If you are a Multichoice subscriber, you might have noticed that recently they aired the 2006 film Apocalypto. It remains one of the most unforgettable films I ever watched, it’s a story of how great civilisations/empires collapse, told more dramatically and viscerally than most of you will ever watch. Apocalypto came to mind as we reflected on the death of musician Michael Kalinda (popularly known as Zigy Wyne), who was kidnapped, severely tortured and dumped at Mulago Hospital by his tormentors last Friday.
In Apocalypto fashion, his left eye plucked out and two of his fingers cut off, according to musician, MP and Opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine). [A medical personnel who participated in the postmortem says Zigy’s eye and left finger were intact - Editor]. Bobi Wine, who received an abridged version of the same brutal treatment when he was arrested in Arua last year, is the leader of the People Power political movement. Zigy Wyne was a member of Bobi Wine’s Fire Base Crew and a supporter of People Power.
Zigy Wyne’s torture is shocking, but not strange in Uganda. We’ve seen it during the rule of NRM (especially during the northern war); and during Milton Obote II’s and Idi Amin’s times.
What should make us more afraid is why it is happening today, and where it will lead us. So, as we wait for investigations to tell us who was behind the atrocity, let’s go back to Apocalypto. You’ll see why.
Here is an edited version of how Wikipedia describes the plot:
Set in the Yucatán, Mexico, around the year 1502, Apocalypto portrays the hero’s journey of a young man named Jaguar Paw, a late Mesoamerican hunter and his fellow tribesmen, who are captured by an invading force after the devastation of their village and brought on a perilous journey to a Mayan city for human sacrifice at a time when the Maya civilisation is in decline.
While hunting in the Mesoamerican rainforest, Jaguar Paw, his father Flint Sky, and their fellow tribesmen encounter a procession of refugees fleeing warfare. The group’s leader explains that their lands were ravaged and they seek a new beginning.
At sunrise the next morning, the tribe’s village is raided by a group led by Zero Wolf. Huts are set on fire, many villagers are killed, and the rest of the adults are taken captive. Jaguar Paw nearly kills the sadistic raider Middle Eye, who kills his father Flint Sky in retaliation and names Jaguar Paw “Almost”. Jaguar Paw’s heavily pregnant wife Seven and their young son Turtles
Run escape by hiding in a small pit cave that also serves as a water reservoir, but are left trapped when Jaguar Paw is captured. The raiders then lead the captives on a long-forced march through the jungle, leaving the children behind to fend for themselves.
As the party approaches the Mayan city from which the raiders come, they encounter razed forests, failed maize crops, and villages decimated by an unknown disease. A little girl infected with the illness prophesies Zero Wolf’s death and the end of the Mayan world. Once the raiders and captives reach the city, the females are sold as slaves while the males are escorted to the top of a steep pyramid to be sacrificed before the Mayan King and Queen.
Because of a solar eclipse and the superstitions surrounding it, Jaguar Paw and the remaining captives are spared from being sacrificed. Instead, they are offered freedom if they can avoid being killed during target practice by Zero Wolf and his men. Jaguar Paw is injured, but kills Zero Wolf’s son Cut Rock and escapes into the jungle. Zero Wolf sets off with eight comrades to chase down and kill Jaguar Paw. Back in his native jungle, Jaguar Paw now has the advantage. Most of the hunters - including Zero Wolf and Middle Eye - are gradually killed off until there are only two left.
Then drought breaks out and heavy rain begins to fall, threatening to drown Jaguar Paw’s family, who are still trapped in the pit cave. Seven gives birth to another son, who is born into the now dangerously rising water.
Meanwhile, the two remaining raiders chase Jaguar Paw out of the undergrowth towards the coast.
As they reach the beach, all three are stopped in their tracks by the sight of ships anchored off the coast and Europeans making their way ashore, holding up a large cross. Jaguar Paw flees while the two raiders remain, seemingly mesmerised at the conquerors’ presence. Jaguar Paw returns in time to save his family.
Sometime later, as the reunited family looks out over the water at the Spanish ships, Jaguar Paw decides not to risk approaching the conquerors, and heads back into the jungle with family in search of a new home and a new beginning.
The ships they saw belonged to Christopher Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors. We know what happened next to Central America.
Mr Onyango-Obbo is curator of the “Wall of Great Africans” and publisher of explainer site Roguechiefs.com.