Thursday, April 14, 2011

Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience

Times are tough and rents are high... and that's not all. Prices are skyrocketing all around; much of this is a domino effect from the price of fuel hitting all-time highs. People are having a tough time. A friend I've known since 2006--who has only asked me for assistance once before, and that was because he was going through a tough moment of unemployment--this past week asked me to help him out: he was having trouble getting to work each day. For many people, earning a salary is not enough for survival, and it's getting more and more difficult.

Many people here feel that the Ugandan government should be doing more to alleviate that strain put on the people. A campaign calling people to walk to work in protest of the government's actions (or lack there of thus far) was initiated this week. Well, it was made very evident on Monday morning that the government was not pleased with people's disagreement with their policies and actions when one of the protest organisers and participants, Dr. Kizza Besigye, was arrested as he trekked his way to his office. Today the efforts continued, and Dr. Besigye was waylaid on his route once again, this time shot with a rubber bullet and forced to seek refuge in a ditch. He, by no means, is the only person participating in this campaign, but he is the most high-profile person so far, and it appears that he is in charge.

So far I have been impressed with the peaceful nature of Dr. Besigye's civil disobedience. Henry David Thoreau has been credited with coining the phrase civil disobedience in 1846. Since that time many people in various societies around the world have employed this concept of refusing to obey law, command and/or demand of a government they believe is unjust; some efforts have been very successful. To many people, Gandhi's campaigns in India against Imperial Britain come to mind when they think of civil disobedience. When I first heard of the walk to work campaign, The Montgomery Bus Boycott came to my mind. That little endeavor was successfully led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1955.

While the participants of the bus boycott were protesting a very different issue, the solidarity and peaceful actions of those involved brought to light the injustice going on in the US South and swayed the government to change laws. But it was a very long and difficult road. People were walking to work for more than a year.

Will Besigye and others who share his desire for change in Uganda be as patient and long suffering? We won't know that until it happens, I guess. At this point, I admire his perseverance, and I think that peaceful demonstration and protest is a positive step in the streets of Kampala.

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