Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Latin Banned!... Rainy season finally here.

Nomvula and I were discussing those 2 newspaper headlines in the title of this blog that are doing the rounds this week. One is on the front page and the other is on the inside pages. Yes I know our country is a poor agricultural country, but please note that those peasants excited about the rainy season do not buy newspapers.

So she asked me; what do you think of this new law that criminalises the speaking of Latin? I told her that I know the old law that made the speaking of foreign languages illegal was already dodgy but this new law was even worse. There are provisions in it that criminalise the promotion of Latin as a language. At one stage it even obliged people to report known Latin speakers or spend 7 years in jail. Thankfully this provision was removed before the president signed the bill into law.

Meanwhile the conduct of the president on this matter has also been suspect. Acting like Pontius Pilate, he declared that he thought this law to be wrong, but was forced into it by the will of the people. To further illustrate his point he spoke, tongue in cheek, about the practice of using the mouth to speak English. “Given all these pleasurable and rich local languages, why should anyone engage in oral English?” So she asked me, “but how do you know that he was speaking tongue in cheek?” And I reminded her that it was her friend the minister that had told us how she regularly used her mouth to speak to the president in English and he seemed to enjoy it very much. Tsk tsk, throttle throttle.

While this whole idea of denying someone their fundamental human rights is at the heart of this fight; some of the Latin speakers have behaved very badly. Many have resorted to calling us locals ignorant because we are not out on the streets fighting this. But the truth is, many of my fellow country men are more bothered about where their next meal is coming from. This government has taken advantage of this apathy and enacted some very regressive laws that severely curtail the rights of citizens as enshrined n the constitution that this same government promulgated. In a way I am not surprised at the foreign Latin speakers. They have no clue of how Latin speakers have survived in this country. It is my contention that most Latin speakers are known within their communities and many of them are well liked. But as is the culture in Uganda, public displays of Language are considered taboo. Many of my Latin speaking friends have not expressed any fear due to the new law and the rest of us now instead are going out of our way to control the facts around these friends of ours. Make no mistake, just because they exist and may be well liked, they are still generally looked at as different. Also, make no mistake that there are several Latin speakers that would like to be able to declare their language preference publicly and at the very least not be sent to jail for it. Many of these people would like society to accept that they like to speak different language.

This particular bill has been largely promoted by local Christian Evangelicals with huge financial support from that country called Sole Super Power. Jesus Christ was a man of peace. He hang out with those that were rejected by society. So I find it ridiculous that the proponents of this law claim to be doing it in his name. I feel for Jesus because he was used to justify slavery, then apartheid and now this. There is one pastor who has been going around showing movies in foreign languages; particularly Latin. He has also described, in graphic detail, how people engage in all types of discourse in Latin. He is actually the local expert on "Fisting". I am sure both these acts violate the new anti-foreign language law. It is interesting to note that some penalties in the anti-foreign  language law are harsher than those in the ant-Latin speaking law.

So what to do about these new laws?

Rather than have their president lecture our president on how to run his country, Sole Super Power should just ensure that the Christian Evangelicals are unable to fund the defense of this law. They could even consider tagging that funding as terrorist funding. This would shut the tap and ensure that our front pages concentrate on activities that feeds our people.

There will, of course, be a the challenge to the law in the constitutional court. But even while that is going on, the Latin speakers could set up a fund to pay the legal fees of anyone charged under this law. They of course have to be careful not to defend those who speak to minors using the Latin language. With the law being so weak and expected to be even harder to effect; am sure every lawyer this fund pays will win every case.