The depressing fate of life is that nobody lives long enough to hear the intonation of one's own obituary.
It has been left to be the duty of the living to appraise the life of the departed and chronicle the fitting words in homage of them. The oration that is made during these farewells is not for the benefit of the deceased; it is done to attest to those who remain in life.
By its nature, the life of an individual is dejectedly mortal and short. However, it becomes immortalized through the generations by both the biological offspring and one's legacy to society, by means of the things and examples that one imprints for heritage to the others.
The dead earn their respect and recognition well before their demise, in the greatness of their life.
They stay alive in the memory of those who appreciate them, even long after they have been interred. This is why the true progress of man's culture is to be found in the memory that is cultivated and nurtured. Humans always draw appropriate lessons from their circumstances which they use for self-improvement and the charting out of more congenial course of existence.
Whoever does not learn lessons of their life, automatically and inevitably joins the state of death where they do not reproduce themselves but miserably cease possession of their vital faculties or imprimatur with which to access longevity into history. The bitterness of experience is the seed of a long life.
We have been revisited by another tragedy in Bududa at the foothills of Mt Elgon. Like last year, many families have been buried alive by a mudslide. The cast of melancholy around Mt Elgon has always been a tragedy in waiting. The overpopulated settlement of people on denuded hills has stood out as an ogre of ill-omen, bound to result in the frequent slides of the soil.
The government has come under fire for its desultory handling of the catastrophe. Many days after the calamity, diggers only had simple hand tools with which to scoop up the mud. At this pace of rescue, anyone ensconced under the heavy earth while still breathing could not hope to be pulled out alive.
There appeared, instead, open irritation from government circles at the alleged ignoring by the people of Bududa of last year's directive to evacuate the perilous area. The Bagisu of the hills had been assured to shift to available land in Bunyoro. Unfortunately, humans are not as simple as objects or chattels that can be carted away at a whim.
Their sensitivity demands considerable tact and intimate consultation before they can be expected to elicit a predictable response, even if they are genuinely in distress. The impression that over ten thousand Bagisu can leave their ancestral homeland to resettle en-masse in the lands of the Banyoro is replete with simplicity. The psyche of an uprooted community, combined with possible negative backlash within Bunyoro itself, certainly pose fear.
The solution to the Bududa problem is not by edicts proclaimed by officials, but by engagement of the victims to evolve the solutions from their own wisdom. If the government had been open to discussion with the Mt Elgon communities, it would probably have discovered other multi-pronged approaches that would have been more suitable to the Bududa people.
It is possible for many young people from Bududa to go elsewhere for paying jobs and to choose to settle at any place of their convenience. Within the vicinity of Bugisu itself can be found plots of land for safer dwellings, if the victims of the landslide are given assistance. Besides, the hillsides can be tamed if more skilled management, like terracing and tree growing to protect the soils, is induced.
The remarkable carelessness in the Bududa saga doesn't lie with government alone, but with the entire quality of politics in the country. Politicians do not respond to social outcry, but to themselves. At the launch of the NRM struggle, we professed to be the conscience champions of our society.
There is now, instead, complex configuration of forces and alliances between politicians of diffuse colours, gambling for personal stakes in the pursuit of politics devoid of social conscience. Consequently, it is not viable for us as Ugandans to keep addressing our social concerns to those who are already proven politically dead.
We must, instead, package our message to the living so as to ignite effective and democratic organization of those who have a common heart for this country.
The author is a member of NEC (NRM) representing historicals.