By Professor Oweyegha -Afunaduula
Many years ago, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) launched a magazine called NAPE LOBBY to popularise issues of environmental justice, environmental democracy, environmental bankruptcy, environmental corruption and environmental politics in development, transformation and progress.
It was a difficult time to venture into these issues because we had already some oppressive laws such as Terrorism Act and Sectarian Law, which could be used against environmentalists to silence them. Indeed many times they were dubbed by the President himself as development saboteurs every time they tried to do their work.
One time many environmentalists were arrested when they contradicted government’s choice of sugarcane for Mehta in Mabira Rain Forest’s ecotonal fringes. For government it was development if a sugarcane plantation of 7100 hectares was established in the ecotone of Mabira Forest. However, Uganda was far more an open society than it is now.
There was more tolerance. Even by 2012 NAPE could still publish its NAPE LOBBY without fear or favor for environment in development. For example, the NAPE LOBBY of February 2012 cover page carried “Dubious Deals in Africa: Uganda’s Experience”.
On pages 4 and 5 there was an article by me “GOVERNANCE: DUBIOUS DEALS IN UGANDA’S OIL INDUSTRY”. That was long before Nereko’s Social Media Bill was passed into law and assented to by President Tibuhaburwa Museveni.
There is far much more conspiracy of silence today than then and Nsereko’s initiative entrenched the conspiracy of silence further, of course to the detriment of future generations of Ugandans who will never know how truth and wrong were tested and balanced during our time under a cloud of fear.
This generation is being taught truth can be untruth if the powers that be decide so. If you want to read that article I wrote long ago, go to NAPE’s internet web page nape.or.ug/publications/nape-lobby/67-dubious-oil-deals-in-africa/file.
One thing is true. Africa will never ever develop because we hate doing things right in a straight forward way. We like engaging in dubious deals. That is why the President of Uganda recently sacked the leadership of Uganda Railways. The vice is widespread in and outside government. The President alone or with his Inspector General of Government cannot subdue it. It needs all of us to confront it. However, we cannot do it effectively in a socio-political environment choked by oppressive laws that generate fear among leaders and the led. We must begin to concentrate more on making enabling laws. If we continue to prefer oppressive laws time will come when we shall fear rather than love one another from bottom to top. Or else fear will disappear and we shall begin to do what we used to fear doing. I can see a situation developing where people will no longer fear laws such as Sectarianism law and Anti-terrorism law, especially if it becomes apparent to them that the laws serve narrow interests.
We are in the Cyberage which requires more openness of society to make any meaningful progress and influence in a century that demands greater interconnectedness, broader knowledge, greater information and greater meaningful and effective communication vertically, horizontally, internally and externally in a globalised world.
We cannot, and will never, be an island. Even islands we in the natural sciences call “ecological islands” are open and interact greatly with the outside world as much as they do internally.
For God and My Country.
The Author Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist
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