This past couple of weeks, there is significant chatter on controversies surrounding the age of Mr. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, he who is presenting himself as the best challenger of President Museveni in the 2021 presidential elections. Mr. Kyagulanyi, is the Member of Parliament representing Kyadondo East Constituency, in Wakiso District, in Buganda, in Central Region; and he is the party president of the National Unity Platform.
Whereas, Mr. Kyagulanyi’s age controversy is the latest, currently trending, he is not the first public figure in Uganda to get embroiled in date of birth or age controversies and shenanigans. A significant section of Ugandans, in fact, are unsure about their actual date of birth. This is because there isn’t a functional date of birth registry in Uganda at any level – national, district, sub-county, parish, village, clan, nor hospitals. Very few Ugandans have valid birth certificates.
And so, for proof of birth, many Ugandans are compelled to use other documents other than a birth certificate. Mr. Kyagulanyi, for example, is reportedly using such documents as his passport.
Another example, for instance, is that in order to ‘ascertain his true age’, President Museveni, before him, reportedly used baptism records of the church in which he was baptized.
Consequently, it is not uncommon for Ugandans to have multiple dates of birth, some acquired intentionally and others, perhaps unknowingly. The latter comes about because an adult in ones life may have given one an incorrect date of birth.
I recall, for example, as a child, there was a population census, which found me at our ancestral home in Pallisa. During the census, my paternal grandmothers (RIP) were asked their age and they deferred the question to their husband. For each of my grandmothers, my grandfather (RIP) guessed their age on the basis of how young or old they looked when he married them. For example, “this one I married her when her breasts were still standing, she was still young”; and then he proceeded to estimate her age; and so forth for all his wives.
Recently, as my aunts were registered for their national identification, they relied on my cousins to respond for them. It is hilarious that one of my aunts, the youngest among them, was given an age older than her sisters, just because she has a head full of grey hair; while her sisters, including the eldest, didn’t.
Intentional lying about one’s age to fit or to qualify for something, often catches up with one, especially so, when one is inconsistent. Meaning, de facto, that in order to get away with intentional lying about one’s age, one must make sure that one is consistent. And if one needs to change one’s official date of birth, one must remember to officialise it by acquiring a legal instrument, as Justice Steven Kavuma did try to do in 2016.
No doubt, there are discrepancies in the official age of Mr. Kyagulanyi, intentional or otherwise, and it is those discrepancies that the notorious or famous Mr. Mabirizi, depending on whether he is suing you or not, is using.
This time round, Mr. Mabirizi is Mr. Kyagulanyi’s foe, potentially benefiting President Museveni; while in 2018 Mr. Mabirizi was Mr. Kyagulanyi’s ally against President Museveni’s Administration.
Going forward, Mr. Kyagulanyi, just pick a realistic date of birth and make it official.
Go backwards and officialise it and in the future, stick to that one date of birth. And then, make the absence of a comprehensive date of birth registry an issue for your platform. There are many reasons as to why it is important for our nation to have such a registry, including using it to determine who votes, but for me that is story to tell another time.
Ms. Norah Owaraga, Cultural Anthropologist, nowaraga.com
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