In many countries, the proportion of the total national budget spent on the military, is a lion’s share compared to other priorities. And even then, there’s always reason to seek supplementary-and you dare not question, otherwise you might be accused of trying to compromise matters of national security. But incidentally, the body politic of most armies is in itself tinted with insecurity, and the more the numbers killed on the either side, the stronger the army is considered to be. It’s only in Uganda perhaps where the army is now involved in community projects like farming, but traditionally and as is the case world over, a soldier is not trained to farm but to fight, and fighting involves shedding of blood as a show of power, and sometimes for fun. Not sure though if the contingent we sent to South Sudan did quite some farming in that overly fertile land!
I have been thinking about the senseless wars going on around the world; and I wonder-just how can a war prevail for a week, a month, and years, leading to the demise of so many innocent lives? My immediate thinking is that even when a community might feel so aggrieved about a prevailing situation, not many communities are so homogeneous as to burst into a war without leadership. At individual level, every human being cherishes his or her life so dearly that when the first bullet is shot, everyone scampers for dear life. What normally sustains war is leadership, often provided by an individual or group of individuals that intoxicate the minds of many with a sometimes skewed ideology, creating in them a level of aggressiveness that urges them on, and I suspect sometimes under the influence of drugs. So they head for the front-line and begin to play the game of fire, well aware that it takes a single bullet to die. They hope that upon victory, their leader would guarantee them bliss! Perhaps what’s more hurting, is that soldiers often wear bulletproof jackets, but export their live bullets and bombs to innocent civilians, some of whom would even collapse dead at the sound of a gunshot. This is happening in South Sudan, Egypt, Ukraine, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, name it; and scores continue to die every single day.
It’s funny that in this day and age, we even still have sports like boxing. That two adults will get into a ring and for no good reason other than money and fame, start exchanging blows. I have seen some leave the ring and straight to the hospital. Maybe we should start by outlawing such senseless games. And many of the spectators would never jump into the ring to ‘play the game’. I also don’t think that because one is such a good boxer, he should finish off his opponent and jump into the crowd of spectators and start boxing everyone just to prove how good he is. So why don’t fighting soldiers define their war zone, allow wananchi to vacate and they sort themselves out? I say this because sometimes we are meant to believe that wars simply happen spontaneously; but more often than not, they have commanders and funders too. These are always somewhere watching as innocent people are killed for pride. They are sometimes well educated fellows and sensible enough to understand what it means to deny so many people a chance to live.
And then there’s now this tendency of sugar-coating fighters under the guise of power-sharing, but this would never bring back the lost lives. We must learn to make war such a risky business for whoever engages in it, and must never offer a platform to anyone responsible for the death of others. Fighters that shoot at civilians must have their leaders decapitated and funders of war should be traced and served the heaviest punishment. Bottom-line- war is an unnecessary occurrence no matter the reasons adduced in support of it. Resources must be redirected away from buying tanks and fighter jets and recruiting jobless citizens into war clubs, to improving lives instead.
I personally last fought with someone in my Senior One. We picked up a disagreement with this classmate of mine and in a moment we were exchanging blows. Not being a known ‘fighter’, I quickly thought through it and took to my heels. By the time I was back in class, we were calm and the fight never ensued again. Recently this guy and I met at some crossroad in Kampala, both of us driving. Interestingly we both stopped as our eyes met with a smile budding along, as each one urged the other to have the way first. After the few seconds of drama, I had my way first and he followed…. 20 years since our aborted fight. What if I had picked weapons then to take on my opponent, where would we be now? Yes, it’s normal for leaders to be angry against each other, but recourse to war must never be the number one option. If it must come to that though, the lives of innocent people must be safeguarded. The power displayed through killing innocent people and bringing down building and all sorts of havoc, is simply devilish no matter what the end result might be- and the devils involved must be punished on sight.
This evening I opened the BBC website, only to see gruesome images of a second Malaysian plane that just crashed in Ukraine with over 295 on board. I said to myself, “Good Lord, not again!” And there are allegations that it might have been shot by fighters in the ongoing Ukraine vs Russia conflict. This comes within months since another Malaysian plane went missing with a similar number of passengers on board, no trace to date. How can human beings be so heartless? Innocent travelers killed in such a manner! And someone might be celebrating victory! This is absolute nonsense. Soon everyone will sway into investigations of all magnitude and sophistication, but none of this will bring back the lives lost.
I think that anyone who suggests war for whatever reason, must be immediately silenced, because whichever way you look at it; war is such an unnecessary evil.
Tumusiime K. Deo ia Ugandan writer and International Communications Consultant