George William Ochom, a lecturer of Sociology at Kampala University explains that out of human instincts, a sizeable number of Ugandans have become emotionally charged due to contemporary societal challenges and the perceived social imbalances. He cautions that such a disgruntled group tends to behave weirdly and is capable of becoming destructive to many things including their own life.
Scholars in human behaviour, development and society have predicted a likelihood of suicide as a form of protest or expression of emotional distress among Ugandans.
Early this month, the country witnessed a horrifying incident of a young man who burnt himself inside the Masaka district traffic police-office after his motorcycle had been confiscated by officers who later demanded a bribe of 40,000 Shillings. The man identified as Hussein Walugembe was a close associate to officers at Masaka Central Police Station, where he occasionally supplied meals for suspects in holding cells.
According to his relatives, a fortnight before his immolation, Walugembe had purchased a secondhand motorcycle through his hard-earned savings. It was this motorcycle however that Police seized in their evening operations to enforce curfew orders earlier issued by President Yoweri Museveni, to control the spread of COVID-19.
This act of self-immolation has been followed by a series of slightly akin incidents in different parts of the country as people demand to be heard.
George William Ochom, a lecturer of Sociology at Kampala University says that the incident should not be treated as an isolated case, saying it may be a precursor to similar acts given the high levels of frustration and hopelessness cited among communities.
He explains that out of human instincts, a sizeable number of Ugandans have become emotionally charged due to contemporary societal challenges and the perceived social imbalances. He adds that such a disgruntled group tends to behave weirdly and is capable of becoming destructive to many things including their own life.
According to Ochom, once people try amicably to solve their problems without success or see any glints of hope, they naturally become defiant and resort to hostile means; a state in which some Ugandans have gone into.
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Circumstantially due to the various personal and social demands for human survival, the levels of hopelessness among Ugandans, according to Ochom, have also risen, hence people gradually losing the meaning for life.
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Revered Father Doctor George William Byarugaba, the Dean of the Department of Ethics at Uganda Martyrs University also observes that the country is faced with a serious breakdown in morality and values that defined its citizens.
As a result, he explains that society has become so disrespectful to one another, breeding high level of injustice as people focus on self-enrichment over anything else including common decency. He says that besides the case of self-immolation, the country has become so prone to suicidal actions manifesting in the different forms, as irritated people struggle to find solace or avenge against their tormentors to quench their desires.
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Dr Byarugaba indicates that the country is also witnessing an evolution in the mentality of rebuttals as a response to any conflicts, saying such an attitude is capable of causing more destruction in community. He says that Ugandans have gradually lost the ability to control emotions which is eventually affecting people’s spirit of conscience that guides humanity.
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However, in a harmonized view, both scholars advise that the leadership of the country take collective responsibility in evaluating public policies and upholding that to restore hope among Ugandans as a way of mitigating this society threatening challenge.
“When you move around our communities, you hear a lot of lamentations, people engrossed with stress accruing from several sources of frustrations. There needs to have a source of hope that can relieve the society of this growing stress levels otherwise we may witness a trend of similar incidents” Ochom noted.
Joseph Kayinga Kigundu, a culturalist says acts of self-immolation are not synonymous with proper human conduct. He says that whenever such incidents happen, they call for a serious and honest evaluation of duty bearers with the main purpose of finding lasting solutions to the problem once identified.
In the meantime, Police spokesperson Fred Enanga, says the Inspector General of Police recently directed the Chief Political Commissar and Director of Legal Affairs to start training lower rank police officers on how to help people who show signs of suicide.