I want to tell you an incomplete story about Ugandans like me. Many of us are not Ugandans until October 8th when we are suddenly reminded that the following day is Independence Day.
Suddenly, we take off our English, Arab, Roman and American identities to wear back our gomesi(s), sukaa(s) and omushanana. We then call our graphics designers to create flamboyant posters whose narratives are limited to “Happy Independence Day”
By 11:59 this day, we are exhausted from exchanging so many empty pleasantries. We are tired from forwarding independence messages to our partners, business associates and donors. But even more, those attending the national celebrations are exhausted from having to listen to long boring speeches.
You see, being Ugandan is a full-time job. That’s why from 8am to 5pm, we go to our basic jobs; to earn our basic salary. In between these hours, we fast off lunch breaks to engage in vigorous prayer for financial breakthrough. They say “You can’t spend your entire life eating and expect blessings”
With our heads buried in the sand, we chant in chorison “All leaders come from God.” But I question who legitimized such a narrative in the first place. For I know that God sent leaders would not play architectural or surgeon like duties in the oppression of their own people.
Anyway, let’s go back to Tiktok and share funny videos because #YOLO. We are only living once. We only get to live our empty lives once.
I call basic; empty or miserable because it takes away our will to question the systems that constantly kidnap people in drones never to be seen again. It robs us of the power to demand accountability for the Masaka murders or Entebbe murders.
Who killed Magezi, Kazini, Abiriga, Kirumira et al and what was their motive? But wait a minute “If their families aren’t complaining? Who am I?”
In the 2016 election cycle, an old acquaintance of mine demanded that I stop commenting on national matters. Well, I still believe he said that because he felt that I don’t represent what he’d learned to see as the average Ugandan woman.
You know, culture can be a bad thing. Look at how it conditions us to reject and crush all that is not familiar. When we speak about people not of our dialect, we say ”look at those Acholi or Basoga or Baganda.” Are they not Ugandans? Why then must we draw the boundaries of interaction based on constructed tribes.
Independence day bores me. I miss the thrill I had for Independence Day. I miss the intellectual debates we had that assessed our leadership gains and losses in the past years. My heart aches for the pure spirit with which they were held. A spirit of love, respect and resolve to do better.
I miss the meals we had as a family, eating chicken and rice in celebration of this day. At the time, we ate local chickens with long grained rice from Soroti. Today we are served GMO Yo Kuku chicken alongside tasteless Basmati rice.
Even in our homes, we don’t buy the narrative of BUBU. We dine with China ware, Sit on Turkish chairs whilst endowed in Italian suits and shoes. I don’t even want to speak about how proud we are to have expensively bought UK used phones.
What is it about the engineering faculties at Makerere and Kyambogo Universities respectively that inhibits thinking? What is it about Development Economics or Business Administration that inhibits fresh graduates from developing their economies or managing businesses?
Independence Day bores me. It reminds me that I am a Ugandan living in Uganda and there’s no other place I’d rather be.
It reminds me, that whenever I write I must package my thoughts to massage the groins of my oppressors. It bores me to be at the mercy of one discourse; the NRM agenda, an unsecured future.
As a woman, it bores me that all I get are invitations to go “out” to eat what would be rent because many of us are just a stone’s throw away from poverty.
Take me back to the 9th October 1962, when Uganda appeared to be free. Take me back to when ecstasy filled the hearts of the citizens. Take me back to when women in leadership fancied kitten heels.
Take me back to what was a state holiday and not a state-men’s holiday. Take me back to when men, women and children danced in the streets not the Ndere troupe that has mastered the “smiling to impress” performance.
Take me back to when we drank Omukomboti and danced to tunes by Kawaliwa and Mary W. Take me back to when music was not just tantalizing to the ears but also thought provoking. Take me back to the place and time where with so little my heart was full.
Take me back!
Republished with permission from original creator – Atuhaire Joan Patience’s blog. She is a freelance writer, former Peer Educator at Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU), Founder (Kujenga Africa) and also alumni of the FES YLF (class of 2020). Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Also by Joan: The Politics of ‘Good Hair’