One of the greater tragedies, for me, that happened this year was the unexpected, sudden death of a great Ugandan writer-Austin Eijet. A chap who told hard truths comically and once had the entire Ugandan blogren infuriated when he explained that there were no creative male Ugandan writers publishing internationally because, “The men are too busy running after money, politics and drinking beer in bars in the evening.”
It is hard to explain the greatness of an artist. It is a tedious exercise. So I won’t do that. I will do something better. I will give you a sample, that serves beautifully in this season of political comedy and tragedy as Ugandans prepare to 'elect' a President and Members of Parliament...going through the campaign season now. A 1999 article punchier than many you will find in any mainstream newspaper in Uganda!
Museveni’s Cabinet Has World Class Athletes
The All Africa games will be inaugurated in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a few days time. As usual Uganda will be sending a contingent of representatives to this continental fiesta at considerable cost: the youth soccer team, boxers and weight lifters, and a sprinkling of track and field starlets. I wish them better luck than the duo of Julius Acon and Grace Birungi who returned empty handed from the world games at Seville, Spain, where they put up a truly stirring performance. Twenty seven years after John Akii Bua (RIP) gave this country its solitary gold medal at the Munich Olympics, we are still waiting for someone to replicate that achievement.
What do the Maurice Greenes, the Michael Johnsons and the Haile Gebrselassies of this world eat that Ugandans don’t?
Why should Moroccans, Ethiopians and Kenyans dominate athletics on the African continent? Even boxing in which we used to rule the Commonwealth has slipped from our grip. What is going on?
Despair no more. Last Saturday, August 28, I was privileged to witness a truly uplifting performance at Ngoma Secondary School, Nakaseke County in Luwero district. I had gone to Nakaseke to see if I could do a story about the elephants that are being relocated to Kabalega National Park after causing mayhem in Luwero. The boda boda cyclist who was to act as my transporter told me that I had chosen a particularly bad time because all the people I had hoped to interview would probably be away at Ngoma where the president was slated to preside over a fundraising ceremony. So to Ngoma I repaired.
Now, there are few things in this country that can upstage a fund raising ceremony in sheer theatricality. It is almost always good fun, with all the peasants decked out in their Sunday best, dancing deliriously each time the men and women who have looted the national coffers puff out their chests to announce the token sums they are donating back to the people it was stolen from.
But the Ngoma function was different. The majority of the donors were in fact the local herdsmen themselves. The only thing that was demanded of the assembled dignitaries was that they lend their expertise in auctioning the seven herds of cattle on offer, one of which was a hefty bull which had definitely benefitted from the lush pastures of the Luwero triangle. The great beast was obviously in rut, that is to say it was in the mating season. Any cattleman should have known better than entrust this sexually charged mammoth to 10 skinny LDUs equipped with nothing stronger than village ropes at their disposal for restraining it.
The inevitable happened. As soon as it was led to the clearance infront of the VIP pavilion in readiness for the president to conduct the auction, the animal dug in its heels, snorted like a demon, and scattered the hapless LDUs like mice. It wasn’t done. With its tail ominously in the air, it headed straight for the whitest object on the pavilion which happened to be President Museveni! Holy Moses! Pandemonium broke out with most people showing an incredibly clean pair of heels in an effort to save their lives.
When a state of the art gymnasium was installed at State House, Nakasero a few months ago some fools bleated about what they deemed to be a superfluous but costly addition to the seat of power, reckoning that the president was too busy to indulge in athletic pursuits. Wrong. From his performance on the evening of August 28 it is more than obvious that the president has been pumping the irons really hard. When the president realised that the bull was in an assassinatory mood and that his security detail had been overpowered, he had a rapid dialogue with his legs as to the best course of action.
“Your Excellency,” they chorused, “God helps those who help themselves. For our part we are ready to show that pretender Maurice Green who the fastest man on the planet is.” The president took only five or so steps, but the acceleration from zero to perhaps ninety miles per hour in 0.77 seconds was breathtaking. But I don’t want to talk about the president’s lightening dash.
If the Uganda Amateur Athletics Association wants another gold medal for this fair country, they should stop tormenting malnourished sportsmen and sportswomen and turn their attention to the country’s cabinet. Here is why. The Honourable Syda Bbumba showed us that Saturday evening just why she is the minister of Energy (and Minerals). Marion Jones? Give me break! Jones is not fit to hold a candle to the Hon. Bbumba. As soon as the bull broke loose, the good minister exploded out of her seat and, using the empty seats as high hurdles, vanished in a blur of blinding acceleration like the Inter City Express electric train (ICE) of the industrialised world. Eh!
And she did all this with her high heeled shoes still on! For God’s sakes let’s rest little Grace Birungi before she collapses on the track like some American superstar I know.
Although Prof. Kiddu Makubuya has relinquished the Sports department to another portfolio, he demonstrated that he has lost nothing of the flair that he acquired when sports was still in the ministry of Education. Spectacles or no spectacles, the professor is our answer to Michael Johnson.
The Hon Kisamba Mugerwa is marathon material. I don’t know where this great man grew up from. Although he travelled farthest, he was the freshest athlete at the end of the races. I would nominate my friend Hon Muruli Mukasa as the matador or bull fighter of the soon to end millennium. I saw this man clobbering the bull with his bare hands before rushing to the president’s side. That is what it means to be the minister for security. Outside the cabinet there also memorable performances by the Hon. Pascal Mukasa, the Luwero LC V chairman, Hajji Abdul Nadduli, the Bishop Evans Mukasa Kiseka.
I have run out of space. But I strongly suggest that the people cited above be included on the team of sportsmen and women that is leaving today for South Africa. It is a pity the only presidential body guard to take the bull by the horns sustained a broken rib. He would have been perfect for Tae-kwondo.
Instead of thanking God for saving the president’s life, the good ministers should have borrowed a leaf from Muruli Mukasa and thanked, “That young boy.”