7 March 2018

Uganda: In These Rains, I Should Shift to Kololo

Over last week, I spent a lot of adrenaline posting pictures of Bunnamwaya-Lweza road on social media for public attention. I call it a road for lack of a better word, you may as well call it a stretch of beautiful galleys and ditches. This road, stretching from Lweza to Kabuusu, is used by many to escape traffic jam on Entebbe road.

This, added to the fact that it connects to a vast range of residential areas, makes its importance self-evident. Nevertheless, quite often, the road is left to deteriorate to a state below a terraced garden - making it literally impassable.

And I am aware that it is not alone in that state in Kampala's suburbs, despite the millions collected there in taxes, fines, and licences. One striking irony in our management of public affairs is how we are quick to respond in case of protests but non-responsive when victims stay quiet.

When people plant banana trees in potholes, authorities will immediately come to remove them and cover the holes that they have been seeing and ignoring all the while! Sometimes these are holes that the authorities cut out themselves as though they are preparing to fill them, only to abandon them.

In the middle of this frustration, as I wondered whether it would be legally viable to sue the relevant bodies for negligence of duty and causing damage, a colleague volunteered some sarcastic advice.

He wrote: "I shall represent the government on this case. Government has done so well to provide its citizens with alternative, safe, clean residential areas such as Kololo, Bukoto and Munyonyo, among others. But stubborn citizens like you choose to stay in places like Bunamwaala". Ouch! But I picked it.

So, I am contemplating shifting to Kololo. I urge other fellows living in Nalumunye, Busabala, Kawuku, and anywhere off main roads to follow me.

Otherwise, misery will kill you before kidnappers do. Stop endlessly asking what your taxes do; your duty is to pay, not to demand. Let's shift to places that matter; where one small pothole is treated like a national emergency.

The decision will not cost us that much, compared to the rewards. With about only Shs 900 million, I trust one can find a decent house in Kololo neighbourhoods. Don't say you can't afford this. Just improve your mathematics, or else you will have to accept to stay in places meant for warthogs in the national residential plan.

See, if you drive, how much do you spend on shock absorbers, tyres and other road-beaten spare parts every year? How often do you have to take your car to the washing bay?

How much do you spend on your endless cough and flu from the dust? How much time do you spend on dusting your house? Do you know what will happen when those dusty lungs collapse? How much does a pair of lungs cost?

Don't say you understand all this but have no money. How? How could you choose to be poor in this country? Yet you knew that poverty meant poor roads in your neighbourhood, poor health services, education-less education, no justice, no security, no voice... (Not all is lost, though! Of course you still have some entitlements, like the right to vote for the system and to cry in vain).

Some of us want to live like humans without making corresponding efforts. Government is not your mother. If you are obsessed with potholes and you must stay in those places, then at least buy a raised car. Yes, like the ones driven by your leaders. You will not feel the gullies. You only need about Shs 60+ million.

That said, I advise government to put these miserable suburbs to good touristic use so as to boost our national revenue, especially in these hard financial times.

There are so many people from Europe and America who may never have seen a pothole in their life. Let us gazette these areas for pothole tourism. The potholes can be creatively preserved, labelled, and locals given jobs as pothole and dust guides.

We could as well organise a national pothole exhibition where the winning road is awarded with signposts reading 'Go Slow, Potholes Ahead'. The condition for joining the competition is simple: at least four vehicles should have overturned on the candidate road. Aren't we being advised to stop lamenting and start thinking positively?

In our childhood, we used to play a game called ggogolo. One would sit at the top of a slippery slope and slide down at a terrific speed. We could introduce this as a national sport every rainy season in places like Bunamwaya. The winner can then be rewarded with a canoe and a plot in Bwaise.

Away from the above subject, I can't end this article without bidding farewell to Afande Kale Kayihura. I will surely miss you. You made my work as a cartoonist easy and fun, through your constant supply of crazy events. Every time I thought you had hit the highest pitch of dramatic violence, you found a higher one in unbelievable ways.

Under your innovative service, we saw women's breasts being squeezed, men's round ones being pressed (wuuwiii wuuwiiii), eyes being sprayed with pepper, knees being peeled, people's homes being turned into their prisons, anti-government protests becoming literally outlawed, ... At some point, it seemed like you had deleted the word police and remained with force. What didn't you do, sir? But now look at you folded like yesterday's newspaper!

Yes, you could only have been an agent. But because you allowed your head to be rented out, you take responsibility too. I hope your successor and sacking authority learns a thing or two about time. And may all other potholes get filled.

The author heads the Centre for African Studies at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.


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