WRITTEN BY OSKAR SEMWEYA-MUSOKE
A friend of mine, a Ugandan who lives in Canada, likes to spend at least two months in Kampala, to soak in the warm sunshine away from their dreaded winter.
There is one dominating feature of every Kampala visit that she dreads – attending funerals. This is a given here! I wonder if there are any statistics, but it is possible that the average attendance is two funerals a month.
Consequently, most people are jovial – smiling and chatting with friends – at burials. So, whilst it may be ‘an end-of-the-world’ feeling for the very close bereaved relatives, life seems to go on for everyone else, even at that time of intense grief.
I attended a funeral of a close relative last week. It was a very sad affair; a young man with so much promise had perished due to illness. I may not forget this funeral, not because it was of a close relative, but the combination of sad relatives, ‘jovial mourners’, and the priest’s sermon is glued to my memory!
The Anglican priest who conducted the funeral service was sorry for coming late, but had no apologies for his lengthy sermon. Using a threat, we were all made to pay attention.
By way of introducing his preaching, the priest requested all those who had been given legs by God, our Maker, to stand up for a hymn and, that if anyone was uninterested, they should leave pronto. Could anyone dare to walk away or stay seated? We were hooked!
As promised, it was a long sermon. Everyone should be happy to be alive, it was asserted, so there could be no rush to leave! We were asked to remind each other that God modelled us in His own image. However, what followed next was somewhat contradictory! In a loud, but mournful, tone, the priest bemoaned the life of a Ugandan citizen.
Heatedly, he described society’s evils.Today, the country is full of cheats, conmen and land-grabbers. Others sell off family land or steal from their relatives. There are those that kill using iron bars or other means. And, his tone rising, he pointed out the incredulous adulterers who go about business in broad daylight, which is more emphatic in Luganda: “mu ttuntu” – connoting doing bad things on a hot afternoon!
Mourners were all silent, but attentive, reflecting on the ills bedeviling our dear nation! Whilst all agreed with him, he made it easier for us to distance ourselves from these ugly criminals and immoral lot. Had he thrown in the politicians and civil servants whose lot includes architects of grand theft, we could have applauded, despite this being a funeral!
As we left the funeral on the newly-tarmacked Semuto-Matugga road, we mulled over the good man of God’s message! It is not all doom and gloom; surely, there is hope for us in Uganda!
Away from Uganda, there are serious troubles all around the world. In West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the Ebola virus is making its mark. Latest figures from the World Health Organisation show that about 5,000 people have died and 10,000 have been infected. These figures may not even be reliable, because new infections, by far, outstrip medical interventions!
Despite the gloom, combatants battling the deadly Ebola monster are an inspiration. Although an unprecedented number of health workers has been infected and many have died, there are many local and foreign volunteers signing up to help, fully knowing the high personal cost in case of infection.
In early September, I listened, on radio, to a Liberian health worker, a driver, whose job was to collect dead bodies from their families. Bodies of Ebola victims remain infectious unless buried in the recommended manner. I hope this brave gentleman is still alive and soldiering on.
In Nigeria, it is the bravery and courage of Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh that saved the country from Ebola. She stood her ground and refused to release Nigeria’s ‘Patient Zero’ and thereby halted the spread of Ebola. Her own son could not even sit by her side as she lay dying, having been infected.
Somalia’s ‘health’ is slowly improving, thanks to the efforts of Uganda, Kenya and the African Union. That cannot be said of South Sudan! Tunisian parliamentary elections were held in October and the presidential elections are next. Will the country stabilise?
Egypt has a new strongman leader who is intent on bringing peace even more forcefully than the old regime, whenever necessary. Libya, on the other hand, may not survive! Fact: it is good to be a Ugandan now!
The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.