While thinking about what to write today, I randomly set my eyes on an opinion piece on the walk to work protests by Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, the Director of the Makerere Institute for Social Research. The first thought in my mind was that the walk to work movement was not even worth debating since it has completely lost its focus. However on reading on, I realized how alike his views were with mine towards the end of last year. I have always asserted that any movement that does not have the people behind it cannot sustain itself.
When I first heard of Walk to work in 2011, I believed that it was a protest to reckon with following the other incidents that were taking place on the African continent at the time like the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan uprisings. After the first attempts by some opposition politicians like Besigye, ottunu, my great friend Mao and their interactions with might of the police forces, I reflected and thought that there are surely other brilliant methods in which these protests could succeed.
The need to make these protests a people’s protest was and is the only way to go. Personally, I have never taken the majority of the opposition politicians seriously. So for you to think of a movement led by them without getting into these useless arguments that we hear every day like Museveni this Museveni that was going to be a miracle. And indeed, these politicians took that road.
Here is what I think. I do believe that the opposition political elite have killed the essence of these protests. The moment they got in and tried to take the lime light from the ordinary Ugandans who had started it, the steep decline in interest was initiated.
Take Ingrid Turinawe for example. She now being branded ‘FDC iron lady’. Why, because she can cause some drama that gives her the attention she needs. Dr. Kizza Besigye who knows for sure that every time he tries to walk to work he will be apprehended, is another reason for the failure of these protests. These politicians and many others are betrayers of what could have been the end of an era. I cannot deny the tremendous sacrifices they have made that have seen some loose more than many. However, Ultimately the primary focus of the protests still stands.
For as long as these protests are political, they cannot sustain themselves. What I would have expected to see is for these politicians to provide the strategic leadership needed and control the movements from the back. By putting more effort into bringing into the fold groups like teachers, traders, farmers and even the policemen etc, the masses would feel the element of ownership of a cause that would take long to put down. These groups that I prefer to call the greater Uganda would pull the middle class who seem to be the most passive of Uganda’s structure. There would be a massive connection, enough to drag them (middle class) in and trust me, that would have a great impact.
While the NRM delegates roast mchomo in Kyankwanzi and have fun, the common man still feels disenfranchised and yet there is not a single cause for him to ‘walk to work’. After all he walks to work every day.
Walk to Work may have just had its era, a great idea killed by the political elite.