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Keep the home fires burning

By Vision Reporter

Added 23rd September 2011 08:00 PM

THIS was a famous British World War II song, to raise morale of troops and country. It was sung by that resolutely upbeat and sunny songstress Vera (later Dame) Lynn. Younger readers of this column might imagine I turned on the wireless and sat back to listen, but I was only one when the war broke out, and remember the song due to endless war movies!

By John Nagenda

THIS was a famous British World War II song, to raise morale of troops and country. It was sung by that resolutely upbeat and sunny songstress Vera (later Dame) Lynn. Younger readers of this column might imagine I turned on the wireless and sat back to listen, but I was only one when the war broke out, and remember the song due to endless war movies!

At any rate, the exhortation above is to fellow Ugandans to keep our pecker up as we go through our present War, following in the steps of our conquering Bush War (’80 – ’86).

It is, most cruelly, a war fought against ourselves, as sections wage it against the majority by pillaging our resources to a degree unprecedented in this country’s history. Accurately or otherwise, certain names appear with monotonous regularity as hoovering money from public resources, hardly leaving avenues unturned. King among these is a certain Hassan Basajjabalaba, tycoon extraordinaire. Although currently unconvicted, and wearing the face of one confident no action will follow, the public is intrigued, to put it mildly.

Supposing he is guilty, who gives him, and others, many of them in Government employ, this total immunity? Are people like these above the law; and at what cost to the nation? More worryingly still, how many hundreds, and even thousands, daily plot to join the ranks of these usual suspects, especially for seeming reward, with minimum danger to themselves?

Basajjabalaba (ironically translated as Men see [trouble]) has a current case of sh247,000,000,000 (nearly US$10,000,000) against his name, and more from previous quotes. What the hell is going on?

Who hates him enough to make these accusations, if untrue? Multiply him by the rest who stand accused, and, Neighbour, you don’t have to go far to see why Uganda is in this Indian vindaloo of a soup!

Can the Director of Public Prosecutions be overwhelmed by numbers: those quoted here, and the small ones of his staff? Give him more! What, ditto, about the Inspector General of Government? What about whistle-blowers, given protection through anonymity? Have they been forced to throw in the towel? And infinitely more is the case: what moral climate are we allowing our young to grow up in?

What must be violently clear is that when so many of these, to whom so much seems to have been given in education regardless of ability, “graduate” onto the market and look for work, and fail to get it, year after year, but aware of the thieves, an explosion point is bound to be reached.
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Now for the miracle I mentioned last week, on the journey from Arua, via Nebbi to Karuma Falls (where is the promised electricity dam?) and then Masindi, and Hoima’s restful new Kon-Tiki Hotel. We had flown to Arua to attend my Farewell Dinner following my retirement from the Board of British American Tobacco, Uganda.

BATU has a strict maximum speed control, including on the best of roads, of 105 kph. This is to avoid accidents, but perforce gives you the chance, kilometre after kilometre, of perceiving the surroundings, even as you potter around at this ridiculous maximum speed. And perceive we did.

Neighbour, unless you have had the wonderful chance which we seized with both eyes, you cannot even begin to understand the awesome beauty we saw all around us.

On both sides of the road, away to the far horizons, stretched land of virile fecundity, waiting for God’s creatures to come and turn it into beautiful food, not only for the stomach but the eye. I fell in instant love (or should I say, fell in love yet again?) with this most beautiful of motherlands!

Now, now, not tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow (“Creeps in this petty pace from day to day”) let us start planning to do what God (and Shakespeare!) intended. Where have we been this long time since the Bush War started to end? It is true indeed battles followed, ebbed and flowed, against the horrific Kony. True, too, that even now some of the eyesores of the camps remain here and there, of citizens still too traumatised to return whence they came.

The hoe is an abomination, except in very tight spaces. Set tractors of various sizes and intentions onto these virgin lands, and watch the food tumble forth without ceasing. Build factories and industries to feed off these, and to transfer the lives of Ugandans back to Agriculture, but on a scale never seen before.

Empty squalid slums of our towns and take their populations back to the land. Not just on the road from Arua. In every direction you look, mile after mile of empty lands stretch for distances, “waiting to go”. Let this be our nation’s song. Keep The Home Fires Burning (if only to throw our thieves thereon!)

The few words remaining I will give over to a miracle that happened at our National Theatre on Wednesday.

There Valerie Miquel and her all-Ugandan Uganda National Contemporary Ballet gave what I can only call an earth-shaking performance, of a new creation based on the music of a living American composer, Scot Sheperd. He based it on Darfur, real, and resident in all of us. See it again on 19 October. Wow!


Keep the home fires burning

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