeria to comb the Sambisa forest (a forest that lies along the Nigeria and Niger republic border) and rescue the Chibok girls. Then I heard silence, and again a series of rumors every once in a while about the rescue of some more Chibok girls.

The government through our local media agencies had at some point lied about the total reclaim of territories controlled by the terrorist group. The truth is only made known through international media agencies since the Nigerian government cannot influence nor have their report edited by the State Security Service (S.S.S) as they do with the seemingly largest television network in Africa before broadcast. What this implies is that the larger population is fed with lies and only those that can afford the high rate of subscribing to cable networks monthly have a chance of hearing the truth as it happens.

Hey Trump! Africa Has Something to Tell You

We asked seven YaLa members from across the continent what they wish they could say to the new American President.

  1. I hope 20 January 2017 is an opportunity for you to cool down hearts of those in fear as what would happen to them. Be president of everyone as the champion of Democracy.”

“Hey Trump! Congratulations for your victory in the 2016 Presidential Elections and for being America’s 45th President! Americans have spoken on behalf of the World through voting. Much has been spoken before, during and after the elections but what the World should do now is accept the current sphere for the World betterment. Why do I say the ‘World’ in place of America? Because America is for everyone and when things go wrong in America everyone on earth is affected in one way of the other; being it economically, politically and so on. I know you were the victorious as a result of what you promised the World to fulfill. Yes, some of the promises were good and others may not go well with other quarters of the World. I hope 20 January 2017 is an opportunity for you to cool down hearts of those in fear as what would happen to them. Be president of everyone as the champion of Democracy. Let the World enjoy America with good faith.”

– McDonald, 27, Malawi

  1. “Believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve in life and always remember that if Hillary can reach that height, you can too.”

“First to Hillary Clinton, I have to congratulate you for your beliefs and for the good work you have done for America in the last few years under the president Barack Obama government and I must say you have done a very good job. To the ladies out there supporting Hillary, thanks for your courage and the passion you showed to promote Hillary to become the 45th America’s President which didn’t eventually work out. My advice to you is that violence isn’t needed because nothing can stop Donald Trump from ruling. I can just tell you to believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve in life and always remember that if Hillary can reach that height, you can too. To America’s 45th President: Donald Trump, congratulations, you deserve to rule the nation not only from your great manifesto but also for your inspiring winning speech. Please remember your promises, help fight immortalizes and help make America great again under you. God bless Trump, God bless America.”

– Dada John, 24, Nigeria

  1. Guess what Trump, we are Africans, not failures. We will sail, and not sink. We, like the United States of America, will invent and innovate our way into high stake prosperity. So do yourself a favor and be a part of our success story.”

“Hey Trump, congratulations for your electoral victory at the polls. I must say that you were not my favorite candidate as my feminist perspective gravitated towards your female opponent, but I am delighted that the majority had their way. You were also not the favorite of many young Africans because of your proposed migration policies, but I wish to tell you that Africa has come of age. We are not that jungle waiting in the dark for re-colonization, we are off to an A-game. While you perfect your plans to deport African migrants, I am so optimistic that these migrants will come home and be the pioneers of our home grown technology. Us, the young Africans back home, we are not folding our arms and waiting for your foreign aid. We are building our human capital. We have realized that our future is not in the extractive industry and while we may not have the best leaders, believe me Trump, someday very soon, Africa will shut her doors to Western influence in readiness to sink or sail. And guess what Trump, we are Africans, not failures. We will sail, and not sink. We, like the United States of America, will invent and innovate our way into high stake prosperity. So do yourself a favor and be a part of our success story.”

– Adebisi, 33, Nigeria

  1. I am looking forward to seeing you implementing everything you said as it will sure show you are a man of your word.”

“Dear Trump…Congratulations for the win…. From the first day you showed interest to run as President I preferred you only because am a fan of your books and I feel your approach towards Africa will make us grow. The fact that you portray us as a poor bunch who can’t survive without Aid , please know that we are a very rich continent blessed with all sorts of resources but it’s people like you who have brainwashed us into thinking we are poor. I am looking forward to seeing you implementing everything you said as it will sure show you are a man of your word. As an African I am not offended by your words as they make me realize that my life matter and I’ve work to do with it.”

– Lena, 30, Malawi

  1. “I congratulate you not because you somehow managed to insult ‘everyone’ and still win the hearts of many. I congratulate you because you proved to the world that even a multitude will always give way to a man who knows where he is going”

“Respect for others especially our elders is one value most Africans are brought up with. So, I won’t come here trying to call you Trump like I was scolding my neighbor’s cat. Hello Uncle Trump, Congratulations on leading a mass rebellion and revolution on the Government of the United States as we’ve come to know it. I congratulate you not because you somehow managed to insult ‘everyone’ and still win the hearts of many. I congratulate you because you proved to the world that even a multitude will always give way to a man who knows where he is going. To say that I was heartbroken that Hillary Clinton lost is an understatement. Not that she is related to my ancestors or that we must have been kinsmen in a past life, the attack on her gender despite being a round peg in a round hole awakened the feminist in me. Thank you for the call to do more for girls all over the world. Oh! And if you really decide to send home all my kinsmen who are ‘stealing all your jobs’, don’t leave my grandfather and his monkeys out. After all, it is a farmer who wants to steal yams that remains on the farm long after his mates have found their way back home.”

