By Kalungi Kabuye
It started slowly, largely on social media. A friend or two would post something and end with the phrase ‘tusabe gavumenti etuyambe.’ The post might be in English, but that phrase would always be written in Luganda, even by people that don’t speak or write the language.
Use of the phrase soon became a flood, and everybody was using it in the most diverse contexts. My questioning what it was all about brought more ‘gavumenti etuyambe’ responses, including one ‘tusabe gavumenti eyambe Kalungi’ from one wannabe-comedian.
But it is probably one of those timely phrases that show what society is thinking bout. Remember ‘twakoowa sosegi’? It started as a complaint about poor drainage from a woman who couldn’t pronounce the word ‘sewage’, but it soon became a rallying point for all kinds of complaints. It even took on a sophisticated tinge when corporate people started using it to describe people who don’t measure up, who ‘don’t have game’, so to speak.
What about that guy we saw on TV at the scene of a crashed beer truck? He drunk himself silly, and said he was in ‘full, full condition.’ That soon came to describe free things one gets, especially through wrongful means. Like that boda guy who grabbed a bag from a female colleague who had gone to refuel her car in Bugolobi.
After drinking most of her money, he called all her family member using her phone, telling them he was in ‘full, full condition’. I guess former Prime Minister’s accountant Kazinda could say, for a while, that he was also in ‘full, full condition.’
So what are Ugandans saying when they use ‘tusabe gavumenti etuyambe’? There is no real evidence on where it all started, but some point to a lady on Bukedde TV’s Abanoonya programme, who said she had failed to find a man to marry, and asked the government to help her find one.
It was funny, and many people laughed at it. They went on to state the most ridiculous situations and asked ‘gavumenti etuyambe’. It became some sort of race on who could find the most ridiculous situation and ask for government help.
But there’s a truth behind all the humour, and it is that many Ugandans are indeed waiting for government help in all kinds of situations. Many genuinely believe that the government should be involved in most aspects of their lives, and provide for most of their wants and needs.
One guy was on radio asking government to make sure all the roads are tarmacked and that they all have street lights. And that all fuel stations should sell at the same price. These things of free market and the making of personal choices confuse them.
Why else would a sane adult Ugandan be nostalgic about the days when Uganda Airlines (one of the worst run airlines in the world, and a perfect example why government has no business doing business) existed? Or Uganda Commercial Bank and Coffee Marketing Board?
Stretching it further, one can surmise that many Ugandans are not ready for multi-party democracy, which is based on people making a choice on who would be their leaders, and holding them accountable for their actions.
So maybe there is also some truth in claims that Ugandans are lazy, and don’t want to work or be bothered by pursuing a living. They just want free things, and who better than the government to provide? That is why for the longest time whoever brought the most sugar and soap got the vote to go to Parliament.
But maybe, just maybe, the actual joke is on us. Since expecting the government to do everything has become a big joke, maybe Ugandans will finally get off their fat behinds and start doing things for themselves. Nsaba gavumenti etuyambe in that.
About all this ‘Gavumenti etuyambe’ stuff