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It started with the indifference

Do you, like my community, have a shop you refer to as ‘e wa Munyankore’, ‘e wa Mukiga’, ‘e wa Musoga’, etc? What about in church; do you have people you refer to by description as opposed to finding out their names?

That is where some of our troubles as a nation begin, I believe. This detachment from the neighbour God instructed us to love can never be a good thing. I think my community is the worst. We refer to business owners by their tribes or looks (we call another super-bleached shopkeeper ‘Mzungu’). And no one knows these people’s actual names, despite having lived among us for years.

I only know the ‘e wa Munyankore’ guy’s first name, because he also went to school with me. The rest? I am ashamed it is now ridiculous to ask what their real names are, although I am working on it.

It is something that probably started with our grandparents back in the day, but albeit in a subtle way. Communities just did not embrace all newcomers that wholeheartedly, despite not treating them with any hostility.

The herdsman who came to help with the cattle was simply ‘Omulaalo’ to every household that had one. My mother’s neighbour in their village sold his land and moved away, but the family that bought that plot was and still is referred to as ‘e wa Musenze’, meaning, ‘the one who moved in’.

Even in church, the ‘brother Peter, sister Malita’ days are fading as churches become huge; people are called ‘ow’ekinyonyi’, if the brother once vaguely testified anything concerning a bird... Small, small things that I believe have compounded the bigger problem that is Uganda today, where no one feels the other’s pain, or even cares.

If in the past generations the indigenous community was the bigger part of residents, making them stay close-knit and the odd outsider stand out like a sore thumb, that tide has changed as communities are now constantly changing.

Homeowners have sold to new landlords; apartment blocks where no one knows anyone else have changed countryside skylines; perimeter walls have ensured we don’t even know who our next door neighbours are; a scream in the night due to a burglary is no longer answered by supportive screams all around the community, rather by locks being silently tightened by terrified
neighbours.

Where is the central nervous system in that chaos?

Because, like lawyer David F.K Mpanga enduringly tweeted in 2016: “We shall never see the Uganda we want until we develop a central nervous system that enables us to feel each other’s pain.”

The detachment starts from small trends around us to become big issues like stealing government funds meant for hospitals in the very community one hails from, as long as the thief can get treated in another community! Shame.

malita@observer.ug

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