By Deo Tumusiime
“We had to line up to get a Kilo of salt, and at times after lining up for several hours, you were told the salt was finished. You had to call your neighbour every day to find out if he or she was still alive. We walked from Fort Portal to Kampala on foot as there was no alternative means of transport; human bodies were always littered all over the place…”
These are accounts of Ugandans that happened to live during the infamous regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote.
The thought of such occurrences, especially for children born after 1986, sounds like real movie stuff, so strange and yet unbelievable true. But for those that lived through the mayhem, the trauma inflicted is absolutely indelible.
And, therefore, if there’s anything the current regime ought to be credited for; it is got to be the correction or is it hibernation of the above captioned miserable scenarios.
And if you asked anyone from the ‘traumatised’ generation whether Uganda deserves a change of government, the answers seem quite predictable: “At least we can now sleep and almost be assured to wake up alive; at least you can now go to the shop and be sure to find salt and sugar even if expensive; at least there are enough buses to take you anywhere around the country”.
These sound quite escapist answers, rather skeptical, but who can blame folks who braved bullets flying over their heads while they slept with their loved ones? According to them, life under the NRM regime has been such a luxury when compared with what prevailed then.
I was so quick to dismiss the oldies’ fears under the presumption that given Uganda’s professional army and a lack of the tribal rivalries akin of countries like South Sudan, a slump to the situation of the ‘70s was unlikely; then someone quickly drew my attention to the current fragilities pertaining in neighbouring Somalia and far-off in Syria.
“The situation can change within a matter of minutes”, I was reminded. And yes, we saw this happen in Libya recently; then in Tunisia; then Egypt; in Kenya; in Kigali Rwanda years ago; and within just a fortnight, thousands are said to have lost their lives in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.
Ah, so Uganda is absolutely not immune to a slump and as such, everyone must be thankful for the relative stability enjoyed over the past couple of decades, whilst praying that wherever God picked the saviour, Yoweri Museveni, he should graciously pick again and offer us a successor! Or while he still can soldier on, the Baganda often say, “Gwolabyeeko ye mwaana”, meaning that the one you have seen is the one you can count for a child!
Some people have crafted a saying that “Cowards live longer”; and the Banyankole have a saying that, “Bachweezi njuna, nagaawe oteireho”, meaning that even if you believe that your god is able, you still must tread carefully; and that before you stray to your neighbour’s house, you ought to have plan B just in case he returns unexpectedly.
But why is it that despite all these warnings, we continue to breed a daring generation? The oldies suggest that today’s children are so spoilt, having not tested even a glimpse of the troubles that characterised the bad regimes, and some even afford to rant by demanding for cosmetic change of government!
Well, whilst all reservations uphold, it is imperative to let life take its natural course for indeed as one Luganda song says, “Tewali mbeela Mukama gyeyatonda nga yakubeelawo lubeeleela”, translated to mean that there’s no situation that God created to last for eternity.
Perhaps what is most important, is that as every individual clamors for survival, we must do so, mindful of the realities around us.
As we embrace the New Year, let’s not lose sight of the fact that in his wisdom, God could never have ushered us into a world so inadequate to accommodate us all. The biggest problem devouring our world is greed, greed and more greed, even when the stomach can only consume just as much.
And as long as we appreciate the fact that at the end of the day, once everyone has eaten so much, there’s one place where gentlemen come to convergence with paupers; we’ll then learn to treat each other humanely and there’ll never again be war in our world; never, never and never again war in Uganda.
And with this assurance, we can all live respectfully at peace in this country, this world that God so freely gave unto us to enjoy and let alone to vacate for future generations to enjoy as well. So let us live, and let others live too.
I wish all Ugandans a peaceful and rewarding New Year 2014.
The writer is an international communications consultant