By Stephen Lwetutte
LONDON. In a space of less than a month, three world personalities with a Uganda context have passed on: President of the United Republic of Tanzania John Pombe Magufuli (died on 17 March 2021), Catholic Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga (died on 3 April 2021) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (husband to the British Head of State and the Commonwealth). Tanzania is a neighbour and sister country within the East African Community and the UK shares close historic links with Uganda and membership within the Commonwealth of Nations.
While the demise of Prince Philip was not entirely unexpected owing to his ripe old age of 99, the untimely death of both Dr Lwanga and Dr Magufuli in their prime shocked the world, even in Uganda where the sudden death of prominent personalities is no longer considered such a big deal – the real deal would be the absence of such a death over a long interval.
The cumulative effect of the death of the three personalities means that Uganda is in a state of collective mourning at the moment, even when the people are now almost numbed and traumatised by the perpetual ubiquitous state-inspired murders and brutality. Ugandans value and long for selfless leaders and leadership and the three fallen heroes stand as an icon and inspiration in their minds that there is hope after all of a similar personality to rising up to the challenges of the general sense of hopelessness they have got to surmount.
There is genuine widespread outpouring and a great sense of loss for the three heroes and their respective legacies would remain indelible. All three served their respective communities with diligence and dedication and, without any fear of contradiction whatsoever, could be safely called servants of the people, a title they would and have relished in life and all their lifetime.
The three personalities made things in their communities happen and have left behind a trail and a record of impeccable achievements and have lived up to the public expectations. Theirs has been a truly selfless service and will really be a hard act to follow. The world will be all the poorer and will never be the same without them. Their obituaries are sure to make beautiful reading, the kind that each one of us would love having when we are gone. Their epitaph is probably also going to make inspirational reading. Yet all such honour in death is and must be earned in life – the three heroes have evidently earned theirs!
In Uganda, on the other hand, President Museveni has publicly warned all and sundry to desist from referring to him as a servant because, according to him, he is nobody’s servant – he and his family are sacrificing and volunteering to help Ugandans. All this notwithstanding the fact that Ugandans have demonstrated and there is evidence to suggest that they have spoken in unison to the effect that they no longer require his and his family’s voluntary assistance, thank you very much.
This must be one of those very rare, if not the only occasion where a volunteer is so keen to continue rendering unsolicited assistance long past their welcome and usefulness that it becomes absolutely ridiculous – the country is effectively held hostage these volunteers!
The contrast between the three fallen heroes and the Ugandan political volunteers could not be greater: whereas the departure of the three heroes is the object of people’s sadness and commiseration, the continued stay of these Uganda volunteers, whose welcome has been outlived, is a source of considerable frustration and despair. Their respective legacies will be equally contrasted at extreme ends.
When historians eventually sit down to document the period from 1986 (when Museveni captured power) to date, this chapter, among other things, will also probably depict a paradoxical image of a volunteer who never left, even as the legitimate servants all over the place departed. Rest in Peace servants of God’s people!
The writer is a Multilingual Human Rights Practitioner, formerly at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for over 20 years and now Legal and Human Rights Consultant.
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