HOW LITTLE WE KNOW ABOUT UGANDA.
Uganda has a record of four constitutions since independence, and one of them was called the Pigeon Hole constitution. I was seated in class, part of about 50 other law students when the lecturer asked, “why was the 1966 constitution called the Pigeon Hole Constitution?
One student explained that the Members of the Parliament met in a pigeon hole to discuss the constitution, another said that during the 1960’s the pigeon car( he meant the Peugeot car) was very popular and since most of the Members of Parliament used to drive these French cars, the constitution they passed earned the name Pigeon Hole inevitably.
What was so hilarious was that these ridiculous answers were being given by forth year law students who studied constitutional law in their first year of school. My face hang low, I was totally embarrassed because even I did not know why the constitution was called Pigeon Hole. It is impossible for MPs to meet in a pigeon Hole because the thing is so small, it can only accommodate a document. And to say that the constitution got its name from a car brand is equally hilarious. I recount that classroom experience because it was the inspiration of this write up.
Why do we know so little about our history? When you find educated adults who have no idea about their past, then you know something is totally wrong. I do not agree with the compulsory patriotism training the Parliament wants to impose on all Ugandans, you simply cannot impose love for one’s nation. But seriously Ugandans, this is our country. We ought to love it. We hate the government and all the leaders who trade souls for money every day, but we cannot afford to hate our home Uganda.
The documentation of History is important, very important and one safe place to document such history is in our memory. George Orwell explores the dangers of nation without a history in his book 1984 and he tells us how such a nation is fertile ground for dictatorship. If we know nothing about our history, then the current government has leverage to lie to us and convince us that Uganda has never known better, that we should sing praises and be grateful for what the government is doing.
What is the government doing anyway, when every day six women die in Uganda trying to bring forth life, what is the government doing when our children have no education, when the populace is dying of malnutrition in a country that is called the food basket of east Africa?
What will inform your rage at all these abuses when you do not know your history? If you knew that during Obote’s regime education was valued and teachers were paid handsomely to offer quality education to the masses, you would join the teachers as they strike for a raise. During one of the demonstrations a teacher carried a placard saying, “God looked at my work and he was pleased, he looked at my salary and he cried.”
If you knew your history you would be so mad that we even have malnutrition in a country that boosts to host the source of the Nile, a country within the Albertine region with fertile soils and good climate. Once upon a time, the government used to provide essential foods such as milk, and margarine to each and every family and the government was concerned about disaster preparedness that it was mandatory for every homestead to have a granary (food store). But today 60% of Ugandan children die every year as a result of malnutrition.
Who is to blame for our ignorance about Ugandan History”? I say it is you and I. writers and Artists have great influence in preserving history. When I read Half of a yellow sun by Chimamanda Ngozi, I felt guilty that I have not contributed to documentation of my country’s history. To write about a History you did not immediately experience and yet be able to give it such emotional quality, such real photographic existence, is a skill that deserves acclaim. After reading that book, I realized that you do not need to have been there when History happened, all you need to do is to ask those who were there and write the history they did not.
No one is pointing fingers here; we are all guilty for negligently giving away our history and even letting foreigners write our history. I remember painfully enjoying Andrew Rice’s book, The teeth may smile but the heart does not forget. That man wrote so beautifully about Uganda, told a story so awakening about the realities of the early 90’s but I was so jealous that it had to be a white man to tell me my History. I hope you and I begin to actively tell our history, write our history and even read about it. We ought to know where we are coming from to boldly influence our present realities and future aspirations.