A freshersâ€™ dinner for parliamentarians and a tribute to fallen scribes
By Joh Nagenda
THURSDAY evening found us in the Parliamentary Gardens (never knew they existed) to attend as special guests a dinner/dance in honour of the Members of the Seventh Parliament. I wouldnâ€™t have missed it. I have said some meaty words to our honourables, especially if I thought they were becoming over-demanding; taken the opportunity to remind them of their roots, and the desperately poor people they represent. As far as I am aware, they took this in the right spirit, made clear by the invitation. Also, some years before, one of their committees had summoned me to appear and explain what I did in my Adviser role to the President. Strong words were employed on both sides. But obviously we had not parted as enemies. I am resigned by now to the fact that I will never belong to this club of legislators, mostly for temperamental reasons, but that in principle I much admire its role cannot be denied. What better opportunity to rub shoulders than while dining and jiving? I brought out my dinner jacket and found it still fitted around the waist. While looking for the black bow tie I was firmly advised that I would be hopelessly out of place. Thank goodness I listened. Arrived at the place, it was obvious that informality was the order of the day; many, perhaps most, of the members had shunned even ordinary ties. Can it only be a quarter of a century since I last went to a formal dinner/dance? People keep telling me that the world out there is fast a-changing. But the MC for the evening, one Major John Kazoora, was straight out of the old, and top, drawer. He knew the names of everyone who came down the stairs into the main arena. How he did it defies the imagination, for the light wasnâ€™t even very good. Memberâ€™s name, spouseâ€™s name, constituency. Kazoora is one of the three new Commissioners (the others being Wacha and Zziwa) but his easy command of the evening leads your society commentator to conclude that Kazoora is after bigger fish, perhaps the biggest in parliament. The owner of that job was there, calmly as ever, with spouse; as was his deputy, also spoused. The Premier arrived late (gasp, gasp!), solo, but when the dancing got underway was pinned by a certain lady who whirled him around until I feared for his life. It was a very satisfying kind of evening, because underneath all the hilarity and lighthearted banter, there was the knowledge that from all the corners of Uganda, through 17,000 polling stations, these citizens, many of them giving the impression of freshers at college, had been sent by the people to do an important job here. Wish them luck.
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Turning to the on-going saga of Mrs and Col Besigyeâ€™s separation, whether permanent or temporary one knows not, it would take a heart of cotton wool not to dissolve into tears â€” of hilarious laughter, I regret to say. Is this a little inhumane to othersâ€™ suffering? But thereâ€™s humanity for you. And, in any case, when you consider the way the Besigyes went about his â€œdisappearanceâ€, entirely without concern for the opprobrium it might have brought to Uganda, oneâ€™s sympathy for the two disappears like the morning dew. Thinking of it all, I find myself singing, on behalf of the male Besigye, the Vera Lynn War Standard, â€œWeâ€™ll meet again/ Donâ€™t know where donâ€™t know when...â€ You almost wish it wonâ€™t happen; but perhaps that is being unnecessarily vindictive. I also remember once saying that in this case God in His majesty in bringing them together had punished each of them. How prescient were those words! One problem the doctor/colonel will face and soon is that if he is in the US (rather than, say, Rwanda) interest in him will wane almost by the hour. Remember Kayiiraâ€™s Mr Gombya in the UK? The life of an exile is no bed of roses. Still, I didnâ€™t know quite how to take it when Besigyeâ€™s lady wife said with some vehemence that she would not be joining him in the US; ours not to know the reasons why. Surely her wifely oath that she would be by his side, come what may, might have beckoned to a different conclusion. Besides which her â€œdisappearanceâ€ from Uganda would have opened up the Mbarara constituency to a Movement person. Oh well, another day perhaps! But I have an emotional plea for my brother pig-keeper: Come back Besigye, your animals miss you.
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Uganda will certainly miss its four journalists who perished on Tuesday at Lugazi. Apart from Leo Kabunga, 48, they were so young too: Kenneth Matovu, 25, Simon Peter Ekarot, 27, Francis Batte, 24. All had it in them to be at the top of their tree, and if I single out Matovu it is because he had already written so widely and with such love and devotion to sport that it was clear he considered it a central part of life itself. It brings to mind West Indian writer C. L. R. James who said, â€œWhat do they know of cricket who only cricket know?â€ I wish I had communicated my regard to Matovu. Of the two I knew best, Kabunga seemed always to prefer to be slightly in the
shadow; Ekarot the reverse, a â€œcheeky chappieâ€. Not so long ago it seemed to me his voice had broken at last and I told him so and he was delighted. About a month ago, Death came quickly for that excellent newsman, Patrick Kisuule. Boys, we miss you.