On Thursday, October 3, at an early morning talk show, the Deputy Inspector General of Government (IGG), Mr George Bamugemereire, quickly found something that gave Uganda a very positive image. Food. Not Kiwanda’s funny ‘rolex’, but food.
A person as eminent as the Deputy IGG is of course not a hungry man. So when he praises food, it is reasonable to assume that it was very serious food.
Uganda had just hosted a conference on something involving MPs from the Commonwealth.
I am too empty-headed to remember – or even to want to remember – what exactly the conference was about. I mean, the official theme; the important subject around which boring speeches had to be endured. But that’s me, an idiot.
My only consolation is that out of Uganda’s 40 million citizens, including her hundreds of MPs, there are probably fewer than 50 individuals who have retained genuine interest in the speeches and discussions at that conference.
However, MPs in their rich variety came. You could rub your shoulder against a reddish skin only to turn and bump into a very dark man talking as if he had just swallowed a West African kola nut. And if you had chatted with and tried to impress many White men, someone else might have searched and found a Maori.
Dubious relevance in high places has ways of expressing itself so that it looks like noble purpose. Big cars. Protocol. Speeches. Food. Especially food.
When Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga warned Uganda’s MPs about table manners before the conference, she probably had in mind old pictures of our legislators attacking food and roasted meat like wolves at Kyankwanzi and other places. And she knew that there would be serious food. Very tempting food.
Deputy IGG Bamugemereire (not an MP) was invited to the farewell dinner the way many other local VIPs and foreign diplomats are often invited to such functions.
He marvelled at the rainbow of faces, the friendly festive mood, the sheer order, or organisation, and the magnificence of the food.
For perhaps a full 10 minutes of radio time, Bamugemereire extolled and extolled until you were nauseated by the “smell” of good food and the beauty of a highly organised Uganda.
Then, apparently only half-conscious of the starkness of the contrast, in the very next breath, the Deputy IGG cited the case of a gatekeeper at a government hospital in Pader, who picked and donned a white coat from somewhere and attended to patients on quite a regular basis!
Another senior government official later told Bamugemereire that the ‘Dr’ gatekeeper phenomenon was common in the sub-region. Hunger for meaningful health care.
A week or so after the Commonwealth feast, our godless MPs were feasting again at the National Prayer Breakfast, where President Museveni famously said that he had never demanded or taken a bribe; which could be true, because he does not need bribes; he owns or controls the Treasury.
When the great Roman Empire was crumbling, VIPs of the time dined and wined very well. Just like Zimbabwe’s privileged circle always found themselves at Robert Mugabe’s million-dollar birthday-parties and other celebrations.
There is a story that after they had gorged themselves, the Roman Emperor’s senior officials sometimes left the dinner-table, went out and poked their throats until they threw up. Then they went back to stuff themselves with more food.
And that was centuries before mischievous young Ugandan activists re-invented the pig into a ruling-party-yellow animal and despatched a few representatives of the new breed onto the grounds of Parliament.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.