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In 1948, activist-intellectual Semakula Mulumba received an invitation to dinner from the Bishop of Uganda, Cyril Stuart.
Mulumba had the courtesy to reply, but that was about the only courtesy he showed the bishop in a blistering 18-page response that skewered Stuart personally and professionally. Among other insults, Mulumba described him as a crook, part of “a gang of professional thieves that hide their colonial booty in the British law”, who, by the “disdainful filth of your secret actions”, was loyally serving a “godless state”.
Mulumba - Dinner
And no, Mulumba would not be coming to dinner.
Mulumba’s intemperate response was carefully calculated. “[It] was rude, deliberately rude, an attack on the forms of manners and politeness that had shaped both British and Ganda deployments of power and influence in Buganda since at least the beginning of the Uganda Protectorate in 1900,” wrote the academic, Carol Summers, in a journal article examining the politics of radical rudeness in pre-independence Uganda.
Mulumba - Manners - Form - Control
Mulumba realised that manners are a form of political control.
To reject the system, he had to reject the social niceties that underpin the system as well. As Summers explains: “For Buganda’s activists, the effectiveness and power of civility, manners, and polite institutions meant that disrupting them was an essential prerequisite for true change or popular politics.”
Years - Activist - Uganda - Mulumba - Example
Seventy years later, at least one activist in Uganda is taking Mulumba’s example to heart.
Stella Nyanzi, the Makerere University academic, was sentenced last week to 18 months in prison. She was convicted under the country’s cybercrime laws of “harassing” Yoweri Museveni, after the publication of her poem that attacked the president’s record in office in the most vulgar terms possible (see the article below: “You should have died in birth, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni”).
Poem - Masterpiece - Obscenity - Pus - Mother
The poem is a masterpiece of calculated obscenity. “I wish the acidic pus flooding [your mother’s] cursed vaginal canal...
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You can never use the word unexpected when it comes to abuse of power by the government.