With about 20 languages spread across the different regions, very few countries can boast of Uganda's wealth.
By Deo K Tumusiime
I have been doing a backtracking soul searching survey and have come to a realization that Ugandans have over the years, slowly but surely lost their Ugandanness.
The whirlwind illusion of modernisation (development), has detached many of us from what used to be cheaply our very own, and now everyone must pay a hefty price to wear a foreign identity, and pay even much more to sustain it. Here's a nutshell comparison between what our true Ugandan identity used to be, and where we currently are:
Natural water vs bottled water: Even if you've not been to a science class, you will appreciate that natural spring water fresh from the ground, is simply incomparable to what we have as bottled water today. Served from a Ugandan clay pot with its natural minerals intact, the deep refreshing tinge of spring water is second to none. With its never ending supply, spring water comes at zero price. If our grandparents drew life from it, why not us?
Language: Uganda is a very rich country linguistically. With about 20 languages spread across the different regions, very few countries can boast of such wealth. But what is the situation today? You must pay money to learn English as a compulsory subject instead of speaking your language for free. In fact, in school we were punished for speaking our Ugandan languages. Today, in addition to English, other foreign languages; French, German and Spanish have been drafted into our curriculum. Those who speak a bit of these languages feel sweet on others, when they should ideally be lucky to master any of the likes of Luo, Lugbar, Langi, Acholi, Karimojong, the 4Rs, Luganda, Swahili and so on, languages that they need for immediate purpose.
Dental care: I have lived in a Uganda where we cleaned our teeth using a piece of charcoal, and they turned spotless white. If you have visited a dentist to have your teeth cleaned, you will agree with me that dentists clean teeth using not a tooth brush but metals to rid us of the tartar. A tooth brush lacks that abrasive effect necessary to effectively clean a tooth surface especially once tartar has built up. Charcoal does it 10 times better. Of course the immediate worry is the "dirt" from charcoal, but to focus on this is to forget that the best things in life actually come from dirty. In any case, charcoal stains not, and can easily be cleaned with ordinary water.
Our Ugandan huts: There's a time when the number of people using iron sheets for roofing was countable. In the rush for modernization, the huts have since been dismantled as backward. But with a hut for housing, all the materials used were readily available free of charge, and there was no need for specialized labor as everyone could build. Today we have many homeless people, their minds stuck in the wishful desire to erect a so-called decent house. Need I list the benefits of huts? They are the coolest form of housing in times of hot weather, and they are noise free in times of rain, guaranteeing a peaceful sleep.
Decentralisation, my foot! I have also lived in a Uganda, where residents of every village worked alongside their leaders to fix their roads. Community development was everyone's responsibility. However, with the coming in of the exotic concept of decentralization, this community role was made the exclusive responsibility of a certain body called Local Government, often completely detached from the locals. In the end, civilized Ugandans drive over potholes year in, year out. I am told that today it is even a crime for residents to fix their roads if they had the funds to do so!
Even minor stuff like shoes!!! A Ugandan gladly wore local shoes called Rugabire in Runyankore. These shoes were made from used car tyres and were no doubt long lasting. A so-called decent men's shoe from Bata today costs over sh150,000. Aw, and this is development!
Even walking on foot is American! I will end on this note though I could have gone on and on. Recently I stopped at a roadside bazar where some guys just arrived from the United States of America were selling second-hand stuff. I alighted from my car smartly dressed, and walked bare footed. One lady spotted me and asked, "Oh, is it your choice to walk bare footed?" I was like "Sure, why?" She's like, "Kale this is what they (Americans) advise us to do to enable free flow of blood in our feet"!!! There is a reason why God, in God's wisdom created us all with foot stamps so hard…….it was so that we are able to connect with the earth. This is cut off when we wear shoes. To the very least, one ought to walk bare footed on their compound if we fear being judged by others when outside.
In all this, the question is: Have we developed as a people or we have been hoodwinked? I am not in any way undermining the technological advancement that has seen the development of say the computer I used to scribble this article, but problem is that much of it has us as consumers (of largely foreign innovations) and not the creators Ugandans ought to be. Otherwise our original stuff would not have been usurped. Technology, good as it is, should take into consideration the workable models that have successfully worked in our traditional setting.
I am worried, but as Ugandans we need to review what we have embraced as development in relation to what truly and perfectly defined us before all this craze.
The writer is communications consultant