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Saturday,September 26,2020 12:17 PM

Some don’t just fade away

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th November 2009 03:00 AM

THERE is a touching quote from the turn of the twentieth century that says “old soldiers never die, they just fade away”. Old Soldier Gen Douglas MacArthur ended his stirring farewell in April 1951 with the words: to the American Congress, after he ha

THERE is a touching quote from the turn of the twentieth century that says “old soldiers never die, they just fade away”. Old Soldier Gen Douglas MacArthur ended his stirring farewell in April 1951 with the words: to the American Congress, after he ha

BY JOHN NAGENDA

THERE is a touching quote from the turn of the twentieth century that says “old soldiers never die, they just fade away”. Old Soldier Gen Douglas MacArthur ended his stirring farewell in April 1951 with the words: to the American Congress, after he had been relieved of his command in the Far East by President Harry Truman.

They had probably first seen the light of day in an old ballad of uncertain date.

Of course “young”, serving, soldiers expect more violent departures from every direction in doing their noble work of protecting their nations. But those who survive have every well-earned right to expect peaceful ends to their lives: “to just fade away”, preferably many years hence!

In his somewhat anticlimactic end, 12 years after his congress farewell, this is what Gen MacArthur perhaps in some way achieved. But not our own Maj Gen Kazini, a mere 51, on his ill-fated morning of Tuesday November 10; not for him any chance to gracefully fade away. Not his fate, having survived many a battle successfully undertaken towards his country’s recovery, to enjoy well-earned rest, but instead to perish ingloriously by his lover’s doing. No Greek tragedy exceeded his untimely fall.

Throughout the country people talked with amazement that a man, a hero, whom bullets and other implements of war had failed to dislodge, should finally perish by his lover’s hand. Had a chance iron bar wielded by Lydia Draru in a domestic quarrel closed out his lights? Had a night’s hard drinking softened him to the point where a mere girl had managed to end their squabble in such brutal fashion? Could a General’s aura, if nothing else, not stayed her hand?

Lovers don’t necessarily act according to rank, but, surely, an ex-Commander of the Ugandan army and a young woman from far out of town…! It is all in our stars, dear Brutus. But with reflection, other questions arose. Could she have done it on her own, or were there accomplices; was she the one who did it at all, or was she merely the lure to catch the fish? With careful questioning, not always impeccably done in such cases here, the truth should emerge. But the man is gone!

I had met him perhaps not more than five times across the years. But he lingered in the mind. The last was maybe a year ago; he was undergoing his various trials in Court and out, and I had to look twice to recognise him, a bit scruffy I thought; (no soldierly aura there!) We exchanged pleasantries well enough, and I noticed the gentle twinkle in his eye as when he had been at the top of the tree five years before. I pointed towards my home beyond the trees of the Hotel International, Muyenga, and said, “Drop by any day for a glass or two!” Sure, he said. Years before, at the Kampala Club, he had said to me, quietly humorously, “Oh I am not from the famous fighting family, you know!” I thought it neat (in the American sense).

Many pictures of his face carry a haunting melancholy. Did atoms deep within smell his final catalytic catastrophe? What a bloody tragedy, especially to his family – so brave and poised in this hour of their need – but also to wider friends and comrades, and to the country he served so diligently. Alas, poor Kazini, many knew him well, and loved him, and are sickened by the manner of his going.

His death followed hard on the heels of another: of the son of Ugandan Vice- President Prof Gilbert Bukenya. Young Bryan Bukenya, a mere 26, perished in a car accident, via which route a host of Ugandans yearly leave this world.

Here by all accounts died a young man with a glorious future before him, sign-posted by what he had already accomplished, especially by his friendly outlook, not least towards his adoring Dad, whose grief was palpable, written all over his face and body. The father kept nothing of himself back. To me it was this intensely naked but dignified show of grief that showed the true knot between parent and child; God grant them grace. Bryan was already a lawyer who had newly joined the Uganda army as a cadet officer; the sky seemed the limit.
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Follows, logically, a song of Bleak Winter. While I was in London a week ago, that enigmatic man, Sting, once one of the band Police, brought out a beautiful record based on the bleak darkness of winter, some of it beautifully recorded in Liverpool Cathedral. Very haunting it is, expressing the idea that winter serves to slow down life, to hibernate, to give a chance to mull over ideas, to question at leisure.

Sting averred that without this space, this enforced chance, there could be no real possibility for new ideas and thoughts to appear and be germinated.

It is a seductive thought, easy to swallow whole. Until you think again. What about those with no winter ever, say those astride the Equator, you and me? Are we thus doomed never to get the chance to germinate new ideas? Perish the thought!

Some don’t just fade away

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