Government policy in Uganda these days is like a fart whose time has come; nothing you say can stop it.
So Bombadier flew. Flew away like my dreams, flew away like my hopes, flew away like my last lover, Beth.
Kyokka, Beth, I really thought you were the one. I was even going to take the next step. Of sharing the wifi password. Then you just left me. I watched you vanish into the distance.
Like Uganda watched the Bombadier.
We just sat on rutted murram hillsides everywhere between Entebbe and the edge of Ug airspace, with a drooping maize crop on one side and a goat puking from goat diphtheria on the other, and looked upwards to watch her soar away from us, while we remained trapped on a wretched patch of dusty dry Ugandan soil that is riddled with worms and corpses and intractable poverty, gazing upwards at what we don’t have even though they keep saying it’s ours.
But are not supposed to feel forlorn at the sight of the flight. Not to lament how little money is left for the goat’s medicine or the maize’s lotion. We are in fact, supposed to be proud, I have been very forcefully informed.
They chose the one with the sternest and longest and firmest index finger in the patriotism enforcement cadre to come and wag it in my face. “You should be proud of Uganda Airlines. It is bringing Pride to Uganda! Pride! Pride, you bald little fish-faced fool! Pride!”
The word Pride echoed like the brand name in a particularly eager condom ad. Pride pride pride.
But I just don’t see why someone else’s capacity to steer a Sudanese businessman from Nairobi to Khartoum should incite any sense of fulfilment in me just because I am the one paying for it. Just because my PAYE is offsetting the loss the airline makes on the ticket? I didn’t have a choice in that. And if you don’t have a choice you can’t claim it as an accomplishment. It’s an accident. And you don’t feel proud of accidents. You feel lucky or, depending, unlucky.
It’s easier to be proud of victories, of survival, of tasks completed, obstacles surmounted. I don’t know how to be proud because there is a big tin thing in the sky above me.
But, the moving finger wags on: “We should be proud that now we have an airline are like those of developed countries which for dem deh have ayalaini! Like Air France and British Airways!”
Though Air France and British Airways are actually owned by a company called International Airlines Group that’s registered in Madrid, the notion of being proud in bad investments in white elephants because they have the name of the nation in their brand is one that sticks a rough itch in the seat of my skirts. Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, Uganda Telecom, Uganda Airlines… what next? Uganda Zaabu?
This is not to say I am not proud of Uganda. You guys, I complain and rant a lot but I love you guys and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. Except the future with a more financially prudent government but time isn’t a place.
Let me tell you why I am proud of Uganda. Let me embellish a story I got from Twitter (Bambi I wish I could find the source, but the TL refreshes so fast I cannot locate it anymore).
A taxi was rolling down the usual skinny little thread of street we call a road, trying to wedge its weary cargo of us through the labyrinth of random openings and closings that we call traffic, when the blare of sirens tore through the dull peace. Yeah, one of those gavamenti convoys was approaching.
The driver turned the wheel and his battered old van slipped onto the murram and grass beside the street to wait for the convoy to pass.
The driver said, “Katulinde kko wano ebizibu byaffe bituyiteko.”
Or, “Let’s park on the side here for a while and let our problems pass us by.”
The taxi all laughed.
That’s what makes me proud of Uganda. We have been through a lot in 57 years. And we are going through more. But still, we survive, we thrive, and we laugh as our problems pass us by.