You want to get Ugandans talking non-stop? Start with, ‘I speak for the bush!’

Thursday February 20 2020

The talk has been about “visiting the bush”, a matter very related to Valentine in Kampala.

The talk has been about “visiting the bush”, a matter very related to Valentine in Kampala. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA 

JOACHIM BUWEMBO
By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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What a fortnight! The first half of February has been packed with news. Here in Uganda, we received with “great shock and disbelief” news of the death of Kenya’s former President Daniel arap Moi. We also kept a wary eye on Kenya where the dreaded locust invasion was expected to arrive from.

Besides the locusts eating our crops, we also feared that some quick chaps in government would steal a chunk of the huge fund being requisitioned for fighting the airborne invasion.

Then coronavirus scared us and we quarantined a hundred plus Ugandans returning from China in their homes, hoping that their ‘coronafree’ housemates don’t bring the thing to the streets. Again we feared some would become rich from the misery of the ‘coronavictims’.

The budget framework was being concluded in Parliament with nobody knowing where money to meet the huge deficit would come from. Uganda Revenue Authority Commissioner General Doris Akol bluntly told off the Finance Ministry for setting unrealistic tax target for her to collect.

From overseas, it was Trump trumping his accusers and sacking his traitors.

But none of those big events managed to capture our attention for long.

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Ours is a nation with a young population whose median age is 15.5 years! So the most important thing was Valentine’s Day and adverts of where to spend it and what to buy dominated everything.

However, on February 6, the nation was supposed to celebrate a great day when in 1981 the five-year war that brought Yoweri Museveni to power was launched. That is the day when about 40 fighters armed only with 27 guns went to the bush. Since their victory, the ‘bush’ became glorified and the “historical” pioneers of the war came to be known reverently as ‘bushmen’.

With some 80 per cent of Ugandans born after 1986, there is real fear that the bush culture could be forgotten. So our clever Minister of State for Gender pulled off a great public relations coup by making every talk about the bush.

The honourable Peace Mutuuzo declared that the culture of visiting the bush is wrong and should be avoided. Now the bush is a holy place, where our second liberation was executed and many lost their lives to win us the peace and freedom from dictatorship that we have now enjoyed for 34 years.

But many women and girls keep going to the bush to do ‘harmful’ things. These females are engaging in what the minister classifies as female genital mutilation! According to her, the common Bantu practice of FGE (female genital enhancement) is bad. Many people however contend, and passionately at that FGE is actually the opposite of female genital mutilation.

But the minister insists that FGE practised in central and western Uganda as girls attain puberty is bad because it makes them sensitive and start wanting sex at an early age. She also alleged that FGE promotes lesbianism. And FGE is done in the bush — our holy bush!

That did it. The talk has been about “visiting the bush”, a matter very related to Valentine in Kampala and central Uganda. Buganda kingdom went for her throat. The Muslim leadership went for her head. Social media warriors put everything aside and went to the trenches to crucify the minister over the bush. It has been a bushy month, and promises to remain so until the 29th day.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email:[email protected]

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