Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Hard lessons to draw from Bhutto’s murder
A fortnight ago, the world gathered in grief following the shock assassination of Benazir Bhutto, one of the charismatic leaders and a naturally engaging speaker in her generation.

The late Bhutto was a brave woman too, acknowledging before her death that by returning to her home country to champion democracy and fight Islamic fundamentalism, she put her life at great danger.

There is no denial that Bhutto’s brutal murder is a cowardly act that undermines the growth of democracy not only in the Islamic state of Pakistan but anywhere in the world. The civilised world should however, draw lessons from the bad moments such as the Bhutto assassination.

First, in a world where the majority of women are kept in the backyard, Bhutto raised their profile and opened up the gender-political space on the world stage.

She was the first female prime minister of Pakistan and of any Islamic nation. But most fundamental was the fact that she personified the enormous generosity and tolerance of old-school liberalism that embraces diversity of opinion, views and convictions in a complex political arena.

These are the most important virtues for a young and fragile democracy like that of Uganda. These are the same principles captured in our constitution, which provides for freedom to express our political views and opinions without facing the threat of tear gas and doing long jail terms without trial.

In this perspective, Bhutto came off as a rare breed of a politician. Her benevolence was a sharp contrast to many of our African leaders whose only interest is to fend for themselves, their families and a few cronies/ cheerleaders while the majority of the people they lead languish in poverty.

The second lesson we can draw from the Bhutto assassination is the lifestyle and character of many of our leaders. They are consumed by fear and worried about sharing the absolute power that they wield.

They barricade themselves in villas and ‘palaces’ guarded by tanks manned by their mean looking henchmen, while offering little or no protection at all to their political opponents.

Bhutto reached out to the masses travelling in civilian vehicles even after the state declined to give her adequate protection. The state owes a duty to all its citizens including those with opposing political views to guarantee them adequate security.

The other and perhaps the most significant lesson that can be learned from the demise of Bhutto is the pragmatism(realism) that political problems/challenges don’t require military solutions. We don’t have to eliminate our political opponents to achieve our political objectives ; we can only engage them.

The crucial advantage that Uganda has and indeed the larger part of the African continent is that we don’t have a radical population. Apart from some parts of north Africa we have not had cases of people blowing themselves up in public places to send a political message. That’s why the struggle against the forces of terror and extremism should not be rested in this part of the world.

The civilised world should stand firm against any form and manifestation of cowardice and, the immense brutality being perpetuated by fundamentalists- who groom and send out suicide bombers to claim the lives of thousands of innocent people in a misguided effort to impose their political and religious ideologies.

In Africa where socio-economic conditions don’t favour stable democracy; political organisation based on the spirit of constitutionalism is the only viable mechanism in ensuring good governance, observance of human rights and the rule of law. Our leaders whether in power or the opposition should respect each other and work for peace and national unity.

The writer is a journalist and advocate

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