The art of “fear-mongering”

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Isingiro. A district lacking a proper water supply system. It has a new tarmacked road. Constructed by the Chinese. A population engaged in agriculture. A population that is poor. High voltage electricity lines crisscross their land. They have limited access to electricity. It is a hot day. There is an endless supply of drinking water. 2000 people have converged at the Beteinensha’s in Isingiro to celebrate a life. Before the road was tarmacked, there was an old army tank near their home. It was a reminder of a time when death ripped through their family.

It was January 2016. There she lay. Calm. Quiet. She couldn’t talk back. She was in pain for months. The pain had gone. There was a relief. At 95, she had lived the life. Her husband had lived the life too. For him, that life was ended 41 years ago. He was killed during the Idi Amin regime. The so-called reign of terror in Uganda. He was no soldier. He didn’t die on the frontline. He owned no gun. He was picked up by unknown people. Killed. Dumped in a forest. Many others were killed. For the 41 years she lived without him, she didn’t know why he had been killed. Her children didn’t know too. His death changed their lives. The girls dropped out of school. Got married. The boys struggled as they made it through school.

“All we want to know is why they killed our father,” they asked. Their mother asked the same question. This time, her eyes were closed. She was inside a box. There was sadness. There was a celebration of life. There were murmurs. Murmurs as the children continued to ask. “Why was our father targeted? Killed?” Their mother had now died. She would have loved to hear an answer to that question.  They eulogized her as a great mother. A mother who had raised ten children. She now had grandchildren. The grandchildren too asked the same question. “Why and who killed our grandfather.” They got no answer.

A minister of defense. Their in-law. She had put on a yellow dress. She eulogized her. Then she seemed to have an answer to the question. A writer she was once. She is still one, apparently. She writes columns lately. Not books. She blamed the reign of terror at the time of his death. She didn’t have a specific answer. She had what appeared to be a solution. For 30 years, people were not disappearing. There was peace. No more reign of terror. That was no solution. She was emphasizing a point. “You have had peace for years, why would you want to change this?” she told them. Murmurs. No cheers. It was no campaign rally. It was a burial.

The people of Isingiro needed no reminder of what happened in Amin’s regime. They were being told, “Change the status-quo at your own risk.” Vote yellow. Vote peace. Vote a son who betrayed his father. Things could be different. Vote the man who waves two fingers in the air. That peace could come to an end. In the peoples eyes, fear was visible. The fear of the unknown.

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