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Short story: man without a list of his attackers embraces pain

Junior Youth and Children Affairs minister Balaam Barugahara Ateenyi

Junior Youth and Children Affairs minister Balaam Barugahara Ateenyi

A decrepit police station stands by the roadside. Inside, the paint is peeling off the walls, and the wooden benches are worn down from the many posteriors that have sat atop them endlessly.

The cement floor, once smooth and shiny, is now a miniature model of Kampala’s potholed roads. The exercise books on the large lopsided reception desk sit like a forgotten thought, dog-eared and doggedly still in use.

Passivity permeates the station, a few police officers lounge casually as they swap manly/womanly stories. A bloodied man shuffles into the station - it appears he had numerous tussles with blunt force and did not win. His shocking appearance does nothing for the passive atmosphere. Such sights are only a shock to the uninitiated - like the man himself.

The man mumbles painfully on reaching the desk. A police officer asks him to speak up as other police officers watch disinterestedly. One officer looks out the window, signalling for the lunch lady to hurry. The ample lunch lady ambles in infusing energy into the air. The beaten-up man mumbling at the reception is temporarily set aside, for food is essential.

The lunch lady takes the orders, “mmere yonna”- a generous selection of carbohydrates with the quintessential ‘suppu’ plus a smattering of cabbage or avocado. Food matters dispensed with, the officers return to the bruised and battered man. The man ran into violent criminals who pulverized him. The man, therefore, thought it wise to seek help from the police. Little does he know his troubles are only awakening.

A bored police officer burdened with listening to the man’s sorrows, barks, “Where is the list?” The man is confused and leans in closer for his ears did not escape the violent assault. Another police officer shouts, “Where is the list?”

The man is even more confused. His mind is foggy, whether from pain or the strange question is another unknown.

“Give us the list of names of the alleged criminals you claim attacked you”, bellows the police officer. The man bends over, clutching his head in his hands as if to keep his bruised head from falling apart. He remembers public service announcements (PSAs) that serenaded him into getting his national identity card. The PSAs promised that public services would abundantly rain down on all who carried the identity card. Now, he finds he needs a ‘list.’

The man catches a break when the lunch lady bustles in with her basket of ‘mmere yonna!’ The station comes to a standstill for eating is essential. Flummoxed by the bloodied man, the lunch lady asks if he would like to order. She admonishes him that eating is essential, especially in his messy state.

In between mouthfuls of food, another police officer croaks, “He has no list and yet he wants our help. These people!”

On hearing this, the lunch lady stares at the man with fresh hostility. She jeers and quips, “So, you are one of those people! You should be grateful they did not kill you. Be happy you can eat and sleep.”

As she sways her Mama Baby body out of the station, the man slowly sinks onto the hard bench, wincing when his wounded buttocks connect with the smooth wood. The police officer turns on a small radio to catch the news headlines. The bloodied man attempts to distract his confusion by listening to the news.

On the news, the man listens to a speech by the newly appointed junior minister for Youth and Children Affairs. The man nearly falls off the bench when he hears the minister talk about an elusive list. “If I get the list, my greatness will surpass that of the biblical Balaam and his talking ass.”

The minister sighs in the manner of one who is utterly helpless for the minister seeks a good deed to place next to his favourite orange T-shirt. The minister would like to help the visibly injured man who claims thugs mugged him but alas, the man did not come with the list.

Castigating the man for failing to present a list of his alleged attackers, the minister insinuates that the man is putting on an act. The news ends, as there is no good deed to report. The officers are also done with lunch. They stare at the man blankly. Finally, one of them says,

Aloo, when you return with the list, we can talk. Otherwise, remove yourself from this public service.”

The man hobbles to the roadside taxi stop; the taxis speed up past him. No one wants the burden of a passenger likely to die aboard the taxi. Worse still, a passenger without a list. Dear reader, if you are set upon by violent thugs, as they land blows and kicks to your soft parts, ask them - ever so politely - to list their names and national identification numbers.

When I last saw the man, he was still battered and bloodied, waiting by the dusty roadside - wondering when justice became variable and the list invariable.


The writer is a tayaad muzzukulu


-5 #1 Joe 2024-04-10 17:31
Thank you Nalubwama for the article. It is full of fun/captivating but also passes important message. When society gets broken, everyone suffers. Those mean police officers who were consuming "sumptuous" lunch amidst pain of the innocent Ugandan, suffered too unknowingly.

Not long ago, I heard/read from Ugandan press of roadside/street food sellers adding transformer oil to their frying ingredients. Out of decency, I won't mention the male organ that was allegedly found in the "sumptuous" food. Whenever, my mind flashes back to that story, I get nauseated.

Getting out of this brokenness is gonna be hard, but let's begin somewhere. Let's begin my molding children well. Please let's refrain from insulting people, stealing, killing and committing all manner of sins when children are looking or aware.

The best gift to a child is the power of our example, not stealing or killing on their behalf. Let's confer blessings and not curses to our offspring.
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+5 #2 Remase 2024-04-11 08:21
Tayaad, the police [militants] is not in the business of protecting Ugandans and their property or enforcing the law but to protect M7, his family, relatives and tribesmen.

The militants are only interested in enforcing the law that is designed to keep M7, his family, relatives and tribesmen to rule Uganda for life. Asking for the list was just the start. Money to pay for their, militants, lunch was next.

Then after that he had to buy the papers to at the militant's kiosk! Then he had to make sure to pay for pushing his complaint to progress through for investigation and prosecution if luck came his way.
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-1 #3 Russo 2024-04-11 15:11
Olivia, you rock! I like your descriptive details, structural, functional and societal orientation in this story. It sounds comical but a reality.
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-2 #4 Lakwena 2024-04-12 17:41
In other words Tayaad, that is the country we have been condemned to live and die in without a list, and at our own risk.

Thanks but it is indeed a sad sadism on the part of the Police Officers. No wonder the go home and embrace the wives and children with such abominations.
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+5 #5 Lysol 2024-04-12 21:36
There is an African saying, "If your neighbor's house is on fire you help put out the fire."

Olivia, what did you do to help the poor man rather than participating as a bystander to observer the whole saga unfold? As an activist, some people would ask as to why you did not intervene right away?

There is a saying in the US, "If you see something, say something". Maybe we will never know what eventually happened to that poor man.

Well, Ugandans are good at being bystanders and playing morality police. That is why Ugandans are stuck with one Museveni for life.
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