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Memories are our history
Publish Date: Oct 19, 2006
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SIR — There is a Kiganda proverb: “Omwana w’omutaka akuuma kiggya”, (The ancestor’s child looks after his father’s grave). I guess I am lucky. The ashes of both my father and my mother are buried on Namirembe Hill, where I trust they will be protected, (My mother’s memorial service in the cathedral was attended by perhaps 400 people. Your Prime Minister, Prof Apolo Nsibambi spoke, so did former President Binaisa). Uganda was my first home. I was a Uganda baby. I worked there both before and after Independence. I hold the Uganda Independence medal. When I get the chance I still spout Luganda rather like a rusty old bicycle, (one of your reporters once politely told me that my Luganda vocabulary was not bad and my grammar reasonable, but my accent was terrible). My father was Bishop of Uganda for 20 years and played a major part in the return of Kabaka Mutesa in 1955. A women’s hall of residence at Makerere is named after my mother to this day. At the same time I know that Uganda has moved on. After the terrible years of Idi Amin and Obote 2, the arrival of President Yoweri Museveni was a draught of fresh air. The people were able to breathe again. On my many return visits to my old home, the signs of progress have been unmistakable. Uganda has regained its place among the leading nations of Africa and next year it will host CHOGM, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. So why am I uneasy? Is it really necessary to destroy the Jinja Road cemetery to build a hotel or a commercial development? Does the Mabira forest have to go? Maybe it is right to pull down the old European Hospital on Nakasero.
Both our children were born there and it was my office when I was Permanent Secretary to Adoko Nekyon during Obote 1, but later it became one of Amin’s torture chambers and anyway the new (not so new any more) Mulago hospital is, or should be, a centre of excellence in Uganda’s healthcare. But is it really true that, until the congregation made a fuss, All Saints Church (now Kampala’s Cathedral), was in danger of going the same way? I simply cannot believe that the Lubiri could become a five-star hotel. If so, maybe Kasubi will go next. Of course people forget. “Bugya dda; bukuyisa ku malaalo ng’oyimba”. My wife’s first fiancé Harry Mildmay was buried in the Jinja Road cemetery after a car crash, but the Mildmay HIV/AIDS Centre is still there on the Entebbe road in his memory.
And our memories are our history. Uganda has many memories, some terrible, some glorious. I know that, when we sat on Kololo airfield on the day of Independence, we all knew that this was a memory which would stay with us for the rest of our lives. May I end with an English proverb? “Tread softly, for you tread upon my dreams”.

Andrew Stuart
andrew@astuart.eclipse.co.uk




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