Why Anglicans prayed for Maj Naomi Kalungi

Sunday February 9 2020

Alan Tacca

Alan Tacca 

By Alan Tacca

As a generalisation, following an often unstated principle, if an organisation has to grovel or make other humble gestures before it can decorate a recipient with an achievement award, then the organisation has probably misjudged and overstretched itself into what the protocol people could characterise as ‘familiarity,’ or ‘imposition.’

If you just wake up and announce an award for Their Excellency so-and-so, a thoughtful functionary might send you one of the honcho’s little assistants to collect it – if they send someone.
Even an institution as methodical and respected as the Swedish Academy occasionally misfires with its highly coveted Nobel Prizes.

I do not think, for instance, that the Academy was amused when the great French writer and philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, turned down the one for Literature in 1964; although in this case the issue was not that Sartre was too big. Rather, at the ideological level, Sartre regarded the Nobel Prize a bourgeois establishment thing at odds with his Marxist grain and existentialist thought.
The Academy nearly misfired again with the same prize in 2016, given to the poetic song-writer and singer, Bob Dylan, who was too non-conformist to follow Nobel Prize formalities properly.

Perhaps because the NRM government has made its achievement awards so cheap, there are now medals coming from everywhere. A popular MP in Nakaseke has amassed almost 10 medals in a couple of years.
Organisations – some truly dubious – that want to promote themselves, identify positively prominent citizens to ride on by giving them awards. They hope the recipient’s public image will enhance their own.
Because of their extraordinary civility and sense of inclusiveness, which have not dented their dignity, the Kabaka and Nabagereka of Buganda can become targets for self-promoters (bannakigwanyizi).

That is perhaps how one of our Pentecostal churches, Victory, gave the Nabagereka a medal with a citation extolling her Kisakaate, a programme for nurturing girl children to become decent, skilled, and inspirational citizens.
I cannot quite picture the Nabagereka, or the Kabaka, throwing up their arms and screaming, and clapping wildly at every glorious lie, or scrambling for holy oil, or dazedly groping about like voodoo zombies. The weird and the fanatical do not match with their ‘cool.’ And if the suggestion by the leading Victory ‘apostle’ that religious organisations and government adopt (or hijack?) the Kisaakate programme became reality, that would end the moderate spiritual and unique cultural character of the programme.

The government and serious religious organisations already have their goals, their institutions and different educational programmes for the young. Why not develop those?
But just as questionable organisations sometimes seek out people with high profiles to raise themselves by association, people of dubious integrity sometimes seek to affirm their worth, even their existence, by associating with dignified establishments; the opposite of the Jean-Paul Sartre case I have referred to.
Consider that there are people who despise pastors and witchdoctors, but who turn to them in the belief that they can magically solve their problems.


So you get the witchdoctor’s clients who conceal their dependence and sometimes only consult at night. On Sundays some even go to church.
And you also get the pastor’s clients who often choose the old churches when integrity, self-esteem and prestige are high among the stakes. A wedding. A funeral. Special celebrations.

When an air force officer, Maj Naomi Kalungi, died in a helicopter crash recently, some Pentecostals bitterly complained that her funeral arrangements were conducted under the (Anglican) Church of Uganda, although she was a Pentecostal about to be ordained.
It is a fair complaint. Unfortunately, for many bereaved Ugandan families and various institutions, a Pentecostal is a strange sheep, which death has returned into the family fold. The solemnity of the occasion in a normal church provides the feeling that their loved one is dignified at last, not parting as a wild soul.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.