– Anuoluwapo, 24, Nigeria

  1. Please don’t lose sight of the real task ahead, and you shouldn’t forget those workers whose jobs you promised to restore. Forget the idea of building fences or any other such barricade or constrictions, the world is so intertwined that nobody can stand all alone.”

“Dear Trump, Your victory came as a huge surprise to many around the world. The margin was reasonably significant and I take it to be a clear reflection of what Americans want. Congratulations on your hard-earned victory! As you prepare to strut into the White House in January, please remember that Americans are watching you and people in all corners of the earth are looking on to see what you’ll make of the opportunity offered you to serve. Please don’t lose sight of the real task ahead, and you shouldn’t forget those workers whose jobs you promised to restore. Forget the idea of building fences or any other such barricade or constrictions, the world is so intertwined that nobody can stand all alone. Muslims, Christians, traditionalists, — plus any other religion one professes to follow — we are all one and there’s no gains in fanning the flames of disunity or division. American can only be great again if everyone is United, if there’s equality and freedom and hope for people toiling every day to better their lot. Peace breeds progress as much as unity drives cooperation.”

– Linus, 23, Nigeria

  1. Now, bring on the surprise, Mr. Trump! Desperation for power can make a person do surprising things; maybe we will see a new Trump in the aftermath of this fierce election.”

“Hey Trump, the rest of the world woke up in shock and awe as USA decided to create a NEW WORLD ORDER by granting you a stunning victory that many -like me- find it very difficult to comprehend. Majority rule simply prevailed for a ‘’Trumping’’ Trump-Pence leadership. Suffice it to say, once the ‘’shock fever’’ passes, we would surely be privy to glimpses of some rational explanation for such reality. Honestly, I am bed-stricken with ‘’shock’’, but, still holding onto my analytic lenses. A Trump government must be based on working together, social justice and economic renewal, rather than sowing fear and division as cried by many. And the solutions we offer have to improve the lives of everyone, not pit one group of people against another. From where I sit, I can only wish Americans the very best of luck in this new era because they need it in the next 4 years or more. They have made their choice. The urgent necessity is now for us all to work across continents including my Ghana to tackle our common fair share of the global challenges facing us. In the words of John F. Kennedy, a former USA president, ‘’Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty’’.  Now, bring on the surprise, Mr. Trump! Desperation for power can make a person do surprising things; maybe we will see a new Trump in the aftermath of this fierce election.”

– Theodora, 27, Ghana

Have Bullets Become the New Chains of the Black Man?

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— By Steven from Namibia

I would have never imagined that I would stand on the very steps Martin Luther King Jr spoke from on May 17th 1967. Here at the Sproul Plaza at University of California-Berkeley, he spoke to a community of people that have suffered significant trauma. The hub of free speech from the time of Martin Luther King Jr fifty something years later still mourns the injustices against black people.

The atmosphere was solemn as final preparations were being done. Students, faculty, community members, black white, latino and allies were all gathered for a vigil to honor those that had suffered under police brutality in the past two weeks. The resounding storyline is that the shootings are nothing new; what are new are the videos and social media that have brought light to the ferocity of this violence. Mothers are afraid for their sons; they worry about whether their sons will get home safely night after night. The increase of police presence does not calm the situation and put people at ease but rather increases the fear and the anxiety of the black community. “To protect and serve”, the foundational slogan upon which the police department is built, is met with skepticism and sometimes repugnance. One of the African fellows here at UC- Berkeley mentioned that he is afraid to stay out late fearing for his life because he is not immediately distinguishable from the locals.

One cannot help but realize that the Black Lives Matter movement is part of a larger ongoing story for justice. The vigil began with a short formal program acknowledging the University and the Cal Black Student Union for ensuring that the event takes place. Thereafter was an open mic for anyone who wanted to share words, songs, chants for catharsis. There were messages filled with encouragement, positivity and others full of pain, anger and frustration. However this was a safe place for us to feel, speak and be. Hearing our voices, singing, being together was healing in of itself.

Taking into account our Namibia history with apartheid, I felt connected to the stories being shared. For centuries black people have suffered and carry that trauma which is not easy to “just” get over with. One of the student speakers said a profound statement “we are always fighting, never healing”. It is sad to see how inequality has been hemmed into the very fabrics of our history and society. The blood of the innocent young men and women cries for justice. How long until our narrative changes from suffering to thriving? How long and how often do we forgive and turn the other cheek until it is enough?

I, for once, had to examine my own heart to look into my prejudice and start to interrogate and speak against the systems that proliferates inequality. My silence speaks to the normalization of injustice. As a Namibian I cannot help but think; have we truly reconciled? Are the playing fields equal in access and opportunity or shall we too have our day of reckoning?