Expired Local Councils ; sitting on a time bomb
Posted Thursday, February 14 2013 at 02:00
We were led to the grave-site. I had once glanced at a pit latrine dug-out but the late Kasiga’s grave was an almost overwhelming dark path.
Three weeks ago, I attended an LC1 extraordinary meeting in Bbendegere, Nkumba Parish, Busiro County. Bbendegere is the seat of a traditional clan chief Kasiga Bbendegere of the Nvubu-Hippo Clan. As a child, my first memories of a funeral were that of a past Kasiga. We visited my father’s family members in the environs of Nkumba regularly but this was a visit that tested my childhood anxiety.
First, as we began the drive to Abayita Ababiri in our Yellow Fiat, he informed me that the deceased had never been baptised. This was a difficult concept to internalise in a culture where baptism was taken as a given. For some reason, we arrived late at the funeral in Bbendegere. We were led to the grave-site. I had once glanced at a pit latrine dug-out but the late Kasiga’s grave was an almost overwhelming dark path. In my mind I equated the depths to which his hearse had been lowered to the gates of hell. Kasiga had been buried in bark-cloth.
In Ganda culture, there are many highly variegated funeral practices that are adapted to situations. Some families immediately sit an heir, in cases of suicide no wailing is allowed, the burial of an elderly person has an informal tug of war where the children’s offspring or cousins- Abajjwa of the bereaved, may kidnap the dead body until some ransom is paid.
So while death has the normal components of grief, it is an event to reinforce, bond the survivors to confront life’s challenges in the future.
On the day of the LC 1 meeting, we convened under a tree in Kigero probably a stone’s throw from my grandmother’s kibanja. I was amused that the twin villages of Bufulu-Bbendegere sometime in the last decade had formally divorced into two independent villages.
Both are historical villages in this locality. The Uganda Martyr, Dennis Sebugwawo was interned at the local church in Bbendegere. Bufulu named for Ffulu a chief of the Mamba clan is further afield whose famous residents now include Wagagai Flower Farm and the Special Forces Guard training school.
Shortly after 4 pm, the villagers are gaveled to order to discuss what has become a chronic cancer in many villages in the central region; the village thief. The past week had seen a flurry of activity in these twin villages after apprehension of an alleged thief.
Villagers’ tempers had flared when it turned out that the local police superintendent, a one Kiconco, had released David Musinguzi, a boda-boda cyclist, shopkeeper and local political activist for the ruling party on his own cognisance after he reached a settlement with one of the complainants.
Everyone knows how militarised the subject of law enforcement has become. The meeting of 80 village residents required a contingent of at least six police officers, two moving around with semi-automatic rifles to keep the peace. After the niceties of the opening statements, the attentive villagers constituted themselves into an informal bench. Charges were read continuously like a litany to hell.
Cows, goats, chicken; your columnist lost the prized he-goat- leader two days before the new year quieting the kraal into a mournful piece of barren earth. Soon, it was time to hear from our uniformed folks.
According to them, the accused David Musinguzi had won his freedom by settling with a one Namutebi and compensating her for the six goats. It did not matter that these police officers had several other complainants who were never contacted after Musinguzi was apprehended after a high speed boda-boda chase in which he and his accomplice were seen carrying two strangled animals.
Kiconco’s reasoning was that two private individuals could settle a criminal complaint; drop charges and end matters there and then. Readers following events in other courts including the criminal trial of Capt. Mike Mukula, Soroti municipality MP are familiar with this strange version of Shank’s redemption. In the face of overwhelming evidence, the police wanted to write a decision in the minds of the irate village residents that they were taking Musinguzi into protective custody.
I interpreted this to my peers as an act of undisguised abuse of power and supported my peers who sought to press fresh charges. As Uganda runs this day, sometimes on fumes, sometimes on sheer greed, the police still had the audacity to request “facilitation” to move the suspect to court cells in Entebbe and even after witnessing the wails of broken residents to attempt to fudge an entire village’s petition to arrest this one misfit.
It is pitiful that our wanainchi are losing their humanity and sense of personhood at the hands of their fellow citizens. The LC system with individuals long overdue in office long ago began to lose legitimacy and in many places is just a formal station in the semi-privatised administration of justice.
If you are a thief, and lucky to have deep pockets, pay up you will be back on the street this time with state protection. That impunity started from the top and has finally reached the villages.
This is our beloved Uganda, So help us God !