On March 17th 2017, Uganda was devastated to the core, when news of AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi’s tragic death took the centerpiece in all media. Details of the gruesome of afande Kaweesi’s sudden final moments on earth made all Ugandans shudder with arms akimbo; wondering why and how afande Kaweesi candle had been coldly blown out. It was a sad moment –for many considered him a compassionate person; one who had amicably resolved most of his assignments.

His superior, General Kale Kayihura, termed his death as hurtful; we shall never have another Kaweesi. Afande Kaweesi’s folks back home in Kitwekyanjovu, Lwengo district, where he was born were left crestfallen. A son of the land had gone too soon. He had only recently started developmental projects in the area. Afande Kaweesi’s kinsmen elected to name a newly constructed school after him to keep his legacy alive. To them Kaweesi was a hero … or was he?

I was en route work when I heard the news of the shooting of AIGP Kaweesi, his aide and his driver. I personally didn’t know him or any of the other passengers of the ride out of this life he took except for the fact that I knew he was one of the new breed of officers changing the face of Uganda Police. Anything said about the police often met sneers from the public but he always put his foot forward to get Uganda Police a fairer review.

In spite of the fact that I was not acquainted with the deceased, I am still pained by the loss of a man of valor, a father lost to his children and husband lost to his wife and not forgetting his larger family.

Within the same taxi I overheard passenger who shared similar sentiments lament; a good man had been lost to the battle, he will be dearly missed, he will be irreplaceable in the Uganda Police and Uganda at large. They all spoke highly of him. The emotions that were riding high in the taxi were palpable; Kaweesi must have been a good man.

Hearing such sentiments made me feel a little cold-blooded; how could I not have as heavily pained as the rest of these people? As the conversation grew on social media, a few cold-blooded people emerged from the different narratives on the various platforms. I was not alone after all!

Kaweesi was a good man… this was the general opinion in the public court but there were a few dissenting views and with that came the backlash from those who thought the dissenters were only being disrespectful to a departed gallant soul. Which begs me to ask, was afande Kaweesi the good natured man he was portrayed to be in media or otherwise? Was he spoken of highly out of pity because of his passing on or these were genuine ratings of his character?

Being the African that I am, I believe departed souls deserve all the respect they can get. If one passes on, his/her soul deserves to rest in peace but the world we live in is a harsh place. It has two sides to it; the ugly and beautiful sides come in equal measure. One cannot go on with their duties pleasantly. A few toes will be stepped on here and there especially if one was in the positions occupied by afande Kaweesi.

In spite of the two sides to this story, I do not believe one should blatantly sell ones dissenting views especially during a time when the general mood is heavily pained. I am all for freedom of speech but a little sensitivity to the prevailing tide is only prudent. One risks being misunderstood when one begs to differ at a time when emotions rather than rationale informs decisions.

Those who chose to make it known they did not hold afande Kaweesi in high regard at his time of passing run the risk of being misunderstood and put in their place. Never mind that they had a right to think otherwise. Most importantly to express their dissent; freedom of speech should never be conditional but it is one liberty that we must enjoy responsibly. We have a duty to enjoy it as much as we have a duty to protect it. This goes both ways, you cannot abuse and use at the same time. The same rule applies to both sides of the fence; the dissenters and those in agreement.

Noam Chomsky an American linguist and philosopher says “if you believe in freedom of speech, you must believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like”. Goebbels (German politician and Reich minister of propaganda for the Nazi in 1933to 1945) was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was former Premier of the Soviet Union, Stalin, “If you are in favor of freedom of speech, you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise”.

These are the ideals we all ought to wear on our sleeves every day as we exercise and enjoy the liberty of freedom of speech but we do otherwise. We often enjoy this freedom but then go on and shoot down some one as soon as they don’t agree with the general public opinion. Should freedom of speech be one sided? I think not.

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