Ugandans can be unkind. Listening to local radio stations last week, you would have been forgiven for thinking that being brutally murdered is like losing a football bet. Presenters and callers were laughing at a man who is living under threat of death.
It all started with a list of to-be-murdered people being released by whoever compiles such lists and people actually thought it was funny. There had been no such list yet for Kampala, unlike upcountry where machete-wielding killers have been despatching people after circulating a to-be-killed list.
Earlier, a list of Muslim clerics to be murdered had circulated and half of those on the list, about a dozen that is, have already been killed. True, some of the sheikhs killed were Kampala people, but that list was religious, not geographical.
So this is Kampala’s to-be-murdered list and unfortunately again, the Muslims were over-represented on it. Two of the Muslims on the death list of 16 targets are both called Lukwago. One is the city mayor, Erias Lukwago, and the other is Rashid Lukwago, a renowned herbalist.
Now it is Rashid’s occupation that caused all the laughter at his predicament. Herbalists invariably claim they can solve a multiplicity of problems, and Rashid is no exception. One of his many specialties “manpower restoration,” is advertised on the posters that you find on slum walls.
So the people who were calling into talk shows were wondering how a man who dispenses strength could be so scared. For Rashid, on seeing his name on Kampala’s to-be-murdered list, immediately collapsed and was rushed to hospital where his blood pressure was found to have shot through the roof.
But photos of a hospitalised Rashid at least proved that he practises what he preaches and that what he dispenses is not fake, for there were several worried wives attending to him. The scared Rashid will have his work cut out to restore the confidence of his families when he leaves hospital.
His fellow Lukwago, the Lord Mayor of Kampala, seemed more resigned to his fate. He threw his hands up in the air before the news cameras and said with a sigh that he was ready to go when the moment comes. Moreover, he said he didn’t expect anybody to be secure from murderers in the country’s current situation.
Other to-be-murdered people reacted more calmly. Minister for Kampala Affairs Beti Olive Kamya announced that she has taken whatever measures are humanly possible. One measure is returning home early from work, to reduce the chances of being bumped off under cover of darkness.
The Katikkiro (prime minister) of Buganda kingdom Charles Peter Mayiga is also on the list but has not commented on the fact. New political sensation Bobi Wine is also on the list though he too hasn’t reacted publicly.
But laughing at a man who is on the verge of a heart attack doesn’t change the fact that the likelihood of sudden death is high. There are so many bold murders today that you would think Hobbes had Uganda in mind when he talked life being nasty, short and brutish.