“If I must write, how then shall I write about love in a drowning world
where men are drenched with apathy and self-absorption.
How can I write about nature or its searing beauty amid the filth
of an impassive lot comfortable enough to with the waste they live in
Where shall I find the clever metaphors and fancy parodies to write
to a mindless audience too shallow to appreciate them,
when all I want to ask is why?
Why they sit around with putrid ease like spectators in a Roman coliseum,
watching the pillage of their fellow human beings cheered on by their guiltless silence?..” Extract from the poem A song for Liberty by Wobusobozi Amooti Kangere.
Abwooli Rujumba Omurungi W’Abasambu, It was around and about the ninth day of September the year of their Lord 2009 when I fist stumbled into the company of Vincent Nuwagaba. I was by then acting in the capacity of the 48th Editor-in-Chief of the now defunct The Makererean Newspaper, one of the pioneer Publications of this country.
Thus when I called for applications for various slots on the editorial board that had fallen vacant in the wake of the dissolution of the predecessor Students Guild government, amongst the applicants was a one Vincent Nuwagaba. Needless to say here that he is currently incarcerated in Luzira Maximum prison at the sanction of the State he so fervently told was drifting ‘incorrigibly off course’.
He was a stout man of a frail physique, with thick eyebrows and an accompanying amiable smile. But don’t you be tempted, son of my father, to think that his physical appearance could be in anyway directly proportional to the niceties of his wits. I am yet to stagger upon a person of his intellectual mettle!
The gentleman, unlike most of the applicants, privileged me with a phone call that was dotted with profound humility, maturity, ambition and respect. He called me Comrade and requested that we meet somewhere so that we could share the common vision of how we, as devoted student activists, could chip in to move back our dear Makerere University to the times when the institution was at the crest of her glory- the time when she was called, and properly so, the ‘Harvard of Africa’.
This he said was possible especially by revamping institutions that had propelled her to such great heights amongst which was The Makererean, the subject of our meeting that night. I must say my heart could be no gladder, my evening any better and my soul any jollier especially when imbued by the fact that I had staggered into a person with whom I wholesomely and unrelentingly shared a vision. Those of you who have ever been in such a situation can capture the moment.
After all the delights of introduction and pleasure- exchanging, he then went ahead to hand me his rich resume. The document said of him that he was a Masters Degree holder, had been in Makerere for eight years, one time lecturer of Human Rights at Uganda Christian University Mukono (UCU), was currently in his fist year pursuing a Bachelors of Law degree (LLB) after which he would offer the ‘downtrodden’ pro bono legal services, was a Human Rights defender working with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) but that most of all, a passionate Pan- Africanist. He wanted to be a columnist with our paper.
I took very keen interest in him not for any other thing but for his down- to- earth nature. I was so impressed that even with all those qualifications and academic feats, Vincent was a kind of person who believed that there could never be any indigestion if one swallowed his pride. To him serving his countrymen was his calling even when it called for ‘stooping’ so low as to apply for the position of a columnist in a humble paper as The Makererean leave alone undergoing all forms and kinds of incarcerations as these http://ugandansatheart.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/how-museveni-has-witch-hunted-vincent-nuwagaba/ !
Being a mere first year Student aged just 19 then, it was not only profoundly honoring but also exceedingly humbling that I was entertaining applications even from peritus like Vincent. I never hesitated not only to grant him his prayer, but I proceeded to make him, along with Cde Bwesigye Brian, Cde Rwengabo- Rutashoborokoka Sebastian, Cde Omara Fabian and myself, part of the five man panel that was to help in the screening process of the applicants for various posts.
Rujumba my kinsman, it was then that I realized that Cde Vincent exuded some of the finest instincts of humanity only possessed by such historical figures like Ernesto Che Guevara, Patrice Emery Lumumba, Ken Saro- Wiwa, Mother Tereza , my fallen darling Isenkatinyowe (paternal Aunt) Nyakato Sania Kabyanga not to mention Jesus (Isa) and Muhammad of the scriptures.
Cde Vincent was selfless, possessed eagle- eye foresight, was kind, loving, frank, truthful, eloquent and supremely brave! I could not believe my eyes, lowly as he in fact was, when he like Alexander Solzhenitsyn before him in Russia, daringly chose to speak truth to power and make known the unacceptable plight his browbeaten countrymen were being subjected to- http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/57601!
Cde Vincent before being condemned to the ‘coolers’ under trumped up charges of assaulting a police officer and being remanded for three years of which he is currently serving had decided to take on, at whatever possible cost, the cause of the poor, the cause of the forsaken or ‘the sons of the peasants’ as he fondly called them. Cde Vincent Nuwagaba personified the character in Wobusobozi Edgar Kangere Amooti’s brilliant Poem A song for Liberty who said:
Hand me a stone where I can lodge my podium
and raise my voice for those hearts that have gone silent.
For the hungry children on the callous streets of this city;
desperate and lost without a soul to bear their plight….
I speak for those who cannot speak, not because I am a better man,
but because every war has its weapon, and mine a noisy pen.
I speak these things, not because I haven’t any of my own to speak of
but because it would be shame if woods went silent
when all the tress were being cut down.
He frowned upon the uncurbed thieving and looting of public resources by Gen. Museveni’s government, the stark and sordid abuse of the Human Rights by Gen. Museveni’s functionaries (and the impunity with which they were freely strolling after such macabre deeds), the widespread sectarianism and nepotism were jobs were no longer given out on the basis of meritocracy but what he called ‘familiocracy’ where those who by the accident of history found themselves related to Gen. Museveni or any of the General’s close henchmen were assured of jobs not on the basis of the splendor of their academic transcripts but by their birthright, the lamentable state of the country’s social services, the inexcusable unemployment rates, the entrenchment of the despicable one man rule, the shameless affront to the rule of Law let alone the wanton disregard and non- commitment to the country’s cohesion and unity inter alia.
It is because of this that the central figure of this tale is languishing in the filth of Prison. It is because of exposing the glaring inefficiencies of the incumbent government that he may never complete his Law Degree and go on to offer pro bono services to the underprivileged as has always been his wish. It is because of this that the State will not permit him to enjoy his full rights as a steadfast and concerned citizen of this country. It is because of this that he may never live a happy life for as long as Gen. Museveni is still President of this country unless his spirit is broken and he permits to relent and get compromised which is most unlikely bearing in mind the character of the man I know. It is probably because of this, who knows, that he may never come out of Prison alive!
But be that as it may, Gen. Museveni’s dictatorship may parcel out all this overdose of injustice to innocent Vincent, It may cause him embarrassment let alone the cruelest injury both physical and psychological, it may even kill him (no doubt about that), but am certain and convinced that the State can never decimate the cause for which he is standing. I am fortified in this belief by the struggles partaken by men like him in history.
It was Ken Saro- Wiwa who remarked on the occasion of his acceptance of the 1994 Right to Livelihood award that “The inconveniences which I and the Ogoni suffer, the harassment, arrests, detention, even death itself are a proper price to pay for ending the nightmare of millions of people engulfed by the wasting storms of denigrating poverty on the sea of dehumanization.” Take courage Comrade, in whichever cubicle of the prison that you may be, drawing inspiration in your fights from those remarkable words of that illustrious son of Africa. Take courage my brother.