The State has its fangs out but who does it want to bite?

Moses Odokonyero_closeup pix

At various stages in the evolution of organisation, humans began a process that gradually led to the eventual transfer of their collective power to something that became the State.

The State is supposed to, at least in theory, hold power on behalf of a group of people from whom it derives authority and legitimacy.

Why did individual humans transfer their power to an entity?  Various explanations have been offered but I think that it is immaterial now because after all the world is littered with States—both strong and weak.

A weak State is dangerous.  A strong State is good. But a strong State that is unaccountable is also dangerous.

A strong State must have the means to punish in the interest of citizens. A strong State must also have the means to gather domestic and foreign intelligence in the interest of citizens. Lastly, a strong State must protect people, property and territory.

To play these roles, the State must inevitably be an ogre, albeit a controlled one — whose negative energies should be channeled and concentrated on achieving a common good like security.

In 2010 when the Al- Shabaab attacked Uganda killing more than 80 innocent people, the State brought out its ogre side on the streets not to scare but to give confidence to Ugandans of its ability to protect them.

Before and after the February 18 elections, the Uganda State has been projecting blunt power. Mean looking, Kalashnikov totting men have been menacingly patrolling the streets; hard battle wagons used to fight deadly enemies like the LRA rebels have also been on show. It has been a clear show of force by the State. But who does it want to bite?  In 2010, it was the Al- Shabaab (which still remains a security threat).  What is the threat in 2016?  Does the State want to bite Ugandans? Bite opponents of the ruling class? Or the State is engaged in the 21st century equivalent of 18th century ‘‘gun boat diplomacy?’’

In the 18th century, European powers parceled out swathes of the ‘‘Dark Continent’’ and dished it among themselves. To entrench authority on ‘‘their new land,’’ a European power would come to Africa and put an entire community in the crosshair of a cannon. African knees would buckle in fear.  Those that failed to and resisted occupation would be on the receiving end of blistering fire power.

The bullish show of raw power by the State suggests that something in Uganda has been put in the crosshair of the AK47, a weapon that unfortunately also symbolises everything dark that we have suffered in the past. Sadder is that public opinion is divided on what the AK47 wants to shoot. Do people ever learn from history?

When you have defeated many opponents in your long rule, pocketed church leaders, bullied the media, and with artists rocking to your beats, the temptation to think that you are invincible is high. Invincibility can manifest itself through display of blunt power but so does vulnerability.

Power is not a permanent address. Only two years ago, Amama Mbabazi was at the epicenter of the control room of State power. Today he is 360 degrees away and on the receiving end of the ogre side of a State he used to control.

Retired Gen Henry Tumukunde took a shot in the leg the other day by what he insists was a bullet. The shot on Tumukunde’s leg was an irony bordering on poetic justice. It demonstrated how one can easily become a victim-recipient of one’s own creation in a society in which the gun is king.

Mr Odokonyero has interest in media development, communications& public affairs