By Aggrey Nshekanabo
The Banyankore-Bakiga nationals have a saying; “Ekyeba juba n’Obworo n’Obugumba” meaning that what humanity easily forgets is poverty; in all its facets; be it deprivation, actual infirmity or sickness and then childlessness.” Unlike today, being a biological parent was seen as a lifetime achievement and therefore, every woman strove to have children. Men were always sorted. And I think it is also in the Bible where brothers would stand in the gap.
In situations where one can elect not to have children, I think it is okay because there have been other definitions of being considered successful. It is only in circumstances where mother-nature has not been so fair to women really. It was said then that when those circumstances changed the one who was childless easily forgot and would even ask about those who do not have children how they are coping. I am told that child-bearing (vaginal births) are the most painful experiences but one that is easily forgettable. Otherwise, if mothers remembered the pain, they would not go for a second to the 7th for the average African woman.
It is from this that I conclude that we will forget this time too. In Buganda, there are names for the different times when famine hit this federation of Uganda’s nations. There was kakuta or rather put kwerya nkuta where people had to wet hides and skins and scrape the insides to make sauce. There was another called kafungula nkete, kasaato and kayingo. They all sound so vague but the one I personally remember was in 1988 where we had to eat beans and dry maize all boiled together. Our in Bunyaruguru home being close to DR Congo with the original occupants the Bakonzo, we called that meal Bunani. Among the Bakiga, I am told this Bunani or empengyere is still a delicacy; just to remind those who went through those hard times.
Uganda has also experienced so many internal wars as a result of manipulative leadership and denial of rights and unfair competition. Looking at what is at play at the moment, one can quickly conclude that we have forgotten those times when the country was at war with itself. For example, the imprisonment of opponents without bail is not new at all. We rarely look back and as they say; a people who want to go forward have to adopt the Sankofa Philosophy, that moving forward is as delicate as holding an egg in your hands while looking where you are coming from.
I was reading about India’s pollution reports thanks to a good friend Resh (An American of Indian extraction) that in over 30 years, Indians in states that seat just 100 miles away from the Himalaya ranges had never seen the beauty before them. With a 17 day lockdown where there was no emitted smoke from cars and industries, they have been so lucky to see the hidden beauty thanks to ‘development.’ We will forget the cost of this COVID-19 as a group. Of course families that have lost their loved ones will not forget. But as a herd, we will be made to forget and we will go back to our destructive ways. As one walks through Kampala, there is a breath of fresh air. Mother-nature was reminding us, it needed self-healing. It has done it in a very painful way.
Question is, are we listening? History has shown we have put cotton in our ears. For those that planted buildings along the shores of Lake Victoria and bribed their way to get environmental assessment plans, we recently saw, the lake was claiming what was rightly hers. Yet, there was vehement denial that the lake was not polluted. Mother-nature swept all the dirt back to the shore and the pictures of a dirty Lake Victoria were an eye-sore and a shame to those that denied.
I am told that during this time of the lockdown, National Water and Sewerage Corporation at Ggaba is using less chemicals to treat the water for the Kampala Metropolitan supply. At least when one opens the taps, there less smell of chlorine and the water is less milky. The Naalya-Kyaliwajjala-Namugongo stretch is less stressful because there is no traffic. I wish it could remain as such but we will as soon as the quarantine is lifted, bring out rickety smoky cars on the road.
If I were at the Ministry of Transport, I would insist on the earlier designed ring around Kampala where vehicles park in Kyaliwajjala, Kireka, Bugolobi, Kabalaggala, Najjanankumbi, Kyengera, Bbira, Nansana, Kawempe, Kasangati and Kkira and then everyone gets on metro-buses as metro trains are planned for. Whoever wants to cross this ring if they are not part of the frontline staff with no sticker, they pay a daily fee of Ushs.50,000/-. With about 800,000 cars in Kampala alone, if those cars insist on going inside the ring, within a month, the state would raise Ushs.40billion. In six months, we would have a rail line between Entebbe and Kampala, Namugongo Kampala, Gayaza Kampala, all of it self-financed.
But also what is disturbing is that KCCA would have used this time to renovate the chaotic old taxi park. They would have used the money they have previously collected from the taxis to improve that place. But immediately the quarantine is lifted, we will be back to that chaos.
At this time UNBS, the standards agency would have used this time to inspect all processing industries (forget about manufacturing because there isn’t any manufacturing going on really) in the country and insist that processing factory to re-open must first install anti-pollutants. For people that have gone past Namanve will tell you the place is so sickening with just a few Chinese processing companies there. Friends in the surrounding areas report of increased respiratory diseases among their family members.
Finally, I have seen some individuals and companies coming out to donate to the COVID-19 fund. It tells me, this country is not lacking money to do and change things. Actually, there is enough money to finance the Lubowa Specialised Hospital and equip it with the necessary machinery. On an annual basis, if the President put out an appeal like he has done during COVID-19 to establish and equip hospitals, for every five years that we go to polls to elect him, we would be able to build specialised hospitals in Moroto, Gulu, Arua, Kanungu, Kalangala and Busia and our people would not be on the next plane to India, South Africa or Germany for specialised treatment. We would be the destination for the Great Lakes region. But of course, it is not lost on me that health is a very powerful political tool especially for treatment abroad.
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org