It was a bizarre morning, waking up and staring through the blinds to recognize that the topic of discussion and debate among many Ugandans in the blogosphere was the sovereign right to possess nuclear weapons. For a moment I thought Museveni was about to drag our small nation into the current nuclear stand-off between western powers and Iran. After digging through the details it came to my attention that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had just concluded a two day State visit to Uganda. The local media outlets outlined a number of issues that brought President Ahmadinejad to Uganda and these included: Investment in agriculture and related factories, infrastructure development, vocational training, health, energy/mineral development and tourism and culture. Conspiracy theorists had their own take on the matter —branding the visit as a strategic move by the Iranian President to woo a nation (Uganda) which is currently a member of the Security Council (SC). They argue that he was attempting to build alliances to evade tougher sanctions from the SC.
The Ugandan President delicately dealt with this visit by denouncing nuclear weapons in his speech while at the same time emphasizing the right for nations to develop and use nuclear energy peacefully. President Ahmadinejad had no kind-words and took advantage of this stage to spill the rhetoric denouncing the double standards and hostility of the United States and United Kingdom against Iranians.
Every individual is entitled to their opinion, but this state visit–and the aftermath discourse left me wondering whether we are asking the right questions. All global citizens have a right to participate in this debate since nuclear arms pose a danger of vaporizing human civilization and possibly knocking us back into the Stone Age. However, while participating in this debate—it is critical that we focus on nuclear disarmament rather that the right to possess nuclear weapons. The United States and UK can be blamed for double standards— however, President Obama has made great steps in uniting the nuclear powers and building a foundation towards a nuclear free world. We are still far from this goal; in fact the United States and Russia still have stock piles with the capacity to turn this globe into a mushroom cloud. This is the reason why any talk of nukes has to be taken seriously. Ahmadinejad brought his rhetoric in our back-yard and the spill off effect was evident in the media outlets and among the masses. The visiting President went further and stated that his country and Uganda are “ready to invade countries that undermine independence and sovereignty” of other nations. “We shall stand firmly against all these atrocities.” he said. It was mission accomplished for Ahmadinejad with many voicing their support for Iran and how unfairly they have been treated.
This rhetoric is un-acceptable and harmful to our vulnerable continent. Inciting invasion, war and violence in lands that have seen their fare share of bloodshed is a catalyst for disaster and makes me further question the motive of this state visit. Ahmadinejad has the right to defend his country but he does not voice the opinion of every African. It is our responsibility to dissect these provocative and threatening words–separating the fact from fiction. Through asking the right questions, we can rise above harmful rhetoric not only from leaders like Ahmadinejad but also some of our local politicians. Political maturity among the masses in Africa has to be reflected in our daily discourse. We need to stand up and challenge the status quo—and send a message that “Not In Our backyard.”