It is said that rats are usually the first to sense an impending disaster, like a sinking ship or a collapsing building. They quit in huge numbers! So when you see the rats leaving, run! In aeroplanes, no matter how much the plane is bouncing in turbulence, relax and sip your juice; just watch the cabin crew.
If you see them panicking, pray! It is just about the only useful thing you can do when you are 15kms up in the sky. For a nation, the rule is, watch the diplomatic community. If you see ambassadors packing their families, don’t ask, run! That is the story of Sudan just now…the diplomats, who only flee when they see redemption is nowhere near, have fled.
How fast things can change!! How vulnerable everyone can suddenly turn out to be! In two weeks, brethren are fighting like strangers, the streets telling a sorry and sordid tale of bombs, bullets and blood.
Ultimately, nations collapse under the weight of their foolishness. And the other side of things is that similarly, nations are exalted by the summation of their good policy decisions and direction. Sudan right now is reaping where it sowed: when people in power do not see the benefit of building systems and structures that work for all, the nation is squarely seated on a powder keg.
One may claim that because there is no active war, a country is enjoying stability. Rubbish! By wielding a strong arm, someone can keep a nation quiet for a while; but this is temporary, because, as long as there are unresolved issues and there is no willingness to work out a win-win situation based on mutual respect for each other and one side wants to dictate terms of agreements, the bubble will at some point, burst.
A few months ago, I received a call from a lady in Jinja; who said she had heard gunshots and she was sure “the war has begun”. She said bullets were flying about and as matter of fact, she was under the bed. I checked things out and established that it was something to do with fireworks in celebration of the New Year of the Indian community or some other such Indian festival. In Mbale I could hear the same sounds.
She insisted they were gunshots. It doesn’t matter who was right; my problem was that the caller clearly conducts her life with the expectation that there will be a war in Uganda… and it is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. If we do not collectively accept to have a Uganda that works for all, the simmering underneath will continue until, at the worst possible time, it blows up all at once, without anyone being able to control the outcomes.
I don’t know where he is now, but way back in 1998 a very good flight captain – David Thomas, he of an airline outfit at Entebbe, known as AirServ – told me one thing I will never forget. We were in the cockpit of a Cessna, flying to Arua and as a journalist, I was “co-piloting” because Sunday Monitor was working on a feature about how pilots fly their birds. “As a pilot you must learn from the mistakes of others,” he said. “Because you can’t live long enough to make them all by yourself.”
A life-changing quotable quote! Politics of exclusion, characterised by strongmen grabbing power and planning to stay forever, throwing democracy and good governance out, looting State resources and then using violence against anyone who opposes their rule, is a common theme that runs throughout most of Africa. And it is the reason we have seen African countries disintegrating. Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Libya, South Sudan, Burundi, Zimbabwe, most of West Africa, name it! Uganda must man up and learn lessons! Wherever you see political problems in Africa, the explanation rotates around that dubious theme.
The foolishness that convinces some quarters in Uganda that the current regime is unshakeable because it seems to have everything nicely sewn up, to the point that they can let impunity flourish, is just the kind that precedes a blow-up