It is fun in Uganda, in all senses of the word. Uganda will sometimes annoy you so intensively, and you find yourself desperately laughing.
As I wrote a while ago, humour is one of the devices that enable us to get along with the hardships of our sometimes disturbing circumstances.
For some of the happenings/practices over which we have little or no power to stop, we find ways of living with them so as not to be forever sad and frowning. If we did not drill humour out of some of these things or find ways of living with them as if we are not bothered, perhaps they would have killed us. And this is how some of our awkward behaviours and practices end up becoming normal.
This fellow, a couple of years above childhood, opens his car window and throws out stuff without being bothered an inch. He then closes like nothing foolish has happened! How we tend to look at everywhere as an appropriate rubbish spot yet at the same time expecting a clean environment is ironically amazing.
But again, where is one expected to dump their garbage? Talk of the rubbish from rental quarters and slums. Yeah, one should pay for garbage collection services. Give it a thought, though. Will a people who would run away from paying rent at any opportunity pay for their garbage?
It is, therefore, in this neighbourhood that you find wall writings here and there: ‘Toyiwa wano kasasiro’ (don’t dump waste here). Nevertheless, they collect it in a sack, and wait for night’s cover, to safely dump it by the roadside or in the middle of the road – including their dead cat.
The following day they pass in follow-up, covering their nose in disgust, and wondering why the garbage is still abandoned there. And who the hell added another sack on top of theirs, and a dog carcass!
Thank the gods, the rains arrive, and freely transport everything to Bwaise. Mustafa tiptoes through the water that came back to its wetland home last night. He has two carcasses at his door, plus a kaveera of human waste. In utmost anger, he directs all to the nearby clogged water channel. Who cares to know where it ends up?
At a distant corner, just a few meters from the main road, someone is peeing against a wall in calm relief. Well, what does a broke man do with a full bladder if most toilets in the city have to be paid for? They struggle to find food; and as well have to suffer with its outcomes?
Is the unannounced norm that the urban poor are not entitled to decent excretion? A few weeks later, the owner of the abused wall has boldly scribbled on it: ‘Tofuka wano. Fine 100,000/-’ (don’t urinate here. The fine is 100,000/-). What won’t the poor be denied! Well, they can pee anywhere they find no warning.
The bizarre goes all the way up to the highest echelons of society, only differing in form. So, you are stuck in traffic jam, and the frustration is deep. Then the blow of a siren starts building up from behind. An ‘important’ person with more ‘important’ things to do, and who is scared of everyone else, wants way.
And another, and another. All that other road users can do is to watch the important through tinted windows, placed in backseats reading newspapers or watching the less important with unbothered indifference, all the way looking as if they are the inventors of life.
Here, being a leader means coming first; even at the expense of the led, and that society owes you a pompous living. But what is even more amusing is how some of the led cheer up their exploiters with wild ululation, incredible submissiveness, and a rare complex of unworthiness!
Part of this complex is a child of ignorance, by which entitlements are seen as favours. As such, for the exploitative structure to be sustained, the ignorance has to be carefully preserved and protected. Only this way shall the masses continue to celebrate the crumbs falling off the table that is served by their sweat.
Meanwhile, it’s not true that those in charge do not adequately care about their people’s grievances. They have cut up the potholes for refilling. Never mind that one month after the holes were dug, they have not yet returned! It’s a world of its own dear; take anyone very seriously at the risk of stressing yourself. It is okay for everything to be slow and devoid of order.
That’s why, after all this while and price, we still find no problem with hundreds of boda bodas in the capital city, riding in all directions through wherever their tyres can fit.
If you want order, migrate. Ironically, though, we carefully preserve our disorder, many of us love it in countries that have cared to create sanity in their own. With heads high, there we peacefully walk the streets in expectation of respect under all vocabularies of dignity and human rights.
Believe us though, we promise to sort all this mess, with the help of our ‘development partners’. Every other part of the world knows that we are their spoilt brother with ‘perceived disabilities’ whose perpetual begging amidst wastefulness has to be tolerated.
Help us, China; there is some ka-money we expect from oil to clear you with interest. But, while we go all over the world begging, borrowing, and blowing off our wealth, we demand and expect to be respected.
While I’m at it complaining about the indifference and chronic lies of our leaders, my neighbour in the taxi pulls out his incessantly ringing phone: “Aaalo, ndi wano mu banka nkuteerayo sente zo” (Hello, I am in the bank depositing your money). Oh Uganda, may God uphold thee!
The author is a teacher of philosophy.