organise, don’t agonise!


Welcoming M7
Groups of NRM enthusiasts welcome President Museveni at Entebbe last week Saturday – Photo courtesy of newvision.co.ug

I WAS a front row witness to another highly successful mobilisation effort that ended up on the front pages and lead items of most news outlets last weekend.

The event formed the basis of most of the conversation I met with from the Friday before the Entebbe Homecoming of President Yoweri Museveni till days after the last drops of pilao had been eaten or swept away.

The chagrin and anger at one end of the debates did not balance out the unfettered excitement on the other. There was no convincing some people that the celebrants of the day had a right to be giddy provided they had paid for it and didn’t get in the way of everybody else.

I met with the protagonists at one point and was amazed, the same way I am at wedding fundraisers and other such fetes, at how quickly money was put together by people to make t-shirts, buy pilao, and fill taxis with fuel.

The taxis, meanwhile, were put forward by their owners free of charge, through an association effort.

The entire display cost less than each of three of the weddings that I have been involved in at some level these two years past, and yet fed many thousand people where the weddings had catered for only hundreds.

I got to know some of the people and groups that put up the money, and was later quite irritated to hear some officials mistakenly claim that NO free fuel had been distributed to transport supporters to the venue, and other such stories.

Of course it was! And they had done it for political reasons – which reasons are not the point of this story.

But I was more irritated by the people moaning that the event was funded by government money. It wasn’t.

Yes – if it had been my money (I am a tax-payer) I would have wished it spent on bumping up a public hospital instead. But the politicos who put it together for the chosen cause were putting their money where their mouths are.

I heard more mouths elsewhere placing disgusted arguments and complaints at the idea that this money was going into “politics”, pronounced (even typed) with a sneer, with mention of rice and meat on buveera and plastic plates.

But, I pointed out to some, they rarely put anything behind what they say; I don’t often see the middle class, elite alternative being much more impactful or helpful to society besides the talking.

We don’t put money together to invest in companies on the stock exchange, or to buy dialysis machines and build maternity wards for our local hospitals. We never fund-raise this fast to set up tractor hire schemes or milk-processing plants for our upcountry relatives.

We’re good at mobilising middle class, elite resources into weddings and parties that bamboozle hundreds for the night; and terribly poor at mobilising for politics that controls millions for years on end.

When we do mobilise for social good, it is through buying concert and dinner tickets that cost more than our domestic staff’s monthly wages, or highly publicised company-led marathons whose entry fees are about the same as a cheap lunch.

Like most political rallies, the Entebbe Homecoming was an antithesis for the elite, middle class complainers who sit back in commentary while the other half (or seventy, perhaps even eighty, percent) go rallying frequently for a cause they actually believe in.

The slogan ‘Organise, don’t agonise!’, coined back in 1973 by United States civil rights activist, Florence Rae Kennedy, could be a valid rallying call for the chattering, social media-lutes (play on elites) of forty years later.

But I fear we can’t hear over the sound of the loudspeakers at the nightclubs, cinemas, concerts, dinners, marathons and churches that we are immersed in, and so can’t join ’those people’ in determining the future.

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