In Uganda we laugh from our hearts, but not from our lips

Monday February 26 2024

In Kampala, we don’t even have to go to smoky pubs anymore if we want some unholy verbal distraction. Our men of god are coming to the rescue. You can now trigger a pastor, yes, a preacher man, to release a string of four-lettered expletives for your amusement. ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH NYAGAH | NMG


You may have heard the story of the foreigner from a rich country who found a group of our brothers at the coast basking on the sand, enjoying their banter, sipping from freshly cut coconut, without a care in the world.

He subjected them to a lecture on how they could incorporate an enterprise, work very hard, get a loan to boost their project to great profitability and after several years, offload the company on the stock exchange and retire with huge bank balances. They asked him then what, and he said then they wouldn’t even have to work and could just spend the whole day lazing on the beach.

“And what are we doing now?” they asked him.

Maybe it is time African economists and leaders learnt a thing from those brothers who knew what they needed and went for it.

Africans paid to think should stop outsourcing their thinking to outsiders, who insist on measuring our wellbeing according to their own problems, to think for them. They, for example, tell us how many watts a person should consume in a year to lead a decent life, yet, down here, we don’t need electricity to warm our homes or to dry our laundry.

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We are not saying African ways are superior, but in many documented ways they prove to be effective, so paying others to think for you can drive your country into unnecessary, senseless debt.

The pursuit of happiness is so important that some countries have even written it in their constitutions. Why then do supposedly rich countries, except northern Europe, have higher suicide rates than so-called poor countries? Why does life become so hopelessly empty in “rich” countries, including Southeast Asia, which we envy for “overtaking Africa,” that people prefer death to life?

We are now told that something called “loneliness” is a disease approaching epidemic levels in countries, again except northern Europe.

Let them come to Uganda and see how we prevent the so-called disease, how we laugh from our hearts, not from our lips. For example, that weekend when Africa, indeed the whole sporting world, was on edge waiting to see the Afcon finale, guess what the highly billed event in Kampala was!

There are these two young men of average income, described as socialites, who had been to trying to outdo each other in popularity. They were competing over who has a better car, a cuter girlfriend and, of course, more followers on social media platforms. They had so divided thousands of their followers that it was decided they meet for a boxing match for the matter be resolved once and for all.

The arena was arranged but so huge was the interest that an entry fee was set and all proceeds would go to supporting orphans – nothing like prize money.

Ah yes, the prize? The loser would surrender his cars and his girlfriend to the winner. The event happened to a packed audience. It was just three rounds with gloves, so no injuries expected. The more cantankerous of the two was beaten.

Read: NGUGI: African leaders’ cyclical behaviour that kills hope

Mr Cantankerous happens to be a health professional! He conceded defeat and his girlfriend excitedly rushed into the winner’s arms. A thousand spectators went home happy. No need for a multinational moneylender’s consultants to plan mass stress relief programmes and bill you. (It is official that 14 out of 45 Ugandans are mentally unwell.)

A few years back, an African finance minister confessed that he signed for a loan that he and everyone had said wasn’t necessary, but that a woman in an international money lending body had rung him shouting, so he signed.

Folks in “rich” countries rely on expensive enterprises for adult entertainment. They go to parlours and subscribe to pornography sites. But traditional African society provides for age mates to share fun and jokes around a drinking pot.

In Kampala, we don’t even have to go to smoky pubs anymore if we want some unholy verbal distraction. Our men of god are coming to the rescue. You can now trigger a pastor, yes, a preacher man, to release a string of four-lettered expletives for your amusement.

Authorities cannot invoke laws on public morality against him – for the pastor’s sheep will counter-invoke some biblical phrase about not touching god’s anointed.

If you neither fancy getting your dose of vulgar laughter from a pastor, nor risk going to a tough slum to hear sisters there insult their co-wives, just follow some politicians on social media. Man, the choice insults they have for their political rivals! You get it all free of charge.
Laughter, we are told, is good medicine for emotional health. So before our economists sign for another loan for a project to enhance emotional health blah, blah, blah, they can let these “alternative medicine” types work.

And oh, for my generation who enjoy reading crime thrillers, in Kampala you no longer need to spend precious dollars ordering blockbusters online.

Just go open the Auditor General Report, also freely available. It contains more mind boggling robbery plots than Hollywood and Bollywood script writers ever penned.