A Word to Mr. Police: Covering up Mistakes to Save Face has Never Cleaned up anything under the Sky

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cover up isn't safe

Sometime in 2012, I discovered a strange thing while looking at my eldest son Emmanuel’s homework book. Days earlier I had helped him do some work and I remember most of what we had done. But one of those pages was missing. I called the young man and asked him what had happened to the page. He was hesitant and for a few seconds mumbled things I could not put together. I questioned him again, now convinced that he was hiding something. He mumbled, I got my belt ready I straighten his tongue.

His mother quickly intervened. “You are scaring the boy. Why must you think he did something crooked? Ask him politely. You are scaring him,” she said as she took him away. A few minutes later, Emma and his mother returned. I was still pondering as to why my son was tiring his books. Is this what he has been doing? How long as this happened? Where is this coming from? Which kind of company is my son now keeping? I began to remember small bits of things and I had a clear view that my son “had started” and I was not going to let it progress.

When they entered the living room, Emma had his school bag with him. He put his hands inside and pulled out two pieces of paper. One of them had what was clearly chocolate. It was the page i was asking for. The scared boy moved closer to me and began explaining. His sister Amelia had put her snacks in his bag because her bag was wet with a towel after swimming. By the time they got home, her chocolate milk had spilt on that page which was open. To stop it from spreading he tore it out.

His mother was standing at the door way looking at me like I was the one who crucified Jesus Christ. I was embarrassed. I wanted to cry. I held my boy, he started crying. I apologized to him for being harsh and nearly beating him. He cried, I teared. His mother walked away. She was pregnant with Aaron John so for a few days the house was very small for me.

Ever since, no matter how things may look obvious with my children, I take a deeper closer look. And I realized how many times I could have misunderstood my children. I say thank you and sorry even to my 4 year old and he does the same to everyone. Saying sorry to Emmanuel made him feel understood and genuinely loved and treasured.

Across the many sectors in Uganda, mistakes happen. The biggest problem is covering up for those mistakes. In the judiciary, we have had cases of false witness accounts that have led people to spend years in prison while in fact they are innocent. What has happened when the same fellows are found innocent?

The Prisons PRO Afande Baine once told of a man who spent 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The said dead man was in Kenya, having left the accused his bicycle. The whole village condemned the poor fellow. One villager happened to be in Nairobi only to find the ‘dead’ man walking. It took another year before the innocent man could be released because the magistrate who convicted him was dead, his file had disappeared.

His conviction was based on the state claiming they found the murder weapon and a body. Yes they found a body but it was not of the claimed deceased. But that particular police officer gave testimony in court even matching the wounds on that body to a knife found in the poor man’s house.

Journalists have been branded opposition sympathizers, intelligence operatives, and spies but when the truth finally surfaces, those who cooked things cover up. Suspected thieves have been tortured and maimed but when the truth surfaces all that happens is they are set free, the new evidence covered up. Others are never set free.

Covering up mistakes to save face has never cleaned up anything under the sky. It has only led to worse scandals. To hide one lie, you must tell 100 more. To own up to one mistake, you save yourself from 101 mistakes.

It however takes a great level of humility, personal commitment and individual intelligence to recognize this fact. Arrogant people think they can get away with anything. Usually in the end, they are usually the ones running into hiding and sweating diesel when time comes to answer for their misdeed.

Look, while I worked Gulu around 2000 for Hon Richard Todwong and Hon Dan Kidega, I borrowed money from a friend so that we (me and another friend) could transport one of our other friends to Kenya because he was sick. This young man to give me his money, he took his Mobile phone to a lender. A yellow and black Ericson. Now in 2000 a mobile phone was damn expensive but this man sacrificed his. For nearly 3 months I kept hiding from him yet I could have saved my pay and paid him. I come to Makerere and forgot all about him.

Low and behold, in 2004, as I was walking in the middle of town, booom! Fellow is right in my face. I wanted to hide, disappear. Well, I bought him lunch and we talked about it. He was happy we all ended up well. I have never seen him to his day again.

He was not angry with me but he told me one thing that to this day hurts. He said; “I knew you people would not pay me.” Whatever you do, go slow be mindful and seek God’s guidance because you will answer eventually. There is no escape under the sky. No Escape from your sins.

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John Njoroge is an Investigative, Digital security trainer and war journalist for the last 11 years. He is currently the Press Coordinator of the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association. He can be reached on 0778691876. Twitter @johnnjogs