10 November 2017

Uganda: Sounds of Freedom - Music As a Catalyst of Change


Can music be a pain reliever in the struggle for liberation? Living in Virginia, USA, I miss those evenings when I would sit before the local television back in Uganda and watch the evening news.

In lieu of that, I rely on YouTube and online newspapers for current local news. Coming back from my lectures, I turned on my YouTube channel and discovered that Robert Kyagulanyi, aka, Bobi Wine (the Kyadondo East MP), had released his official video of the song, Freedom.

I must confess that I rarely listen to "secular songs." However, I couldn't help, but listen to this song on YouTube and repeat for more than 25 times, and I highly recommend it.

The song is very current and succinctly illuminates the current events happening in the country such as the impartiality and brutality of the Ugandan Police Force under IGP Kale Kayihura, the rape of Parliament under the watchful eyes of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, and the killings in Kasese District, among others.

The song is also an exposé unmasking President Museveni - the "mentors who have become tormentors." The song rallies loving Ugandans to rise up and fight for their freedom and thwart the amendment of Article 102(b).

"Saving our nation is the responsibility of all of us the children of Uganda... So if you see injustice and keep silent, then you're betraying your own country... and if you see some of us standing up on your behalf and you shy away, then you are sacrificing us... "

It is saddening envisioning the Pearl of Africa being thrown to the swine and some MPs (mostly from the ruling NRM party) selling their conscience and constituencies in the name of defending their party's stance on the controversial amendment of Article 102(b).

Different avenues have been explored in the struggle for liberation, but does music have a place in bringing about change? I happened to visit Rwanda a couple of times and the role of music was momentously underscored. Linda Kagire conceded that "Musicians were among the heroes and heroines, who courageously joined the struggle and liberated the country from a genocidal regime that had presided over the slaughter of more than a million of its people." Songs like Inkotanyi z'Amarere and Intsinzi bana b'u Rwanda by Maria Mukankuranga helped raise awareness about the plight of Rwandans. In fact, Mukankuranga adds that "Our music conveyed the message of hope and cultivated the spirit of patriotism, which motivated the young and old to join the struggle."

In Zimbabwe, different musicians composed songs protesting the ruthless Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith. Musicians such as Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi, Thomas "Mukanyo" Mapfumo and others refused to cowe in the face of the government intimidation. A tactic that the Kampala Metropolitan Police commander, Frank Mwesigwa, has adopted in claiming that Bobi Wine "uttered words that are insightful to the public." What a joke Mwesigwa! When interviewed, Mtukudzi maintained that "my music was against the oppression and a repressive regime and how we were suffering at [their] hands."

They refused to budge and continued singing in spite of being stymied by the government. Music appeared to have rallied and inspired the masses.

These songs function both as magnetic (aimed at attracting people to the movement and promoting group solidarity and commitment) and rhetoric songs (characterised by individual indignation and offer a straightforward political message designed to change political opinion). Protest songs have spurred social and political change throughout the world. Consider songs associated with women suffrage, the slave trade abolition movement, human and civil rights movement and many more. Music played a great role in dismantling the apartheid government.

Songs like Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica (Cry Freedom) and others reverberated throughout the beautiful hills of South Africa. It is time we sung along and saved our beautiful country from degenerating.

The current affairs in the country makes us loathe the NRM government and I agree with Bobi Wine that "Uganda seems to be moving backwards... This is almost making us hate our own nation."

To Museveni and the NRM government, I reiterate the words of [former US president) Obama while in Addis Ababa: "When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife... Your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas." In his book, Class Struggle in Africa, Dr Kwame Nkurumah postulates that "The basis of a revolution is created when the organic structure and conditions within a given society have aroused mass content and mass desire for positive action to change or to transform that society."

Lastly, I have one question to the NRM government and particularly the NRM legislators, who support the lifting of the age limit: If the planned amendment is not meant to appease one man, why can't we wait until Museveni's fifth term is over and then we amend Article 102(b)?

Mr Odong is a Phd candidate at Regent University, Va (USA).


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